Being Old School in Holley means something special

By on July 14, 2014
Holley officials are applying for a grant that would help this historic structure in the middle of the village achieve landmark status. File photo

Holley officials are applying for a grant that would help this historic structure in the middle of the village achieve landmark status. File photo

by Leisa Wood Strabel
Holley Class of 1980

Generally, if you say you’re “old school” it means you appreciate the way things used to be. You like hand-written thank you notes and the use of sir and ma’am to address your elders, you take your baseball cap off in restaurants.

In Holley, “old school” means all that and more.

Old School means you attended the Old Holley High School sometime between 1931 and 1979. The once-majestic building remains standing in the center of the village – just west of the square – but it hasn’t been occupied by students since the winter of 1975/76 when the members of the class of 1979 were freshman.

The memories of school days at the Old School are strong in this tight-knit community, so strong that a group of alumni has scheduled a re-union for everyone who ever attended the Old School. The “I’m From the Old School” Re-union 1931-1979 will be held on Friday, August 1 at Hickory Ridge Party House.

Re-union organizer Dan Mawn, Class of    ‘69, said that 291 alumni had signed up to attend as of July 8; the deadline to register is July 15. Alumni from the Old School range in age from about 52 to 98 and some of them span three generations of a family. According to Mawn, the majority who have signed up for the re-union are from classes in the 1950s, 60s and 70s; he has one alumnus from the class of 1937. Five teachers, not alumni themselves, are also planning to attend.

The idea for an Old School reunion has been kicked around for a few years by a group of alumni that held reunions in 2008 and 2009 for large numbers of classes: 1965-1974 and 1960-1974, respectively. “Those events were well-attended,” Mawn said, “everyone seemed to really enjoy connecting with old friends.”

Entertainment for the reunion will be provided by Northern Lights DJ Mike Neale, class of ‘74, and the Who Dats band featuring Ed Hilfiker, class of 69. Professional photographer Crystal Yingling, class of 79, captured the decaying architectural features of the Old School in an amazing collection of photos that she shared with Mawn – it will play as a slide show on a large screen during the event. Also playing will be a video of the interior of the Old School shot during a visit by state and federal elected officials in the mid-2000s.

As president of the Historical Society, Mawn has access to troves of photos and newspaper articles chronicling the history of the building. He is scanning those photos and articles and compiling signboards to be on display during the re-union.

Deciding where to build a “new school” to replace the 1896 school building was a difficult undertaking in the late 1920s. Several sites in the Village of Holley were considered for the “new school.” Finally, the School District decided to tear down the previous “old high school” and rebuild on the same site. That structure was torn down after graduation in 1929; high school was held in other locations until the “new school” was ready for occupation during the 1931 school year.

Architect Carl Ade designed the Neo-Classical building with Greek Revival pediments and entablature. A noted school designer, Ade designed similar schools that are still in existence. The major architectural features on the front of the Holley structure have been long removed, but there is new hope that the Old School might still find a use for the future.

Holley Mayor John Kenney has worked with several developers over the years to bring a plan for revitalization to fruition. He is currently working with a developer that has expressed “a high level of interest.” Holley is applying for a grant that would help the building achieve landmark status opening up the door for tax credits to encourage development. Kenney envisions a mixed use for the building: some senior housing, offices on the ground floor, a community center.

Whatever the future might hold for the 83-year old “Old School”, the memories created there across five decades of alumni will be shared at the re-union on August 1. So, all you Old Schoolers still out there, give Mawn a call at 585-465-3723 or email him at to reserve your re-union spot and the chance to share your own Old School memories.

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