SALT LAKE CITY — If it hadn't been for the passage of 50 years, you might say things at Cottonwood Heights Elementary School hadn't changed much.
The students were the same. The teacher was the same. Even the menu being served in the cafeteria was the same.
Sarah "Sally" Olsen (now Barfuss) in her original class of mixed first- and second-graders came Saturday for their 50th reunion, which also was the 50th birthday year of the school itself. It opened Aug. 28, 1960.
"I think the last time someone stood on the table to make an announcement was to tell us President Kennedy was shot," said Steven Burt, one of the original students, as he stood on a lunch table to begin the reunion.
A few years ago, Cottonwood Elementary School was closed due to increasing maintenance and repair expenses, but those gathered in the cafeteria remembered when the school was new, pretty and exciting.
Burt remembered that it was when the "new" green shade of slate blackboards was introduced. It was said to be easier on the eyes than the traditional boards. Those gathered reminisced about an old bomb shelter in the school, the colorful designs on the windows and how the entire school would smell "incredible" when the cafeteria workers baked rolls for school lunch.
One of the most common fond memories among the former students, however, had to do with making pumpkin pies in class.
To help her students have fun while learning, Barfuss supplemented curriculum that was boring to the students with fun activities. By using cooking and language skills, Olsen created some of the most loved memories in learning.
"How on earth did you make those pies and not have a train wreck?" asked Marti Andersen Tueller. She wondered how Barfuss had kept the gaggle of young kids organized.
"Oh, it was (a train wreck), Barfuss replied, smiling.
"When she brought a cookbook to class, suddenly math made sense," Tueller said as she spoke of learning how to measure ingredients.
The comparison of memories from teacher to student brought many to laughter..
Barfuss then unpacked a music box she'd obtained in Germany andbrought to her classroom. The box played "Happy Birthday" and was used to accompany the singing for each child on his or her birthday. One former student approached Barfuss and asked how she'd gotten the box to sing their names. Barfuss had told the children that if they would listen hard, they would be able to hear their name. At the reunion, the teacher revealed that the box never did sing their names.
"I believed it! I still believe it!" laughed the former student.
Among the things that Dan Wood, who flew in from California for the reunion, remembered most were the big jars of paste.
"Candy was rare at the time and so we ate the paste. It tasted like wintergreen," Burt and Wood remembered together. "We ate paste most of the time. We made it a treat."
The reunion menu, which was replicated from a saved lunch menu from Nov. 11, 1960, was eaten on lunch trays as student viewed old photographs of themselves in elementary school.
Of all the memories that they loved best, each student remembered most the creativity and fun learning that they experienced under the direction of Barfuss.