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Parmalee to walk down memory lane during 50th birthday party

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By Deb Hurley Brobst

Fifty years ago, Indian Hills wasn’t much different than it is today. Sure, there are more businesses, houses and traffic now, but the sense of community is still there.

Fifty years ago, Parmalee Elementary School opened its doors, and since then the school hasn’t change much either. Two of Parmalee’s alums took a school tour Sept. 13 and reminisced about their time there in anticipation of the school’s 50th birthday party.

Doug Kelly and Suzi Vette Ester, both 1971 Evergreen High School graduates, attended Parmalee soon after it opened. They told stories of their elementary school years to three current Parmalee students, who are making a video of alums’ and former teachers’ stories.

The video’s purpose is twofold: First, it will be part of the school tribute the students are putting together as part of the birthday celebration on Friday, Sept. 28. Former teachers, alums and staff are invited to visit the school from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Second, the students will enter the video in a districtwide competition among gifted and talented fifth-graders. The students, Maddie Sontag, Ellis Sayles and Zach Miller, will use the video and other information to answer the question, “Would you want to be in elementary school now or 50 years ago?” Their classmates also are putting together projects for the competition.

50th anniversary celebration

The school is looking for memories, photos and other memorabilia from the school’s inaugural years. It also is hoping many former teachers and alums will attend the celebration, according to parent volunteer Karrie Osborn, the event coordinator.

The event’s slogan is 50 Years of Excellence. During the celebration, students will perform, and Parmalee’s past will be displayed in scrapbooks, photos and other documents for a walk down history lane.

Osborn hopes the day will let people see old friends and co-workers, and also give current students a sense of the school’s history and community.

Those who want to provide stories, photos or other memorabilia are invited to visit Parmalee’s Facebook page or the Parmalee website, https://sites.google.com/a/jeffcoschools.us/parmalee-es/home/50th-anniversary.

Students also will be videotaping oral histories at the celebration.

Osborn says the students will bury a time capsule to be opened at a later date, and the anniversary committee still is contemplating what should be in it.

Lunch will be served, and there will be plenty of time for visitors to reminisce.

Video projects

Donna Sutherland’s fourth- and fifth-grade class is working on the GT (Gifted and Talented) Tech Challenge, where the students work in small groups to research a topic they’re interested in. They must digitally present the information at the school and at the district level.

According to Sutherland, last year the topics ranged from why you should buy organic produce to E-books versus print books.

This year the topics include: "When overpopulation happens, will we be ready?" "Should failure always be looked at negatively?" and "If you had the power to change your fate, should you?" 

Reminiscing about the school

As Kelly and Ester walked through the school, they said the library was in the same spot, though it had been remodeled, and 50 years ago there was no computer lab. They pointed out classrooms they were in and reminisced about their teachers.

They agreed that everything in the school — from the furniture to the distance down the hall — appeared smaller than they remembered.

They recorded their memories on video, with Maddie and Ellis asking the questions and Zach running the camera.

Ester said her family visited her uncle’s house in Indian Hills for a summer, and they liked it so much that the family stayed, which is why she attended Parmalee.

Ester said she wanted to be a teacher, and after college, Parmalee’s principal recommended her for her first job at Bell Junior High School, now Bell Middle School, in Golden.

Kelly attended school in Kittredge before Parmalee opened. He remembers watching the structure being built and everyone in the neighborhood using the playground, which Kelly and Ester agreed had not changed much over the years.

Kelly began playing clarinet while at Parmalee, and he continues to play in the Jeffco Community Band.

Kelly, whose dad was a carpenter, said he drew and cut wood replicas of the school’s mascot, the Parmalee Panther, for everyone in his class just before they moved on to junior high.

“The school was not just a school,” Kelly told the students. “The school and the community are like one big family. In classes, you knew everybody, and their brothers and sisters. It was a small-town school.”