Alumni group to discuss establishing Libbey HS museumWritten by John P. McCartney | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Two weeks after more than 20 Libbey High School alumni and supporters documented 370 pieces of memorabilia stored by Toledo Public Schools (TPS), the Libbey High School Alumni Association will host a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. April 9. The group plans to discuss possible placement of the school’s trophies, medals, paintings, photos, portraits, plaques, newspapers, yearbooks and other assorted memorabilia.
The meeting will take place in the Believe Center inside the Aurora Gonzalez Community Center, 1205 Broadway St.
In response to Libbey preservation project spokesperson Sue Terrill’s comments to the Board of Education (BOE) at its March 26 meeting, board member Larry Sykes expressed his support of the alumni association’s mission.
“I am sympathetic to the people of Libbey,” Sykes said. “We can work with them as they attempt to find a home for those artifacts. And I don’t want to see [Terrill] back here because she is complaining that she needs something in the Libbey High School alumni project.”
Speaking directly to the superintendent Jerome Pecko, Sykes said, “Whatever she needs, let’s make sure she gets it.”
‘Too little, too late’
Preservation project volunteers said that although they appreciated Sykes’ vocal support, it is simply too little, too late. They said they needed that support from all board members in 2012 when the BOE voted to demolish the South End high school, leaving the 1200 block of Western Avenue bare.
“It’s just a great big hole, a bare space,” said 1963 graduate Sharon Barton Hamilton. “It will probably grow over in weeds in a couple of years if they don’t find another purpose for it. It will become just another empty lot with weeds.”
Sierra Hines, a 2010 graduate, said she is offended by the BOE’s previous lack of support.
“They already got rid of our school,” Hines said. “It’s adding insult to injury when you just dump the trophies into a storage room and not do anything with them. It’s like all my memories have been taken from me.”
Larry Farren, a 1966 graduate, questioned where the BOE’s support was during the first two years of the preservation project committee’s efforts.
“We’ve tried to save as much of the legacy as we could,” Farren said. “We tried to take as many photographs as we could. The exterior was easy. It was still up. But we had a hard time getting inside Libbey to take pictures.”
Farren said he has “no idea” why committee members were required to wait more than a year before being allowed access to the shuttered building.
“Maybe they were worried about insurance, maybe that we’d get hurt,” Farren suggested. “Or maybe they thought if the documentation got out there, their decision would be reversed. That is a possibility.”
Jean Murphy, a 1966 graduate, called it a “disgrace” that Libbey was demolished within two years of being closed while DeVilbiss and Macomber high schools have stood for 22 years since closing.
Fred Crabtree, a 1963 graduate, agreed with Murphy.
“It bugs the hell out of me that after going through all that information we went through, I couldn’t find a single reason why when they closed DeVilbiss and Macomber [in 1991], they didn’t tear them down. All these years later, both are still standing. But with Libbey, they closed it [in 2010] and they tore it down to the ground in less than two years.”
Bill Albert, a 1966 graduate, was harsher in his assessment of the BOE, calling its actions immoral.
“Now the South End is totally, absolutely deficient in education and everything else,” Albert said. “What they’ve done to those kids’ education down there is criminal.”
A public display
Volunteers universally agreed that their work documenting the memorabilia should lead to the establishment of a facility where the items would be on public display.
Hamilton said she would like to see a museum for all closed TPS schools “so that everything could be under one roof to make it feasible.” She suggested the South branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library at 1736 Broadway St. as a possible location.
Larry Noyes, a 1963 graduate, also supports the establishment of a museum.
“Those items are already recorded,” Noyes said. “We have documentation. I would like to see that put into some kind of museum to where somebody can go there and say, ‘Oh, yeah. My grandfather — he was part of that team.’ It would be nice.
“I think that for the amount of effort that went into earning those trophies and awards, we owe something to those people that worked very hard to bring that honor to the school — not so much for themselves, but for the sake of Libbey High School. There were a lot of them over all the years, and I think that should be preserved.”
Jean Murphy, a 1966 graduate, suggested that the memorabilia could be displayed in several buildings, including the Area Office on Aging on Arlington Avenue and the Lyman W. Liggins Senior Center and the Veterans Outpatient Clinic, both on South Detroit Avenue.
“The people of South Toledo could go and see, or take their grandchildren to see, the World War II memorial for the teachers and students lost in World War II,” Murphy said. “They could take their families to see some of the important things in their lives.”
Eddie Auerbach, a 1950 graduate, said he’d like to see the City of Toledo establish and maintain a citywide Sports Hall of Fame to honor athletes from area high schools as well as The University of Toledo.
“It’s just too bad that they had to do what they did to Libbey,” Auerbach said. “It’s gone now. It’s just too bad.”
James Hines, a 1984 graduate, said he’d like to see TPS sell the memorabilia to interested citizens.
“I wish there was some kind of way to auction them off,” Hines said. “I know people who they are valuable to would go after them. People would pay a lot of money just to have them. There’s a lot of people that fought with sweat and blood over trophies.
“Auction them off. Give them away. Put them online for people to see them. Do something. To leave them packed up in a warehouse somewhere — and later on probably trash them — is a crime.”
‘Give people pause … ’
Farren said it’s important to save as much of Libbey’s legacy as possible.
“Maybe we’re being pie-in-the-sky, but this is part of the history of Toledo,” Farren said. “We’re hoping that by saving as much as we can, we can give people pause to think about what Toledo once was and can be again.”
Farren said even citizens with no connection to Libbey should take notice of TPS’s demolition of its unused buildings.
“In a way, this goes to the heart of Toledo,” Farren said. “We did not maintain Libbey the way it should have been maintained. Now we have these new schools. We’ve been to the OSFC (Ohio School Facilities Commission) Building Committee meetings, and we’ve heard about problems with the new schools.
“And you have to wonder, are the people of Toledo going to repeat the mistakes of the past? Are they going to maintain these new buildings? Or in 40 years, or 50 if we’re lucky, are these buildings going to have to be replaced and millions of dollars will have to go into the process again?”
‘A piece of history that’s gone’
Noyes said the demolition was, “kind of like they’re tearing down a part of your life. It’s a piece of history that’s gone. It’s just like a lot of other things that are gone. Eventually, it loses its impact. Time has erased a lot of that memory.
“I don’t think you have to save everything. I just don’t understand why Libbey had to be the school to be gobbled up in a steam shovel. There’s a lot of feeling involved. I look at that piece of property now, and I just don’t know what to say about it. They have a big rock out there, almost like a tombstone. When I first saw it, it was kind of like a gravestone for Libbey.”
Albert refuses to even drive by the site of the former high school.
“That’s one part of Western Avenue. I will never go down,” Albert said. “I saw Libbey as it was, and I didn’t see it being torn down. I refused to see it, and I refuse to go onto that section of Western Avenue.
“When I went that way to get to the Frederick Douglass Building for a couple of meetings, I had my left hand over the left side of my face so I wouldn’t even approach Libbey, seeing it. That’s how I am with that. I have my memory and my sight of Libbey, and that’s how I’ll look at it.”
Tags: Area Office on Aging, Aurora Gonzalez Community Center, Jerome Pecko, Larry Sykes, Libbey High School, Libbey High School Alumni Association, Lyman W. Liggins Senior Center, Sue Terrill, Toledo Public Schools, University of Toledo, Veterans Outpatient Clinic