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Alumni remember John Hope School on 100th anniversary

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The alumni of John Hope School have many stories to tell about the teachers, the friends, the neighborhood that raised them from kindergarten through eighth grade.

The alumni of John Hope School have many stories to tell about the teachers, the friends, the neighborhood that raised them from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Bill Gibson, from the class of 1958, remembers a teacher coming to his house one rainy evening in the fifth or sixth grade because he was acting up in her class. Gibson is hesitant to say he remembers something for certain, but the details from that night are clear: His mother was upset and embarrassed, and his siblings made fun of him for a month.

“Back in the day, parents did not want a preacher or teacher to come to the house to talk about their kids,” he said.

Gibson, a 76-year-old retired information technology worker, looks back on that day fondly, though, because he came to learn his teacher would only take the time to do that if she really cared for her students.

Betty Glenn, from the class of 1953, can remember her music class walking the halls around Christmas time to sing carols. Classrooms would stay silent and leave their doors open as the class walked in uniform and kept tempo.

“It was so mesmerizing,” she said.

Glenn, 80, also enjoyed her home economics class, where she learned how to cook and make an apron.

“It means everything to me,” she said of her time at John Hope. “Wonderful memories I’ll take until the end.”

This year is the 100th anniversary of John Hope School #26, which was off of west 16th Street on the south end of Martindale-Brightwood. Most students graduated to Arsenal Technical High School or Crispus Attucks High School.

The former John Hope building is now home to The Oaks Academy Middle School.

Alumni planned a reunion in June but had to cancel it because of COVID-19.

John Hope is where Ron Lovett, a 1971 graduate who helped organize the alumni event, met his best friend in sixth grade, when a boy named Rod Coffman moved to Indianapolis from Louisville.

“I’d do all his artwork and he’d get A’s,” Lovett said laughing.

He has some of the same memories as Gibson — teachers who took an interest in their students beyond the classroom. Lovett said he never got a house visit, but he had friends and cousins who did.

Lovett is part of an alumni group that meets regularly and said he hopes to be able to have a reunion next year.

“It’s heritage,” he said of John Hope. “It’s a legacy school.”

The oldest living alumnus of John Hope is 103-year-old Jimmie Luton, who lives just a couple of blocks from the old school. Luton was part of the class of 1932 and said music was always one of her favorite classes.

“It was just like being at home,” she said. “The teachers were gonna make you obey just like mom and dad.”

Luton went on to Crispus Attucks, where she graduated in in 1936, and worked in box offices at various Indianapolis theaters, including Walker Theater Company, before going into a factory job and later becoming a beautician.

Back in her day at John Hope, the teachers were free to use the paddle on students who misbehaved, an education experience Luton is nostalgic of (though she said she never met the fate).

“It just breaks my heart because they’re not like they used to be,” she said.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

The 1953 eighth grade class at John Hope School #26. (Photo provided)

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