SELMA — When you ask some of the visiting Terry Elementary alumni about their cherished memories from attending the rural school, they often brought up former Principal Don Turpin.
“Some of the stories are the same, like Mr. Turpin and his big comb,” said alumna Elisa Quintana from the last eighth-grade graduating Class of 1985. “He really cared about all the students. My family and I felt special to him. It was very good times. We were Terry Trojans when I was here. I count it a big privilege to be the last graduating eighth-grade class.”
Quintana was among alumni sharing memories during the school’s 135th Anniversary Celebration on Sept. 1. The original school was named after Alanzo Mason Terry, who donated a portion of his 160-acre farm so Terry District could be built. The school started on May 4, 1882 then merged with Central to become the Terry Union District. Later, the school became part of Selma Unified in 1967.
Principal Rosa Baly welcomed a group of visiting alumni and city and school district officials as the school kicked off a year-long celebration on Sept. 1. Their anniversary year will include a number of historical research projects.
“What’s wonderful is that individuals heard and wanted to be here to celebrate with us today and that’s fantastic,” she said.
Crucial to their year of research will be artifacts from the school’s history that Baly was delighted several of the alumni brought with them to share during the kick-off.
Former student and teacher Al King was among speakers who brought original items from his time and the school’s history to share. He also recalled the school’s centennial celebration back in 1982, which three of Terry’s granddaughters attended.
“This photograph is from a painting given to the school in 1982,” he said of Terry’s portrait sitting at the base of the podium that day.
Holding up a land patent granted to his own great-grandfather back in 1885, King recounted how homesteaders like Alanzo Terry helped settle the local natural territory into productive farmland.
“Mr. Terry’s farm was on the southwest corner of DeWolf and Mountain View. Why he has a school named after him is an interesting story,” he said.
Since homesteaders had children that needed schooling, not only did Terry donate the needed land, but he also volunteered to bring lumber all the way from the foothills so the schools could be built.
“Alanzo Terry volunteered to take his jerk line team to Shaver Lake and haul the lumber back here. You’d have to understand what an undertaking that would have been,” King said. “I’m sure he didn’t make the trip alone, but undoubtedly he made a great commitment to the project. So much so, the improvement committee voted to name the school in his honor.”
King said that there were many rural community schools in the area, such as Duke and Central. In most cases, students could walk but sometimes they rode their ponies to school. School teachers that lived in Selma would drive their horse and buggy out to the school, he said.
Since then, many rural schools have closed down, but Terry Elementary lives on.
Alumni Gregory Kim encouraged current students to set goals and achieve them in his address at the gathering.
“Of the things I was able to achieve in my life, it was because I had the right tools," he said. "Those tools started in places like this. I had all my teachers, my colleagues and my friends who all supported me. We want to make sure you’re getting all those tools you need also.”
Kim also challenged the students to have dreams and take the steps needed to reach those.
“Have dreams, get the right tools, set goals and then you can achieve. Also, go with a positive attitude with your teacher, your classmates and your colleagues,” he said.
The celebration included a presentation by Sen. Andy Vidak's representative, Claudia Salinas, and recollections by former students who are now teachers at the school, including Sara Ayeni, Ramona Bujulian and Roxanne Garrigus-Case.
Principal Baly touted the artifacts brought by the visitors as more evidence that will help them piece together a more accurate picture of the school’s history.
The school will host a culminating presentation on May 4, 2018, when a time capsule filled with their research will be buried on the school grounds.