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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

Lee Hunter prepares to celebrate 50 years

Friday, August 13, 2004

Lee Hunter Elementary Principal Chuck Mayes hangs a picture from the school's early days in the hallway
(Photo by Leonna Heuring, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Last month, Lee Hunter Elementary Principal Chuck Mayes turned to the community for help with reliving the history of the school when it turns 50 next month.

But so far, the school hasn't received much of a response from the public.

"We did hear from one former teacher and that's all," noted secretary Barbie Merritt, who's helping compile the memorabilia. "It's really kind of disappointing."

Thanks to the Sikeston Depot and a few select others, the school has had access to pictures from the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s and 1990s.

"But we have nothing from the 1970s. If anybody has anything, we'd appreciate it," said Mayes.

The school received approximately 130 pictures from the Sikeston Depot and made photocopies of them to display in the school hallways, Mayes explained.

Some of the pictures include a dirt-covered Allen Boulevard from years ago, the school's original principal, Margaret Cain, and other various photos of staff and students.

"I was looking at some of these pictures," said Mayes as he leafed through a stack. "And it brings kind of an odd feeling to see that teachers today are teaching in the same rooms that others did 50 years ago."

In addition, some of the students may or may not recognize the faces of their parents and even grandparents in some cases, Mayes pointed out.

"We'd like to show the kids the progression of clothing and just everything they see from the pictures," Merritt added.

One problem Merritt has encountered with gathering items is not knowing what year a photograph was taken because so many things in the 1950s weren't documented, she said.

"We would like to hear from the community. It's not like we're asking them to say anything -- it's just we would like to hear from them and maybe they can help identify some of pictures from the 1950s and 1960s," Merritt noted.

Since July, the school has asked the public for photographs of land before the building started, architect's drawings or floor plans, photographs of building under construction, staff or class pictures - candid or professional, report cards or S-awards and other memorabilia saved from students or parents.

Even simple items like report cards have changed over t he past 50 years, Merritt pointed out.

"We don't do report cards like they did then. We have a couple from the '80s and they have designs on the front of them and are handwritten," Merritt explained.

Some of the items received came from parents of children enrolled in the school now, but Merritt said they'd like to receive things from grandparents, too.

"I just think it's important kids today realize where their roots come from -- and it may be from parents or grandparents who attended here," Merritt said.

Lee Hunter Elementary was named for Lee Hunter, who was part of Hunter family originally from New Madrid.

"From what I understand after he died in 1950, his sisters and brothers inherited his land and gave the property to the city, and what I have found out is the property came to be in the family as part of the Louisiana Purchase," Merritt said.

Today Hunter's family lives in the St. Louis area, and Mayes said he hasn't talked to anyone from that family about the anniversary.

Originally Mayes had hoped to replicate the actual program that took place Sept. 1, 1954, but said things are still in the planning stages for a ceremony during the school's Aug. 31 open house.

For now Mayes is busy hanging pictures and other memorabilia from 1954 to display in the school throughout the rest of the year. He said he hopes to have everything up by the first day of school, which is Aug. 19.

"It provides a sense of history," Mayes said about acknowledging the school's anniversary. "We want to show the kids how they're doing some of the same things kids back then were doing."

For more information or to loan items, contact the school at 472-2200 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Any borrowed material will be cataloged and returned to the owner in January 2005.