Pam Lee of Springettsbury Township submitted this photo collage that appeared in the 1977-78 Hiestand Elementary School yearbook. Lee wants to put together
Pam Lee of Springettsbury Township submitted this photo collage that appeared in the 1977-78 Hiestand Elementary School yearbook. Lee wants to put together alumni photos and other memorabilia for a Hiestand reunion picnic, Sept. 15 at the school. (SUBMITTED)

The Hiestand School, which hasn't been open for more than three decades, still elicits a response from its alumni.

They describe it as a school with stellar academics that was a great environment in which to grow up.

"It surprises me how the school ignites a passionate memory in people," Pam Lee said. "I think it's because the school was so small."

The school, formerly at 2309 E. Philadelphia St., Springettsbury Township, was built in 1912, and was a two-room school that served the township and some of the surrounding area.

"We got a good education," said Dorothy Spangler, who attended Hiestand between 1925 and 1932. "We didn't have any frills. We didn't have shop or home ec, but we got a good education in the basics like math, English and history."

An additional two rooms were built onto the school in 1921 and the school housed eight grades - two per room. In 1937, two more classrooms and a gym were added.

"It was a wonderful school," said Daniel G. Meckley III of West Manchester Township. "When I was there, it had only four rooms. We had two male teachers who were both baseball fans so we played baseball at recess and got really good at it."

When Meckley, who graduated from Hiestand in 1937, and his classmates moved on from Hiestand to Phineas Davis

School for ninth grade, children from other schools called the former Hiestand students "sissy rich kids from East York." But when they played baseball, the moniker wore off.

"We got the other team out with three quick outs," he said. "The sun had set before they got us out. No more calling us sissy kids."

When Lee attended Hiestand in 1960-66, there was one grade for each class.

"You got to be special because there weren't too many people and everyone knew each other," Lee, of Springettsbury Township, said. "The school felt like it belonged to us."

The Hiestand School continued to serve the East York-area as an elementary school until it was closed in 1978. Now the building is used by Emmanuel Christian Fellowship Church.

"I started (at Hiestand) in first grade and went through sixth. The school never had a kindergarten," Lee said. "But in 1977, when my sister was in fourth grade, they started to make plans to close the school. My mom was involved with the PTA and they tried to stop the closure, but they couldn't."

In 1978, when Hiestand closed, all of the students were sent to East York Elementary. Lee's favorite part about Hiestand was the school's library.

"We had a library in the basement, and it had biographies of famous people. They were aqua-colored hard-bound books and I read all of them," she said. "I don't remember what they were called, but I'd love to find them and read them again." Not all Hiestand memories were great for Lee, there is one bad one she still can recall.

Daniel G. Meckley III of West Manchester Township said he drew this picture of the Hiestand School when he was in seventh or eighth grade for a newspaper
Daniel G. Meckley III of West Manchester Township said he drew this picture of the Hiestand School when he was in seventh or eighth grade for a newspaper he and his friends called The East Ender. (SUBMITTED)

"We had penmanship, and we were making small b's. The teacher came up behind me and said 'don't make your b's short and fat like you, make them tall and thin like your friend,' " Lee said. "My penmanship is terrible now, it was my little rebellion against the teacher."

Meckley wasn't fond of penmanship, either.

"I was left handed, which created a big problem in penmanship class because I had to reach across the desk to get to the inkwell on the upper right side of the desk," Meckley said.

Meckley said it was a disaster trying to write in the Palmer Method, which was a uniform system of cursive writing. Left-handers usually were made to use their right hands.

"My teacher Ms. Gibbs, I still remember her because she was ahead of her time," Meckley said. "She didn't make me write right-handed. But penmanship was not my thing."

Decades removed from the Hiestand, some of the school's alumni still keep in touch.

"For many years, I had at least four friends I knew from grade school," said Spangler, of Springettsbury Township. "And because we lived in East York and our families remained here - even through we went to different colleges and some moved away - we came back to see our families, so we remained friends."

Lee echoed Spangler's sentiment.

"I'm still very good friends with two people I went to elementary school with," she said. "Two of us still live in the same neighborhood where we grew up."

