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A Final Trip Through Duluth’s Original Laura MacArthur Elementary School

With all the attention the local press has given to the closing of Central High School (and rightly so) there has been little mention of the closing of the original Laura MacArthur Elementary School. (A new MacArthur is being built across the street from the original.)

An open house was held at MacArthur yesterday as the last day of classes was wrapping up, so I brought my camera on a final tour before the place is demolished and turned into a field.

I attended MacArthur from the fall of 1978 to the spring of 1985, so that’s the frame of reference for nostalgic comments connected to any of the photos.

It should be noted that MacArthur is actually two buildings. The main entrance on Central Avenue is to a three-story building that opened in 1915 as the first Denfeld High School. (Denfeld’s history goes back to 1905, though, when high school classes were held at the Irving School.)

The old Denfeld building became West Junior High School when the current Denfeld building opened in 1926. Laura MacArthur Elementary was built right next to it in 1957, in the spot where Ely Elementary had stood. In 1983 West Junior High closed and both buildings became part of MacArthur.

Here are two perspectives on MacArthur’s auditorium.

There is a piano and an organ in the auditorium. The organ below has an “auction” sign on it, so you’ll likely be able to buy it for five bucks this summer.

Below is the cafeteria. I always brought a bag lunch to avoid the soggy pizza sliced in rectangles and the mashed potato with gravy that looked like a giant bird turd.

There are three gymnasiums at MacArthur.

The one above was built for the elementary school.

I don’t remember this gym. I think it was something else originally, and was turned into a play room for early education or programs for special kids or something.

This is the main gym. Let’s play trench!

Above is the boys locker room. Below are three perspectives on the school library.

What I remember about kindergarten is that there were two classes — I was in Ms. Iverson’s class, and some of my friends were in Janice Knight’s class. Ms. Knight used to take her class to Memorial Park more often than Ms. Iverson did; or maybe it just seemed that way. Going to the park was a big treat, so I distinctly remember sitting in Ms. Iverson’s class and looking out the window, watching Ms. Knight walk her class to Memorial. It was brutally depressing.

This is one of the kindergarten rooms. I can’t remember if my kindergarten was in this room or one nearby.

Here’s a random classroom.

If there’s one thing I’ll always remember about MacArthur it’s the coat rooms, which were great places to get punched.

Speaking of great places to get punched, this tour wouldn’t be complete without a shot of the boys room. I remember when I was in 5th grade breakdancing became a fad and kids would practice the backspin on the bathroom floors during potty breaks. I thought that was gross even back then.

This is a shot out the window of the old MacArthur looking across the street to the new MacArthur, set to open in the fall.

Here’s the main office. Wait here for the principal, who would like to have a word with you, young man.

Above are the flags the student crossing guards use to stop traffic. We always called the crossing guards the “Police Patrol.” I don’t know if they still call them that. These are the same flags as back in the day, though.

A wall mural.

Congratulations to the spelling champions. LeeAnna was in my class; I’ll tease her about this at our reunion for sure. Nerd!

This is a plaque commemorating our neighborhood hero, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Michael Colalillo.

Above is some table-tennis action at the Valley Youth Center, below is another perspective of the youth center.

Just like 30 years ago, Russell Salgy is still hanging around. He wasn’t texting back in the early 1980s, though.

I had forgotten about this, but at the end of a hall there was a door that was always locked. I checked it every time I passed it to make sure it was locked because I was certain that one day it would be open and I could enter the tiny room and climb the ladder that was visible through the door’s window. The ladder must lead to an attic, but I’ll never know; the door was always locked when I was a kid, and was still locked during my final tour.

School’s out! Hey you kids, no running in the halls!

The Police Patrol will no doubt slow down those running kids.

Here’s a shot looking down Central Avenue, where students wait for their bus. Behind them is their old school, in front of them their new school.

Hey, who turned the old playground into a parking lot? Stupid grownups!

As a bus was pulling out, this kid noticed I was taking pictures and wanted in on the action. It seemed at first like I was being flipped off, which brought back memories, but as I was taking the photo the perspective changed and the kid’s other finger became visible. It was a peace sign.

Related Posts:
Laura MacArthur Elementary School Audio/Visual Cadets
Could any of these gals still be around?
Remembering Miss Laura MacArthur
Tearing down houses for the new MacArthur School
Remembering Bud James

18 Comments

jessige

about 4 years ago

Great pics, Paul--thanks for sharing them. I hope they're going to move some of the old fixtures and stuff into the new school so future students have a sense of the history, too.

Barrett Chase

about 4 years ago

Funny thing about the coat rooms: I attended MacArthur from 1983-1985. Before that, I went to Irving. One of the main differences between the culture of Irving and MacArthur was that MacArthur kids called them "coat rooms" and Irving kids called them "cloak rooms." I never met a kid at Irving who actually wore a cloak, though.

