“I feel deeply honored by the action of the School District Board in suggesting the choice of my name for one of its new school buildings. This is a rare tribute, which I, of course, accept with a sense of deepest appreciation.”
So begins a letter dated Nov. 14, 1956, from Gen. Douglas MacArthur to the then-Fort Leavenworth School District board director Col. William Connor, thanking the district for naming the new elementary school after him.
A copy of MacArthur’s letter was one of the things that was found in the time capsule dug out of the side of the old MacArthur Elementary School building March 31 during construction of the new Patton Junior High School. District staff opened the time capsule April 1 at the district office.
“The letter from MacArthur … I think was pretty neat,” said Keith Mispagel, USD 207 superintendent.
The time capsule was buried in 1956 after the school was built. Other items found in the time capsule included student class lists, teacher and student handbooks, an issue of the Leavenworth Times, a telegram from President Dwight D. Eisenhower and more.
The old documents gave insight into the old ways.
“All kids go home for lunch — that was a cool one,” said Demarin Montgomery, USD 207 director of human resources and treasurer, as he flipped through the pages of the student handbook. “The HR side of me was looking at the staff directory and handbooks to truly see what has changed and what really is the same. … For me, it’s fun. I love history.
“When I think of elementary school, (MacArthur is) what I think of,” he said. “The two years I was here (as a student), that’s all I think of.”
Montgomery attended MacArthur Elementary School his fourth- and fifth-grade years and the first quarter of his sixthgrade year.
Discoveries of the old ways were spread out among things that have changed, things that haven’t, and things thought to be new in recent years, that were just coming back.
In 2015, USD 207 implemented a preschool program for 4-year-olds, and beginning the 2020-2021 schoolyear, the district will implement preschool for 3-year-olds, but it turned out that it was something that was offered before. In 1956 both programs were offered, and it cost $8 a month for officers and $5 a month for enlisted soldiers who had preschool-aged children.
“It’s come full circle,” Montgomery said.
Mispagel said opening the time capsule now was significant, since the work toward the new Patton has officially started.
“It is the launch of a new era and from history to future, the opportunities that we see,” Mispagel said. “From where we’ve gone from then to now is the future.”
Each of the school buildings in the district have time capsules buried that will eventually be opened. Montgomery said he hopes one day to create an archive room for all of the findings to display the history of the district.
“When that’s going to happen, I don’t know yet,” he said.