In 1961, when Hallowell Elementary School in Horsham opened its doors, lunch cost 30 cents, Elvis Presley was topping the Billboard charts, and "Gunsmoke" was the most watched show on television.
Wednesday morning, students, faculty and invited guests gathered in the multipurpose room to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary.
“[Hallowell] has an incredible sense of pride and community,” Principal Steven Glaize told the crowd.
“I remember my first time coming into Hallowell, it felt like the sun had come out,” said the school’s guidance counselor Valerie Slott. “I knew I’d found my second home.”
Former students and staff recalled many memories about their time in the school.
Bill Walbert, whose father was one of the first principals, spoke of how much his father cared about the school and how wonderful the parents and students were.
He also fondly recalled growing up and helping his father on rainy weekends put trash cans under leaky spots in the school’s roof.
Dennis Koelmel, one of the school’s early teachers, told students how a group of boys were digging on school grounds, during recess, and discovered a propeller from an airplane. It turns out the lot the school was built on was an early dump for the air base, which sits just yards away.
Being one of the few male teachers, Koelmel recalls having to learn to drive a bus in order to evacuate students in case of an Soviet attack.
During the mid-1960s, 76ers star Bob Weiss served as a substitute teacher at the elementary school in order to supplement the meager pay he earned as a professional basketball player, Walbert said.
The school was built for a little over $500,000, on land acquired from the government for $1, and opened to students in January 1961.
Local historian Amy Jarrett talked to students about the history behind the school’s namesake, the Hallowell family, who owned a nearby farm.
During the ceremony, each grade-level performed a song from each decade that the school has been open.
Attendees were also invited to tour the building after the ceremony to look at the Hallowell artifacts that were displayed around the school.
The school’s 50th anniversary will be used in classroom lessons throughout the year, district officials said.
While many things have changed since 1961, the importance of educating children is one thing that has not, Glaize said.