DENHAM SPRINGS — Terry Jackson, his wife and his siblings walked down memory lane as they reminisced with former principals, teachers and classmates at Northside Elementary’s 50th birthday party.
“He is Northside,” Jackson said of the school’s first principal, Harvey Tate, as he made his way through the crowded cafeteria last Thursday.
Jackson, who lived across the street from Tate as a child, told stories of the former principal, magic shows at the school and Justin Wilson’s cooking show, which aired from Northside Elementary School.
Shoes weren’t required to go to school, but if students arrived at school with shoes on, they were expected to keep them on, he said.
“These are some of the same hallways but they’ve been expanded,” Jackson said.
His brother, Steve Jackson, recalled the “drills” held at the school during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
“We had to get into the halls and put our coats over our heads,” he said.
Tate, who took the school’s helm after being a teacher for only three years, remembers finding out he would be the school’s first principal two weeks before it opened.
Tate said that another person had been selected for the principal position but had become sick just prior to the school’s opening.
It took blood, sweat, tears and a host of volunteers to get the school ready for 365 students, Tate said.
“We turned it over to the community to help get it furnished,” Tate said.
“By the end of the year, we were the best-equipped school in the parish.
“We had nothing here,” Tate said. “We all worked together to build it. We had an excellent parish, and the PTO was excellent.”
As he talked in front of former principals, teachers and students, Tate called the night “emotional.”
“It was a labor of love,” Tate said.
“I have good memories,” he said. “I had a chance to go to the School Board office but turned it down. I liked it here.”
Tate served as the principal of Northside Elementary from 1962 to 1987.
Former volunteer coach Clyde Meyers, whose four children attended Northside when it first opened, remembers the “jungle” behind the school.
“We cleared all of that out,” Meyers said of the former wooded area.
He also said he remembers the home-cooked food.
“They had the best food of anyone in the parish,” he said.
Current Principal Jo An Cook, who took over as the school’s principal in July, said she got the idea to host a 50th birthday party from former Principal Sharon Anderson, who not only served as the school’s principal for nine years, but attended the school as a child.
“We just thought it would be nice to celebrate,” Cook said. “I loved having everyone here.”
Cook, who taught at the school in 1998, said she is attached to the school, having started her education career as a teacher there. She said she plans to retire one day from the same school.
“I started my career at Northside, and I will end my career at Northside, Cook said.
To add to the 50th birthday, the 453 students who now attend Northside, dressed in 1950s attire on the 50th day of school to celebrate the schools’ 50th birthday.
Cook said she plans to continue the celebration, and said, “Maybe I’ll be here for 60 (years) ... we’ll make it a tradition.”