2014-01-30 / News

Reunion for Carr, Clarke alumni in July

By Ken Shane

Jim Pemantell organized a reunion in 2009 for former students of the Carr and Clarke schools, and it was such a hit, he plans on holding another get-together with fellow alumni in July.

Pemantell didn’t know what to expect at the first reunion five years ago. He wasn’t sure anyone would attend, so when more than 300 people came from all over the country, Pemantell was pleasantly surprised.

The reunion this year will be held at the pavilion at Fort Getty, just as it was in 2009. According to Pemantell, a former Jamestown chief of police, at least 25 former students have passed on since the first event. That’s why he believes there’s some urgency to organize another reunion.

“My goal for the reunion was for everyone to see someone who they hadn’t seen in 40 or 50 years,” Pemantell said. “It worked. Everyone had a really good time. I thought having it every five years would work.”

Island children were educated in the Carr and Clarke buildings between 1897 and 1955. All grades initially attended Carr School, located where McQuade’s Marketplace is today. In 1923, grades 5 through 8 moved to Clarke School, located at the present site of the library. When the building on Lawn Avenue opened in 1955, both Carr and Clarke schools were closed.

According to Pemantell, life was much different when he attended the Carr and Clarke schools in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He vividly recalls the bell in the school’s belfry that would ring at school time. Most of the children who attended the schools lived in town, and everyone could hear the chime.

“When it was time to start school,” Pemantell said, “that big bell up in the tower would ring.”

Students went home for lunch in those days and came back for the afternoon session. There were few snow days because everyone lived in town – teachers and students – and the schools were in walking distance. Even in the higher grades there was only one teacher per class who taught all of the subjects. Pemantell remembers there were about 20 students in each class, and aside from some children of service members, the same group stayed together from kindergarten through eighth grade.

When students graduated from Clarke, they had their choice of attending three schools: Rogers High, the public school, De La Salle Academy, a Catholic school for boys, or St. Catherine’s Academy, a parochial school for girls. All the high schools were in Newport, and the town of Jamestown paid the tuition no matter where the student chose to attend.

In those pre-bridge days, getting to and from high school meant taking the ferry.

The idea for the Carr-Clarke reunion first came to Pemantell in 2002, when he organized a 50th reunion for his eighth-grade class at Clarke. About 20 people attended.

“I never went to the high school reunions because I didn’t know a lot of kids in Newport anyway,” Pemantell said. “I thought it would be nice to have a local one. That’s where the idea came up.”

Linda Warner is helping Pemantell with this year’s reunion. Warner also attended the Carr and Clarke schools. Lawn School, however, opened in time for her to be part of the first graduating class.

Warner recalled the schools had separate entrances for boys and girls. Entrance to the boys’ side led to the manual training room, where the boys would learn woodworking and other shop arts. On the girls’ side, there were sewing classes.

“It was a little different than you would find today,” Warner said.

Warner attended the 2009 reunion. She had been traveling in the Midwest with her husband that summer, but she flew home just to attend, before flying right back out.

Like Pemantell, she was pleasantly shocked by the number of people who attended.

“I was surprised there were that many for the first time,” Warner said. “But there were many more who would like to have gone but just didn’t know about it.”

According to Warner, she was also amazed by some of the people who traveled at such great lengths to be there. She expects this year’s reunion will be attended by even more people.

The 2014 Carr-Clarke reunion will take place on July 12, and will once again feature a buffet lunch. Pemantell hopes the word will spread, as it did for the first reunion, through word of mouth and the Jamestown Press. He said many people who no longer live in town still read the paper every week.

“It’s the responsibility of people who hear about the reunion to contact friends,” Pemantell said. “If you know about it, please call all of your friends.”

The reunion is open to anyone who attended either school. Wives, husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends are welcome, too. Anyone interested in attending can contact Pemantell by phone at 401-423- 1294 or by email at mandojim@cox.net.

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