Guest Author: Christopher Joles
I began first grade at LeRoy Elementary School in 1966 and attended it through sixth grade. It was very much a “country school” at that time and remained that way through its closure in 2019.
My first- grade teacher was Miss Imke, a kindly lady and an excellent teacher. I remember her that way in spite of my figuring out that becoming a jokester, which I still am, was a way for me to gain friends. Not that I intended to turn my GI Joe lunchbox into a joke, but one day I decided to take an ice cream sandwich from the cafeteria home for my brother and sister to split. Not long after lunch, Miss Imke noticed it dripping down onto the coats below the shelf where lunches were stored. It made quite a mess, but Miss Imke accepted it as a youngster’s logical mistake.
During second grade in Mrs. Woods’ class, I developed my cut-up skills further, and Mrs. Woods marched me to Principal John Reed’s office, where I received a few “swats” on the rear. Today such punishment would not be permitted, but it was accepted practice at the time.
Mrs. Woods also caught me spitting over the second story railing. She quickly grabbed my ear and started twisting it and asked if she had seen correctly. I said, “Yeah,” and she responded with “What?” I said “Yeah” again, and she twisted harder, making my ear feel painful as if it were burning. Finally I figured it out and said “Yes,” and she let go.
I completely behaved in Mrs. Buckley’s third grade class because I was “in love” with her.
In the fourth grade I initially had trouble with math and just concentrated on earning a “C” from Mrs. Richards. Although it was one of my better accomplishments to learn to count down the hours on the classroom clocks, eventually I ended up in several jobs that required much math, not the least of which was during my service in the Navy. Fifth grade has kind of escaped from my memory.
My sixth grade teacher, Trent Norris, was a LeRoy legend, and for me he represented a “year of discovery.” I learned so much from him that I felt well-prepared for junior and senior high classes. He developed an intense love of history in his explanations about the two world wars, a subject I continue to study to this day.
An outcome of my rascal-like behavior was being permanently banned from the school choir when the director, Miss Krasneski, figured out I was purposely singing different words than were in the songs. My “punishment” was to go sit with Mr. Norris during lunch; those many hours were special to me because he was a true role model who became a lifetime friend. I am filled with gratitude toward him each time I see him and feel that he was a major force in my life because he accepted a pesky sixth grader as someone with potential.
By the time we LeRoy boys were in our final grade in the school, an interest in cars and other vehicles was guaranteed. In addition to being caring and kind toward us, Trent Norris earned a hugely cool status because he owned a very special Chevelle. One day he took us kids to the parking lot and showed us the inside of the car, which had two gear shifts – the standard one on the control column and a “four-on-the floor,” which he had added. When we asked him why the floor shifter was there, he said, “So I can go faster.” This answer made his status climb even higher.
Two of the most memorable friends I made at LeRoy were Lisa Polzer and Lisa Bobrowski. We enjoyed partner skating at the roller rink on Walnut Street in Painesville.
When the school district made plans to build the new elementary school that combined LeRoy and Concord townships, the administration organized “last tour” open houses of the schools that would close. Attending the open house of my former school was one of the most rewarding days of my life, and it filled my eyes with tears to see several of the teachers and many friends from the past. Some of us still hang out together.
Throughout junior high and high school, LeRoy students remained loyal to each other and were considered on the clannish side. Maybe it was the longer distance from the other township schools, a type of isolation from the other kids, that created the stick-together attitude. Whatever special aura the school had, I think we all wish that the now closed building could find a new purpose and be saved.
Photo of Leroy Elementary School is courtesy of Riverside Local School District.