Mitchell Elementary’s oldest, youngest attendees ring in new year

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Mitchell Elementary’s oldest, youngest attendees ring in new year

BY STEVE BIGHAM REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

 

WOODBURY — Floyd Judson, 92, is shown on the right as he rings the restored bell at Mitchell Elementary School in Woodbury on the first day of school Tuesday. Helping him ring the bell, which hasn’t chimed in about 70 years, is Judson’s grandson, David Albert, 17, a senior at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury. Steve Bigham Republican-American

 

WOODBURY — Floyd Judson, 92, clearly remembers hearing the unmistakable ring of the Mitchell Elementary School bell each morning when he was a student there back in the 1930s.

But he doesn’t recall ever ringing the bell himself.

On Tuesday, the Woodbury resident finally got his chance, and at 9:10 am, the chime echoed throughout the center of town, ringing in the start of a new school year.

It was an ideal time to celebrate the recent refurbishment of the old bell, which hasn’t rung out on School Street in more than 70 years.

Judson, who is currently the oldest living graduate of Mitchell School, was joined by kindergarten student Alexander Losh, 5, the school’s youngest student, who also happens to be a distant relative of Judson’s.

“This is an historic day and an opportunity to ring in the school day for a new generation and a new beginning,” said Mitchell Principal Andrew Komar, who added that the bell, which now sits on an brick platform in front of the school, is back in its rightful place.

The large bell, purchased from the Sears Roebuck Company, rang each morning at Mitchell from 1898, when the original school was first built, until 1948, when that building was torn down in favor of the current building. Since then, the 400-pound bell with its 28-inch diameter, had sat silently, encased in a glass box in the school’s gym foyer.

WOODBURY — Mitchell Elementary School student Alexander Losh, 5, helped ring in the new school year with the restored Mitchell Elementary School bell on the first day of school Tuesday in Woodbury. Steve Bigham Republican-American

 

Superintendent of Schools Joseph Olzacki said having Judson on hand to ring the bell is part of the district’s effort to connect Region 14 schools with the community at-large.

“From oldest to youngest, we are honored to bring Woodbury history back to life and our goal is to have both Woodbury and Bethlehem students have small pockets of information in their curriculums so they will learn about their communities and keep the pride going,” he said.

Board of Education member Carol Ann Brown said the bell, back in the old days, was the only way kids knew what time it was and when to come to school.

“And guaranteed the rest of Woodbury heard the bell today and I think that’s fitting, especially on the first day of school, and we could sure use something bright and happy these days,” Brown said.

Judson said he remembers the bell would ring at lunch time and he and his classmates would then run to the fire tower across the street and at the top of the hill.

“We’d have an hour for lunch so we’d go up there and then get back in no time flat before the bell rang to call us back to class,” he said. “It’s been a long time.”

Komar said the old bell has maintained its ring with a “beautiful tone.” He said parent, Doug Rose, who specializes in welding and other metal work offered to clean up the bell and return it to its original condition.

Komar said a different student will be selected each day to ring in and out the school day.

Judson was joined by his wife, Joan, also a lifelong Woodbury resident. She credited the school system for keeping history alive.

“I am so glad they did this so that history doesn’t get lost,” she said. “It really means a lot. It’s more than just a bell.”