Tomasz

about 4 years ago

Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Morgan Park is closing!?! Didn't they just do a whole bunch of improvements there a few years back? I had the privilege of attending that place for 7th and 8th grade: '92-'94(?) Living in Piedmont Heights, I had the option of attending the over-crowded Central, or take the bus 45 minutes to MP. I chose MP. Funny thing about that bus ride was that I read more books going back and forth to school than I have since -- including college. (Cliff's Notes don't count, right?) Although time consuming, I have to admit that it was a nice 'buffer' time that was mine, and mine alone. One thing I also remember was taking the "activity bus" after clubs and whatnot. Unlike the actual DTA-repurposed school buses, the "activity bus" would only bring us Piedmont kids to 21st Avenue West, where we'd have to transfer to a "real" DTA bus heading up the hill. The stop where we'd transfer was on the corner of 21st and First Street, in front of a large brick building that has since been torn down and made into a parking lot. Apparently, kids had been dropped off at that stop for quite a few years. The light pole/bus stop sign holder was covered in pencil graffiti saying this person sucks, that person rules and testifying that many a person "...was here." As a young teenaged boy, one particular piece of graffiti always intrigued me. It read: "For a good time, call 628-EASY." I stared up at that scribble for about a year before I finally mustered the courage to find out exactly what a 'good time' entailed. And so, one day -- a few years before Caller ID was introduced -- I finally dialed that mysterious and strangely tantalizing number. ...And someone answered: Easy: "Hello?" Tom: "Uh ... yes ... Hello. Is this 'six-two-eight-easy?" Easy: "WHO IS THIS? WHY DO YOU KEEP CALLING??!??" Tom: Click. Good times. :-D

Sammy

about 4 years ago

Great pics Paul! Brings back many many memories!!!

Tom

about 4 years ago

Wow, that brings back some memories. Thanks for all the pictures, Paul. I'm too lazy to figure out the exact years, but I spent 6 years there around the early '90s. I haven't seen most of that stuff for over a decade. I attended Laura MacArthur, Morgan Park, and Denfeld, so it's a little weird to think about all the changes. MacArthur is closing....but reopening across the street. Morgan Park is closing for good. Denfeld is barely recognizable anymore. I guess I'm a little confused by this whole thing though. Is Morgan Park really closing this year? I thought they were staying there for one more year...when the new Western Middle School opens up in the fall of 2012. If they're closing this year, where are they sending those kids next year?

Paul Lundgren

about 4 years ago

Morgan Park doesn't close for another year. Thanks for pointing that out, Tom. I have removed mention of it to avoid confusion.

Polly

about 4 years ago

Wonderful pics! I only went to MacArthur for Kgtn (back in the 60's! oh my, I'm old) But both of my daughters went to MacArthur all through grade school - Erica & Miranda John. I'll have to point out this stuff to them, so they can see the pics! And my grandson will go to the NEW school ..... funny how the world turns, huh?? Thanks for sharing!

Laurie DeGrio Mattson

about 4 years ago

I have tears in my eyes...good memories and thankyou for putting this out there for all of us to see! Mrs. Hoyum was my favorite teacher ever!

Sgt. Happy

about 4 years ago

seeing that pic of the boys locker room brought back all horrible memories of Mr. Dahman and the shock of all us hairless mice in shock that we actually were all standing around NAKED...shivers run down my spine..I am still scarred by that experience. lol

Tony

about 4 years ago

Dammit. I tried to stay aware of any open-house events at my old school. Will there be any others? When is the wrecking ball set to swing?

Farragut76

about 4 years ago

My daughter was in the Kindergarten at MacArthur this past year. You know when you are getting old when your old schools are being torn down. I went to Lincoln Elementary in Superior now that is a grassy field and East Junior High became a grassy field then a housing development.

Tom

about 4 years ago

Tony, they say it's supposed to be demolished late this year. I doubt that there's any more formal open houses. With kids out of that building forever and a lot of teachers and staff getting ready to move, I'd seriously doubt that they'd kick you out for taking a look around the place sometime this summer. Probably want to do it sooner than later though....I'm sure at some point they'll want to start hauling crap out of there to get ready to demolish.

Mary

about 4 years ago

Great post, Paul. Reading this reminded me of when my elementary school in Ashland closed in the early 90s...the building's still standing and has been repurposed into office space, at least, which is nice. It'd be sadder to drive by an empty lot.

Dizastress

about 4 years ago

Thanks so much for posting this, Paul. It was really a sentimental trip to check out these photos. I remember that school backward and front.

john

about 4 years ago

Kerry Liedner and Ms. Punyko @ ISD were instrumental in helping us work with the demo contractor (RJS - Superior) to get the salvage rights to the homes and church that got razed for the new building location. It's difficult for people in these roles to spend valuable time for something which has no real financial value for the district. I send them Kudos. I'm hoping that after they select some items for re-use in the new school, that we'll be able to salvage items from the old school as well.

mary

about 3 years ago

I bet no one remembers the Kate Barnes class which was part of the MacArthur/West Junior High. We are talking 1950s here.

Amanda

about 3 years ago

Wow, I cant believe it's really closing. I always wanted to go back in this school and take a walk down memory lane. I too went to Laura MacArthur, Morgan Park, Denfeld. If fact when I was in 5th grade our class made the two front signs of the bird and the name. I'm going to be super sad when this is gone, since I live a block away from it. R.I.P The old Laura MacArthur!

Lor tab

about 3 years ago

I didn't attend MacArthur, but it sure is obvious just from looking at it what a wonderful school it has been, earning many awards. I hope that continues. Also, at least two original wood-floor gyms. Does anyone else have a compulsive interest in these, as places for community to use after-hours -- even for a walk-around for fitness. They are not being replaced per neighborhood I think and it's a shame. No wonder we are not fit. You have to go outdoors on cement and traffic, already be thin and expensive clothes. The old-New Central also has a great newish wood gym. Where are Community ed classes going to be?

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