NUTLEY, NJ - Spring Garden recently celebrated their centennial with an open house at the school. Many former teachers and students, as well as current attendees gathered for the anniversary.
Emma Cortese, Nutley Family Service Bureau trustee, was collecting food donations during the event for their pantry. Cortese is also an alumna of the school. Her favorite memory was of one of her teachers. “Mrs. Lawrence, my sixth grade teacher, changed my school experience for the positive in a very powerful way,” she said.
Principal Laurie Lagardia was happy to see so many people, past and present, at the school. “The support we get from the entire community, students, staff, the strong tradition, and days like this are a testament of why this is possible,” she said.
Joanna Lynn (Buset) Bitten, a 1990 graduate, remembers the school’s annual Strawberry Festival. “The festival was always my favorite. It was the most exciting part of the year,” she said.
Victoria Urbanovich, friends with Bitten and also a 1990 graduate, was looking at old photos on the wall. “My kids and Joanna’s kids go to school here. I never thought in a million years that her daughter and my daughter would go to the same school,” she said.
Alumna Joyce Bartholomew claimed her school fame.” I drew the school mascot, Benny the Beagle. It was my dog Shorty. It was a school contest and I won it in ’69/’70. They retired him at one point but they brought it back for a while. I believe he has been retired again,” she said.
Nutley High School gym teacher Sharon Larcara also was a student of Spring Garden. “The gym is fabulous. We never had a cafeteria. Everything is a lot like it was back in ’74, it looks pretty good for 100 years,” she said.
Barbara Hirsh, former director of special services also reminisced on her time at the school. “My office was here at Spring Garden for many years. Many of the students went on to do wonderful things because of the encouragement they got at Spring Garden,” she said.
Former high school teacher George Ackerman was part of the class of ’61. “I use to walk up here every day, played stickball and baseball every day, every weekend and sit at the side of the playground.
Marissa Mirda Laffan and her mom Betty Ohlandt Mirda, reminisce about their years at Spring Garden with old school photos. “The Strawberry Festival was absolutely my favorite memory. I would get dressed as a big strawberry. There was always strawberries and ice cream,” she said.
It seemed the most remembered event was the school’s annual Strawberry Festival.