Community celebrates as Appleton finishes 100th year

By: Taylor Temby Email
By: Taylor Temby Email

It's the last day for every school in School District 51, but very few can say it's a day 100 years in the making. There was a centennial celebration at Appleton Elementary School this week, making it the oldest consolidated school in the state.

Multiple generations of families have called Appleton home over the years. Whether they attended for elementary school or high school, there's no question these school walls hold memories for many families.

Health assistant Linda Cueva has a long history with Appleton Elementary. She's worked for the school since 1999, and her children went there, but the roots go much deeper.

"I was a student here, my dad was a student, lots of my aunts and uncles, and my grandmother was a student [at Appleton]," Cueva said.

That’s how it is for many of Appleton's students.

"It’s multi-generational families that have been through here, and they continue to bring their kids here," Appleton principal Corey Hafey said.

"Probably five or six kids out of every class have a relative who went here," Cueva estimated.

That would make sense for a school that first opened its doors to students in 1911.

In the past century, the school has seen changes. Buildings are gone, and new additions have been added. In 1955, the original school building which housed kindergarteners through high schoolers burned down. Cueva says it was neat to see the community come together to rebuild such a beloved school.

"We have kind of some of the new and kind of some of the old," added Hafey.

Behaviors have changed since the school first opened, too, meaning pulling pranks on the principal isn't always allowed these days. Former Appleton student Al Thorpe recalls have an interesting relationship with his Appleton principal. He says his principal would show off his new car to students in the parking lot, that is, until Thorpe decided to put an end to it. Thorpe loosed some of the lug nuts on his principal’s tires.

"When he made his left hand turn, it seemed like the wheels fell off for some reason and he ended up in the ditch," Thorpe said.

Though times have changed, one thing has stayed the same.

"There’s a lot of community spirit still entwined in the school's history,” Cueva said.

Whether it was the school wide carnivals then, or field day and family picnics now, Appleton has always been a place for the community, and generations of students will continue to choose Appleton and the Appleton family.

"It’s a very good school, in a good area, and we're very proud to have that opportunity," Thorpe said. Thorpe’s grandson now attends Appleton.

At its end-of-the-year celebration, the school sealed a time capsule filled with student memories that won't open until May of 2037.

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