Sanger Ave. school was us — and Miss Nina

Wilton Lanning Jr.

In 2009 the citizens of Waco felt shocked and saddened by the loss of Sanger Avenue Elementary School when arsonists took away a historic treasure from this place we call Waco.

This beautiful red-brick building, replete with Richardson Romanesque arched windows and a shining cupola, was a landmark designed my Milton Scott. It served the children of Waco for over 50 years

But Sanger Avenue was much more than a beautiful building. It was about thousands of students who attended to learn much more than reading, writing and arithmetic.

The magnificent classrooms with high ceilings of stamped metal and large windows were just the place for "learning about life." Each cast-iron and wood desk each had an ink well.

In these classrooms I met Miss Peak, Miss Miller, Mrs. Warfield, and Mrs. Gill. The term "dedicated" teachers somehow falls far short in describing these women.

The lunchroom served not only healthy meals but art and culture, with music provided by classical records and phonograph paid for by our incredible principle, Miss Nina B. Glass.

We even had an "audio-visual" room to watch movies. (There was no TV, and at the time Waco had just one radio station.)

Our school had a pronounced literary feel. We had a special school publication — The Ginger Jar. Additionally, we were, as I understand it, the first elementary school in the state to have our own library.

The Ginger Jar reminded us of things like holidays and vacations, but the big event was the May Fete.

We would dance around the May pole and parade in a long line around the school grounds behind our leader "Miss Nina" in a bright blouse, skirt and a large belt with a colorful gold belt buckle. "For you see," she said, "children love bright colors."

We danced the May pole dance to recorded music projected from a crank-activated phonograph.

When Milton Scott drew the blueprints for Sanger Avenue I'm not sure he could have dreamed of what powerful learning experiences would take place when Miss Nina arrived in 1920.

The "name of the game" for her was the children. Even though I lived out in the country in the early years, I attended Sanger Avenue. Elementary.

My grandmother Lanning lived just one block up 18th. St. on Morrow Ave. The Waco Public Library was just a few blocks south at 18th and Austin Ave.

To top it all off, Robertson's Ice Cream Parlor was right on the way at 18th. and Jefferson. It just didn't get any better than that.

Miss Nina Birdena Glass, was indeed the spirit of Sanger Avenue Elementary School. After all she was only its principal for 38 years

Boy, was I ever fortunate to be one of the lucky ones. After all, you learned to smile, sit up straight and walk straight, because posture was part of a positive attitude.

Miss Nina encouraged each one to be the very best that he or she could be. Even after "retirement," she continued encouraging young people selling World Books to her then parents and encouraging future generations to do their very best.

Wilton Lanning Jr., long-time CEO of Padgitt's, is founding director of the Dr. Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute.

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