Examining a black-and-white photo of Northern Parkway Elementary School’s Class of 1950, Donald Larsen laughed at his younger self as memories flashed through his mind.
“The school looks so much smaller than when I came here,” said Larsen, 76. “Of course, I was much smaller then, too. We rode bikes or walked to school. It was a wonderful atmosphere and everything was so innocent in those days.”
Larsen was among the 15 alumni that toured the elementary school Thursday morning, along with local politicians, school administrators and faculty in celebration of the Uniondale school’s 90th anniversary.
The school’s principal, Alejandro Rivera, said current 4th and 5th grade students researched all the decades dating back to when the school was built in 1923. At the time there were only 200 students attending the then two-story, nine-classroom building.
Today, 772 students, ranging from kindergarten through fifth grade, attend the school which has 45 computer-equipped classrooms, a library with nearly 10,500 books, lab and computer labs.
Loaned diplomas, vintage class photos, old school pennants and class pins were displayed for the occasion.
“It’s only the 11th day of school and students had already put together fantastic research projects on topics like how technology has changed and influential sports figures,” said Rivera, 34, of Syosset. “This celebration reaffirms that there were people once in the shoes of our children and gives them something to aspire to and someone to look up to.”
The students also spoke in the auditorium of their research on the past 10 decades by recalling the year Rosa Parks, an African American civil rights activist, refused to give up her seat on a bus; when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech; the Yankees first World Series title in 1923; and when the the Internet became mainstream.
Larsen, who has lived in Uniondale since 1938, attended the school from 1942 to 1950, when students could go there through the seventh grade. After graduating from Hempstead High School he later opened a local candy store with his brother Douglas.
“This is the heart and soul of Uniondale,” said Larsen, who has worked as a security guard for the Uniondale Public Library for the past 34 years. “Kids that go here always advance themselves. This is a great foundation for them.”
Carolyn Reggi, of Lindenhurst, and her mother Lynne Schmidt Molloy, of Massapequa, said they wouldn’t miss the opportunity to dig up fond memories of their school.
Reggi attended the school from 1970 to 1977, but her mother attended from 1949-1955. As a surprise, she framed her mother’s elementary diploma and class picture to show off at the celebration.
“It was so cool coming back to see how the school has changed,” said Reggi, 47. “The halls bring back so many memories. I remember the walls were a light beige color. Now, they are so colorful. My mother always said it’s the most beautiful and classy school.”
To close the ceremony, the school’s student chorus sang a historical song created specifically for the occasion related to the school and world history. “Northern Parkway was built in 1923, since then lots of things had happened in world history,” they sang. “Women got the right to vote, Bessie Smith records the blues...”
Rivera then ushered everyone out of the auditorium to explore more of the displays.
“Hopefully today our current students realize that there is such a rich history here and our former students realize that our generation need them to continue to move forward,” Rivera said. “This is a place to be proud of.”