They closed my school

The following is a excerpt from Hiestand alumni Richard D. Smyser's column "They Closed my School," first published July 28, 1978 in "The Oak Ridger" in Oak Ridge, Tennessee:

Well, they've closed my school. Behind my back two months ago.

My school is Hiestand School in East York, one of the oldest and most middle class suburbs of my hometown of York, Pa. . . . (The school) had eight grades in four rooms. Its student body was a mixture of kids from the mostly small suburban homes and the farms nearby. The back of the school ground bordered on a corn field.

I found out about the closing from my good friend Dan Meckley, now a manufacturing executive in York. He tells it well in a letter I received only two weeks ago:

"Enclosed with this letter is the article describing the closing of Hiestand. A great deal was lost when the school was closed, and from the various rumors and commentaries, I gather it was largely a political closing. The official story is that the student population was declining, the roof leaked, it didn't have a cafeteria, and it really wasn't a 'modern school.' All it had was an unbelievable and continuing record of excellence. . . .

"The parents of the students now in Hiestand waged a valiant fight, and Dot Shadle, who is a School Director, also fought a long and hard campaign, but the final vote after three or four years of discussion, debates, etc. was 5-4 in favor of closing. The young parents decided to close with all the flags flying and they had a closing reunion sort of thing. . . .

"The Hiestand orchestra stumbled through The Star Spangled Banner, the flag was lowered and Hiestand was closed."

100th anniversary reunion

A Hiestand reunion picnic will be 1 to 4 p.m. Sept. 15 at the former school building, 2309 E. Philadelphia St., Springettsbury Township.

The reunion will be held in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the building.

Hot dogs, hamburgers and other picnic fare will be available at no cost. Tours of the building for alumni also are planned.

"We want alumni to come in, and for the building to serve as a gathering point," said Pastor Jim Herbert of Emmanuel Christian Fellowship Church, which has been at the location since 1993.

While the reunion will be free of charge, donations will be accepted for an alumni-related scholarship fund and playground equipment for Emmanuel Christian Fellowship.

"The school would like to have playground equipment again," Pam Lee said. "So we will do a little fundraising at the reunion to help purchase that equipment."

The recreational equipment was taken down because it didn't meet insurance specifications, Herbert said. It will cost $20,000 to $30,000 to replace.

Lee is collecting photos and other memorabilia to share with classmates during the reunion. She said she also wants to put together video memories from Hiestand alumni.

If you would like to help with the reunion, or want more information, email Lee at leepr1021@aol.com.

Did you go to Hiestand?

Pam Lee said she still is good friends with a few people who were in her class at Hiestand, but she has connected with many other alumni recently through Facebook.

"It has been fun because I've been able to not only reconnect with people from my grade, but also different age groups," she said of the alumni-started Facebook page.

Alumni can share photos and memories and reconnect with more than 100 old classmates on Facebook by visiting Facebook.com and searching for "Hiestand Alumni of York Suburban School District."

How is the school used now?

Since 1993, the Hiestand School building has been used by Emmanuel Christian Fellowship Church.

The church still uses the building to benefit children in several ways, said its leader, Pastor Jim Herbert of Jacobus.

"We really do feel it is part of our mission to allow the building to be used by the community, as it once was," Herbert said. "We want to create a safe place for people, especially children."

Herbert said there are several groups that use the former school building including Scout troops, dance and music classes.

"We feel as if it was built for the kids, not for adults, so we have to get it back to the way it was actually built -- what's in the building's DNA," Herbert said.

Emmanuel Christian Fellowship also runs Hiestand Kids, a before- and after-school program at the church.

The program focuses on social, emotional, physical, spiritual and academic child development. It also offers after-school snacks, homework help, hands-on activities and outside play.

Hiestand Kids also has summer camps for children in first through fifth grades and plans to start its "Hands of the Future" preschool in the fall.

For details, call Bonnie Leair at 717-840-0840 or email bleair@ecfyork.com.

For more information on Emmanuel Christian
Fellowship Church, visit www.ecfyork.com.