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Hundreds attend Riley centennial
Riley music teacher Rachel McCaulley poses with some of the old Riley Elementary School photos she collected for a display. The school celebrated its centennial on Sept. 11. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

Riley School celebrated its centennial on Sunday, Sept. 11 with a come-and-go community event.
Upward of 400 Riley alumni, community members, past staff members, current students and families came and went, according to JoAnn Blevins, principal.
“We put the word out for Riley memorabilia to the public and were able to get report cards from the 1920s, 1930s and 1950s,” Blevins said. “The Barton County Historical Society helped us find old newspaper clippings and photos of staff members and students.
“All of the items that we collected were displayed in the library during the celebration and turned out to be a real conversation starter,” she said.
“We received letters from across the country from former students who shared their Riley memories with us,” Blevins said. “One included a student who lived south of town who rode her horse to school and when she got here, she would send the horse home.
“Another former student who became a Riley teacher, Larry Becker, shared that he and another student jumped out of the second story window of the principal’s office to avoid a spanking,” she said. “Unfortunately for the boys, not only did they receive their spanking from Mrs. Scott, the principal, but they received one from his mother as well.”
Riley sixth graders provided building tours to guests. They worked in their classrooms on preparing to give tours and learning about their school.
Blevins said she was amazed by the number of people in attendance Sunday.
“It was packed,” she said. Former teachers and their students, some now adults, were able to reminisce. “It was fun to have the intergenerational connection there.”
Rachel McCaulley, music teacher, worked with Identifications to design T-shirts that were given to each child and staff member. They were worn during the celebration.
The planning team included Becky Hill, Rachel McCaulley, Casey Hatzenbuehler and Blevins.

The original Riley
The original Riley School building was torn down in 1981, Blevins said. A 1951 addition was left standing, but the original had extensive termite damage and it was decided to build new classrooms.
“Riley replaced a school named Roosevelt,” she said. That building, which she thinks was located on Fry Street, was destroyed by a tornado.

Additional reporting by Susan Thacker, Great Bend Tribune.