Don’t ever permit anyone to tell you that searching through boxes, despite the tedium and eye strain, does not reap a reward. One of the pleasures of my tenure as the school’s archivist has been discovering meaningful morsels of the school’s history, often buried in the detritus of forgotten boxes, some of which were even decorated with mold. There have been days when I have felt as if I were Indiana Jones, without the snakes, of course. Read on, alumni and colleagues, and delight in this snapshot of our school’s history.
On July 16, 1982, Chet Preisser died from a heart attack. Ruth Gorham, his friend and his colleague, penned this touching tribute:
“In his gentle, unassuming way, Chet Preisser helped make Graland what it is today. He came to Graland. . . in 1927, teaching half-days because he was a student at the University of Denver. Through his shop and gym classes, he touched the lives of every student, teaching each student-- mostly, by example -- and demonstrating his own unique good goodness and integrity. What a difference he made to so many! Everyone loved him and was richer for having known him.
“From the beginning, Chester’s gym classes extended far beyond the one room. . . with its limited equipment. The brickyard east of the school, the swamp to the south, the undeveloped field to the west, all provided areas for play and exploration. Chester helped the children build caves, a golf course, and bank some ground for an ice skating rink.
“During World War II, when the town fathers decided to tax the present playing field grounds because they were not obviously being used, Chet took care of that. He enlisted the help of parents and children, solicited materials, and built a complete Commando Course with, as he said, “high walls to scale, hanging ropes for swinging over the ‘alligator pits,’ climbing ladders, nets for climbing over the sides of ships, wire mazes to crawl under, tunnels to crawl through-- not to mention bunkers, trenches, hills, and many other obstacles.” Chet was everywhere, always helping, always seeing a need before anyone else realized a lack. Best of all, he enjoyed to the fullest everything he was doing.
“Once a year, Chet would organize a circus. Tightrope walkers pantomimed balancing along a white line marked on the floor, and clowns with performing lions and elephants directed the show. All the acts showed the results of apparatus work and calisthenics done on a daily basis. No one will ever forget the entrance of the small red fire truck, complete with sirens and the firemen throwing water (pails of confetti) into the more than startled crowd. Roars of laughter followed the first gasps of surprise! It was great.
“Also, annually on Pioneer Day, Chet would have the DU square dancers come to entertain. He was much sought after ‘caller’ himself. Every Friday afternoon, his popular square dance class was one of the regular activities.
“The format of Middle School Field Day, including the Olympic oath at the beginning and the lighted torch, was worked out with Chet’s guidance, and Graland was the first school to have a grassy play area, thanks to Chet’s thinking and planning.
“What would teachers have done without the help of Chet? Chet ‘lived’ what they taught, and each room became that environment. Chet would show the class how to make the articles needed or to build the setting, whether it was a Dutch windmill, an Indian pueblo, or an elaborate chair for King Arthur. There was no one like him. He could do anything, and by association with him, so could the children. He helped the young make the Roman chariots used in the Olympic games, he showed them how to build the Sicilian cart that gave so much joy to the little ones, as well as the lovely little playhouse that the kindergarten used for so many years. With the top grade, he organized a ‘fun house’ at Halloween under the eaves for. . . the rest of the school; he always led the parade around the grounds.
“Someone said that our immortality lies in the memories we leave with our friends. Surely, then, Chet is one of the immortals.”