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PS 101 celebrates century in Forest Hills Gardens

By Sarina Trangle

Charlie Chaplain and the Model T assembly line live on at Primary School 101.

The Forest Hills Gardens school community marked 100 years of education Tuesday by dressing in 1914-era attire and partaking in activities that characterized the period.

Parents said hundreds of alumni, neighbors and education officials gathered at the 2 Russell Place campus to party 1914-style with a barbershop quartet performance, the screening of Charlie Chaplain’s first silent film and a soapbox car assembly line modeled after the Model T production technique pioneered by Henry Ford.

“We decided to immerse the children in the world of 1914,” said Ann Kittredge, a parent who helped organize the milestone, noting that students played marbles, performed maypole dances and dressed in knickers or full-length dresses. “It was a very rich day.”

City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew stopped by to honor the so-called School in the Gardens’ legacy. The school’s alumni roster boasts names of several famous actors and musicians, including singer-songwriter Burt Bacharach, jazz musician Chieli Minucci and Carroll O’Connor, who was on the CBS show “All in the Family.”

Kittredge said she discovered the school was approaching its 100th anniversary while researching the surrounding Forest Hill Gardens community’s centennial in 2010.

Before she began examining the school’s history, she said PS 101 only had records of the school holding classes in its current building on Sept. 12, 1927. She uncovered documents showing the city sanctioned a school where PS 101’s gym is now May 20, 1914.

Sifting through municipal records produced curriculum from 1914, which Kittredge said emphasized ethics and included lessons for first-graders on the dangers of narcotics.

“There was a sign-in book that the school carried from when it first opened,” she said. “It took 13 years to fill it …. You know how many books we go through in a year now?”

PS 101 currently enrolls about 600 students.

She said mini-museums of the school’s history were set up within school halls. Older grades helped compile a timeline of the memorabilia.

Tom Renna, another parent who helped organize the event, said students put together a time capsule for future generations.

“We’re trying to do it the right way so the next person that celebrates the 125h anniversary will have it all together,” he said.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.

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