Memories and laughs were shared Saturday as more than 1,000 people said one last goodbye to the old McCormick Middle School.
“The Last Lunch,” sponsored by the Spirit of ‘76 Museum, gave Wellington alumni the chance to enjoy a final meal, a round of hoops, tours, and to dance before the building is demolished.
Some of the dishes provided called back cafeteria offerings of yesteryear: happy Joses, sloppy Joes, Johnny Marzetti, chili, and peanut butter and honey sandwiches.
Randy Houston of Oberlin graduated from Wellington High in 1990. He said the happy Joses weren’t as good as he remembered but the turkey and gravy was still pretty tasty.
“It’s pretty cool being able to see it again for one last big goodbye,” he said of McCormick. “It’s sad seeing these familiar places knowing they’ll be torn down. There’s a lot of memories here.”
Houston compared the gathering to a mini class reunion but “mini” might not be the best word to describe the event as a whole.
Al Leiby of the Spirit of ‘76 Museum said roughly 800 people had passed through the building’s halls a little more than two hours into the event. Cooks manning the kitchen began running out of food and continued preparing more as the visitors just kept coming.
Karen Thornhill (nee McClaflin) graduated in 1971 and said the cafeteria was much smaller than she remembered. She also noted the lack of typewriters and addition of computers but said the lobby looked the same.
“I’m so thankful to the people who put this together,” she said. “People that didn’t come really missed out.”
Thornhill’s favorite part of the event was the ability to reconnect with old classmates she hadn’t seen in a long time. Although she relocated to San Antonio, Texas, Thornhill still has family in Wellington she visits regularly.
She called the old McCormick building iconic: “It’s going to be strange driving down the street and it not being there.”
Leiby tried to get as many teachers as possible to chaperon the last dance. The 1971 graduate has fond memories of history teacher Wendell Dorf, who passed away in 1999, but daughter Sarah Pelfrey attended in his honor.
She said her father would have loved the event.
Pelfrey is a 2000 graduate of the Wellington Schools and now lives with her husband and three-year-old twins in Amherst. “It’s surreal to be here with my children,” she said.
She found it strange that the building looks almost exactly the way she remembered and looked most forward to seeing the auditorium where she participated in musicals.
Leiby said everything the museum and other volunteers scheduled went over extremely well, especially the singing of the alma mater. Some attendees wouldn’t leave without singing it and requested it be voiced a second time for those who showed up later.
“I’m going to be smiling the next two days,” he said. “This was even better than I imagined.”
He was thrilled that so many people from his graduating class attended and admitted the gathering was bittersweet — but he plans to be back through the building a few more times before it meets the wrecking ball.
“At this age there’s not a lot to miss,” Leiby said. “It’s just the memories the building holds.”
Kelsey Leyva can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @TWE_KelseyLeyva on Twitter.
Photos by Kelsey Leyva | Wellington Enterprise
Randy Houston, a 1990 Wellington High graduate, shows his son Liam the scooters he used to play with when he attended McCormick Middle School.