Mary Memery in December of 1989, from the Friends of Stony Hill records. WHS collections 2001.6.44, gift of Mary Giffin.
This article features segments from a tape recorded by Mary Memery for the Friends of Stony Hill School in 1990. Mrs. Memery reflects on her time as a teacher at the Stony Hill School and shares several fond memories of her former students.
If you attended school in Windsor between the 1940s and 1960s, there is a good chance you will recognize the name Mrs. Memery. For more than 20 years, Mary Memery worked as a kindergarten teacher at the Stony Hill School, which still stands today at 1195 Windsor Avenue. The one-room elementary schoolhouse first opened in 1899, and Mary became the school’s first kindergarten teacher in 1947.
On May 22, 1990, Mary recorded a tape and shared stories about her experiences as a teacher for the Friends of Stony Hill School. Led by former town councilor and deputy mayor Robert Geisel, the Friends of Stony Hill School was an organization that primarily consisted of former students. In 1987, the organization first began making plans to refurbish the school, and Mary expressed excitement over these efforts:
“My friends of Stony Hill School, I’m so happy to hear of your plans to restore Stony Hill School and your desire to create a museum. I have so many fond memories of the school and the children attending. Kindergarten opened in 1947. I felt honored to be the first teacher. Although the attendance was small in the beginning, it grew as time moved on. In 1969, when the school closed, the attendance was 60 pupils daily: 30 in the a.m. session and 30 in the afternoon.”
Class photo of Mrs. Memery and her kindergarten students, 1965. WHS collections 2008.8.263, gift of Windsor Public Schools.
Throughout the recording, Mary described numerous projects that students worked on over the years. One project involved teaching students about traffic safety, which took place at the beginning of the school year.
“The children learned their colors: green, yellow, red and what they stood for. Later they cut out the colored circles, pasted them on large, black paper in the form of a traffic light. Many safety instructions were given.”
Upon completing these tasks, students started preparing for a play to demonstrate what they learned. A large traffic light made of wood served as a prop, and a little boy played the role of a police officer.
“He wore a policeman’s hat and had a whistle for directing the traffic. The children obeyed these signals as they pretended to cross the street. The Windsor police became very interested and visited, talking on safety. The Hartford Times gave us a front-page write up.”
Stony Hill students dressed in costumes for the Mother Goose play, 1954. Gift of Lee Allan Tryon.
Mother Goose was another play that children at the Stony Hill School took part in. After learning the nursery rhymes, each student assumed a role and parents worked together to create their costumes. Mary expressed immense gratitude to the parents for their help as she reflected on the play. She also detailed other social activities that students at Stony Hill School engaged in.
“There was a tea party. The invited guests were dolls and teddy bears. The children made their own placemats and table decorations. They also learned table manners.”
According to Mrs. Memery, one of the biggest projects for students was a fashion show that occurred at the former G. Fox & Co. in Hartford. Since it took place in August, Stony Hill opened before the start of the school year to prepare.
“We called it ‘Back to School’. It was for the Windsor Veterans Memorial swimming pool,” Mrs. Memery recalled. “This project was open to children from all sections of town. They were trained and helped to be models. G. Fox and Company supplied all the clothes.” The fashion show was a moment to look forward to for both Mrs. Memery and her students, and it received coverage in the newspaper and on local television.
When Stony Hill School closed in 1969, Mary went on to become a teacher at Roger Wolcott School for three years. She then retired to Largo, Florida, in 1972 after teaching in Windsor for 25 years. Mary passed away at the age of 89 in 1993, but her memory lives on through stories from students who continue to speak fondly of her to this day.
By Sulema DePeyster, Community History Specialist