Alumni of The Recorder – Powers Institute reflect on education that transcended academics at Bernardston

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Published: 08/14/2022 17:02:49

Modified: 08/14/2022 16:59:23

BERNARDSTON — Alumni of the former Powers Institute returned to their old stomping grounds on Saturday in what Alumni Association President Louella Atherton said was a “last hurray” for the aging community.

Historian Derek Strahan said the middle school and high school, which opened in 1857, once educated ‘several hundred students a year’ in the mid-19th century before enrollment dwindled to a smaller number of students when it closed in 1958. According to Atherton, 33 people who attended the school in the mid-1900s — all now in their 80s and 90s — came from as far away as Louisiana and Florida to meet for the 47th Triennial Meeting from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Old School. Today, the building at 20 Church Street houses the senior center and a museum.

“School means a lot to everyone, I stress that,” Atherton said. “We had good teachers and got a really good education.”

After registration and a brief welcome, attendees were treated to a banquet hosted by Foster’s Supermarket which they enjoyed seated at tables divided by promotion. Mortars adorned each table as centerpieces while decorations dressed the dining room in orange and black, the school colors. The conversation flowed naturally, as if the occasion was nothing more than a few dear friends catching up.

“You remember a lot of things at school,” said Class of 1946 graduate Russell Deane, who is believed to be the oldest surviving student at 94. “There were so few people that you knew everyone.”

“It was more of a community,” said Patriciann Grover, who attended on behalf of her late husband, Walter Grover, who graduated in 1947. “Everyone did everything together.”

Deane said Powers Institute students felt important to each other, choosing to be “giving people” even though most came from low-income, working-class families.

“I think most of them go out to share and help and volunteer,” he said of the students who would graduate from the school.

“I just know the ones I know and they’ve all been really honest people,” Barbara Adams, a graduate of the Powers Institute in 1948, commented. “Hard-working people.”

Such a work ethic was instilled in the students of the Powers Institute by the staff who firmly pushed the students to challenge themselves.

“We got a damn good upbringing being forced into it,” Atherton said. “We recited. We memorized. Nobody does that anymore. »

“The principal was here a long time… he was doing things that you couldn’t do today,” Deane added.

Nor was this rigor confined to typical academic subjects.

“I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but not all teachers were just teaching,” said Atherton, who recalled a teacher urging her to start her 45-year-old career working in the theatre.

Male staff, Deane said, would ask students to try sports and “almost force you to do what you liked best.”

“The ladies who would teach you here, they would say, ‘You have to volunteer for your community! “”, He added.

Deane, who became a Selectboard member, school committee member and Kiwanis club president, said the Powers Institute’s philosophy of promoting hard work has not been lost on those who have learned there.

“I’ve done this all my life,” he says.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or [email protected]

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