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Demolition work begins on Iowa school

December 16, 2018

ALBION, Iowa (AP) — Since the time of its all-school reunion photoshoot in May 2018, alumni of the Albion School knew the building’s days were numbered.

Since Dec. 3, a demolition crew has been working to raze the defunct school building, which for years had been used as a community center and is owned by the city of Albion.

“It was in disrepair and costing way more to fix than it’s worth,” Albion Mayor John Henze told the Times-Republican . “We had mold and asbestos in it and we just needed it out of there.”

The city purchased the building in the early 1980s from the Marshalltown School District at a cost of $1. Henze said the demolition will cost $177,000, assisted by a grant totaling $60,000. It will take until the end of the month to fully clear out the debris on the site.

“Eventually we’d like to have a new community center, but it is a lot of money and not much money around to help with it. We have a committee working on that,” he said.

The Albion Public School, which served K-12, was constructed in 1915, with the last high school graduating class passing through its doors in the spring of 1962. From the fall of 1962 until 1981, the school was consolidated with Marshalltown students and operated solely as an elementary school.

Alumni Karen Davis Betts and Janell Uhde Walker helped coordinate the reunion photoshoot which also included the sale of commemorative t-shirts, school-themed Christmas ornaments and photo prints of the class.

“I attended the school from my kindergarten year 1958-59 through to sixth grade in 1964-65,” Betts said. “For me a memory that stands out is how we would share the gym with the high school basketball teams having practice. I thought it was so cool when the ball came into our half of the gym to be able to give it back to the big kids.”

Betts said she was part of the first group of individuals to reopen the building as a community center, where she enjoyed attending dances, wedding receptions, volleyball games, boxing tournaments and more.

“It was more than just a building to many of us,” she said. “I have shed a few tears these last couple of days as I feel as though I am losing a very dear friend.”

Walker, who resides in Altoona, took a day off work to watch her beloved school come down.

“These past few days, I’ve wondered what grandpa would have to say. I wish I had asked him what it was like going to school at Albion back then. He would have started first grade — no kindergarten — in those days, the year the old part was built, 1915,” Walker said. “I’ve shed a few tears, but I’ll always have fond memories of my family, friends, teachers and activities at the school. I continue to get stories from my parents, and my hope is to keep those and the stories off of our Facebook page alive with documentation that we’ll place at the library for future generations.”

Dorothy Keeler’s family moved to Albion from Des Moines in the early 1940s and she recalls the adventures of her family providing janitorial services for the school.

“When my dad Larry Thomas was starting his Thomas Plumbing business, he worked a few years as the custodian at the Albion Consolidated School. Mom and I would help with the cleaning,” Keeler said. “Occasionally we’d bring our pet, an English Springer Spaniel, Gyp, with us. One year we had lots of rain. The little gym in the basement was flooded with knee-deep water. Gyp loved to swim and took advantage of having such a big ‘pool.’

For Angela Hays Duffy, the school is also intrinsically linked to her own family memories.

“My family has lots of history at Albion School — my grandmother Lula Hauser taught there — she actually had to pretend to not be married to work here since back then you couldn’t be married and be a teacher — and she actually taught my other grandmother, Fern Hays, at the school,” she said. “My mother went to school here and I did too. Seeing the school sitting empty was painful for all these years, and now watching it fall hurts so much: the history that is lost, the memories are so many, too many to recall. I can only say that each and every teacher or assistant that I had classes with I loved dearly like family.”

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Information from: Times-Republican, http://www.timesrepublican.com

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