Vidakovich column: 100 years of Glenwood Elementary School |

Vidakovich column: 100 years of Glenwood Elementary School

Mike Vidakovich

I was substitute teaching in a fifth grade classroom at Glenwood Springs Elementary a few weeks back, when I was lucky enough to be a part of their all-school crew, which happens once a month throughout the school year. It’s a unique setup where all grade levels in the entire building are connected together online in their respective rooms.

It was a Friday, and one of Principal Audrey Hazleton’s guests was Bill Kight from the Frontier Historical Society. I had greeted Bill in the office that morning when I checked in for my day, and I have known him since his daughter Shandra was in my class at GSES many years ago. I really didn’t give a second thought as to why he was there as I headed up the stairs to the school’s second floor to assume my duties.

I found out soon enough the reason for Bill’s visit when he popped onto the computer screen and began the formal presentation to the office staff of the proclamation stating that Glenwood Elementary, founded in 1921, was celebrating its 100th year of educating the children of our town.

I was caught off guard, having no idea that the school I attended in the 1960s had been around so long. But then I came to the realization that I have been around for quite a while, also.

When crew was finished that morning, I shared some of my stories of being a student at GSES with the fifth graders. At first, they couldn’t believe I had attended the school, but after the question of “How old are you?” was settled, they listened with interest to several of my trips down memory lane.

First, I talked about what has always been my most cherished memory of those days in what was more commonly referred to as grade school: the old gymnasium.

Our PE teacher was Coach Chavez. Many of you remember him as the legendary basketball coach of the hometown Demons, but we all got our indoctrination into “Chav,” as we called him, when we were new to the world and very impressionable.

Chav was never short on energy, enthusiasm and a genuine love of kids, both elementary and high school, and the old GSES gym was a perfect setting for his classroom.

Back then, the gym had a balcony with several wooden theater seats where the sixth graders got to sit during assemblies. I waited anxiously for the years to pass when I could be up there and shoot spit wads at all the unsuspecting little ones seated on the floor below. What great fun that was — until you got caught, that is.

There was a large stage at the west end of the gym where the school plays were performed and large fan-shaped windows with red velvet curtains on each side of the cavernous room. When the lights were turned out and the curtains drawn during school plays, you felt that somehow, you had stepped into the filming of the Phantom of the Opera.

I told the kids that morning that I wish I could take them back in a time machine and show them what the gym used to look like. They would never have wanted to leave.

I talked to them about my principal, Skip Bolitho. Skipper, as he was known, ran a tight ship for sure, but he loved the kids to a fault. In the autumn during the baseball playoffs, Skip would always be listening to the games on the radio as we walked through the lunch line in the cafeteria. The World Series games were mostly played during the day back then, and Skip would always give us an update on the score — “The Mets are ahead of the Orioles 2-1 in the fourth inning, Mike!”

I’ve mentioned in several previous columns how lucky I was to be surrounded by so many great adults growing up here in Glenwood. My teachers at GSES were no exception. Though I might not have always felt this way at the time — because they were tough on us and demanded that we constantly strive for excellence — I loved them all. Ms. Bertholf, Ms. Darien, Ms. Craig, Ms. Wright, Ms. Woods, Mr. Blackhurst, Ms. Cabrinha, Ms. Burrows, Ms. Francis and Ms. Nicholson. We also had two wonderful music teachers in Patsy Guadnola and Fritz Bramble. I was always very nervous when Ms. Guadnola would make us get up in front of the entire class and sing, but I made it through and was better for the experience.

I had wasted quite a bit of the kids’ academic time at this point after crew, but I had to finish by telling them about my sixth grade teacher, Ms. Nicholson.

She was by far the toughest lady I had ever met at the time, and I knew I had met my match. You were expected to be on time with all lessons completed, pay attention during instruction, keep your desk area impeccably neat, and be kind and support others. She cut no one any slack on anything. I don’t know how many times Ms. Nicholson dumped over my desk at the end of the day because it was sloppy and not up to her standards. The day I bellowed out the complaint “Fish sticks again?” when she read the lunch menu, was the last time I ever objected to what was served in the cafeteria. She lectured me up one side and down the other in front of the entire class that having food to eat was never to be taken for granted. I sat erect in my seat with the hairs on the back of my neck standing at attention, but the lesson was learned.

Many, many years later, when Ms. Nicholson was living in Montrose and I was teaching third grade there at Pomona Elementary, I got in touch with her and invited her to come in the classroom as often as she liked to help out. My old sixth grade teacher accepted the offer and came to my room when her schedule would allow.

I made up for the transgressions of my youth with Ms. Nicholson, making a point to tell her during each visit how much her teaching and her lessons on life meant to me and that I was thankful I was in her class. I looked forward to her visits, and we became friends.

One hundred years of Glenwood Elementary. I got to spend seven years of my life there as a student, with each and every day being a blessing, but I was too young (and stupid) to ever realize how lucky I was at the time. Keep going strong, GSES!

Glenwood Springs native Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer, teacher and youth sports coach. His column appears on occasion in the Post Independent and at

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