Sunday, May 12, 2002

Condon evokes many memories

Sale helps raise funds to preserve artifacts

By Lew Moores,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Most of those who arrived Saturday at the school entrance framed in glazed terra cotta came to bid on surplus school supplies.

        But a handful came for more personal reasons.

[photo] The Condon school building hosted an auction Saturday.
(Ernest Coleman photos)
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        Allurie Wells Burrill taught third grade at the Randall J. Condon School from 1953 until it closed in 1982. She came to the school Saturday morning, entered the ornate entrance facing Rockdale Avenue in Avondale and gazed at a hallway whose echoes faded 20 years ago.

        “I walked in and cried,” said Ms. Burrill of Delhi Township, who retired from Cincinnati Public Schools in 1989.

        Condon School, which opened in 1928 to accommodate students with physical disabilities, will be demolished this summer to make way for a new Rockdale Academy.

        Saturday's sale of surplus school items from other schools, as well as Condon furnishings, was both a public auction and a chance to take a final tour of a school that served about 200 students a year during its more than half-century of tenure.

        “Come take a last look around,” said Christine Wolff, CPS spokeswoman.

        Come they did.

    • Randall J. Condon School — named for a former school superintendent — was built in 1928 and designed by Samuel Hannaford and Sons, which also designed City Hall and Music Hall.
    • Condon served about 200 students a year with physical disabilities before closing in 1982. Its extra-wide doorways were built to accommodate wheelchairs. The school itself was situated close to the hospitals nearby.
    • When Condon closed, its students moved to the new Roselawn Condon School.
    • Old Condon will be demolished this summer, and a new elementary school — Rockdale Academy — will be built on its site at a cost of $14 million. It is expected to open in fall 2004.
        Erich Halfter, Condon principal from 1960 to 1979, came to have a look. He is 86 years old and lives in Anderson Township.

        Philip Moore, who has cerebral palsy, attended Condon from 1967 to 1974. Mr. Halfter was his principal, Ms. Burrill his third grade teacher. Today, Mr. Moore, 40, is a third-grade teacher at Oyler Elementary School in Lower Price Hill.

        Mary Seicshnaydre was a student at Condon from 1957 to 1959.

        “I have such good memories,” said Ms. Seicshnaydre, 49, of Westwood, whose spina bifida caused her to attend the school.

        Upstairs, another teacher, Tom Hoar, who taught 1971 to 1980, wrote in chalk on a blackboard in a classroom he once taught in: “What a great place!!!”

        Saturday was also a day preservationists celebrated. Some of the money raised by the auction will be used to help save artifacts and architectural gems from the school, Ms. Wolff said.

[photo] Former Condon teacher Tom Hoar wrote on a Condon blackboard for the last time during Saturday's auction.
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        Medallions featuring a teacher reading to students on the facade will not face the wrecking ball, nor will flag parapets on either corner of the school. A Rookwood fireplace will be salvaged and its tiles used to adorn a drinking fountain at the new Rockdale Academy when it is built.

        Those who worked and studied here are thankful that pieces of the school will endure. They huddled among themselves and reminisced. Mostly, they talked of Condon as being family and a second home. Of hearing whispers in the hallways.

        “I was encouraged to do things because of my disability, and not discouraged because of it,” said Mr. Moore of Amberley Village. “This is emotional. When they said it would be open (Saturday) I just had to come for nostalgia's sake. I thought of us as just regular students in a unique situation.”

        At least one of them took part in the auction. Ms. Seicshnaydre bid on — and won — a classroom wall clock. She paid $30.

        “I do remember these,” she said. “Even if it doesn't work, I'll know where it came from.”


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