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BMS celebrates 100th

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Pictured: Photo by Carolyn B. Edwards
Three generations of builder Magnus Johnston joined the centennial celebration held at Bandera Middle School Friday, Oct. 25. Pictured are great-granddaughter Daria Johnston Williams, great-great-grandson Luke Williams, and grandson Gary Johnston.

Photo by Carolyn B. Edwards
Proving they can still sing the Alma Mater, special guests for the centennial celebration of the Johnston building at BMS included, back row, Trustees Bo Mansfield and Laurie Neff, and Superintendent Regina Howell; teacher Jess Edwards, student Emmett Evans, and guest speakers County Judge Richard Evans and Bandera County Farm Bureau President and former teacher and coach Barbara Mazurek.

Photo by Carolyn B. Edwards
Following a program in the BMS gym, former students and teachers, friends and family enjoyed refreshments in the 100-year old Johnston building where they enjoyed looking at reproductions of old photos and other school memorabilia.

It's possible that the ghost of Magnus Johnston sometimes walks the halls of the two-story stone school building that crowns the Bandera Middle School campus. If so, I have no doubt that he strolls through the building he built with a smile on his face. He is surely pleased that this structure has stood for 100 years and continues to provide a place for education in Bandera.

On Friday, Oct. 25, the students at BMS, along with staff and Bandera ISD administrators, celebrated the centennial of the building that has echoed with the sounds of thousands of Bandera school students through the years.

Johnston, born in 1858 in Sweden, learned his trade as a ship's carpenter. The plans he used for the BISD building in 1913 were later used to build the St. Joseph's School for the St. Stanislaus Catholic Church parish. In addition, Johnston added onto the OST building on Main and built the two-story bank building that now houses Dogleg Coffee Shop.

Speakers at the celebration Friday afternoon included former BMS Principal (and now Bandera High School principal) Gary Bitzkie, former student and teacher Barbara Mansfield Mazurek, and former student and school board member County Judge Richard Evans.

Bitzkie described the changes to the campus that have occurred over the years, that included the addition of offices in 1941 and a gym in 1955. "When I started here," Bitzkie said, "we had 21 classes in portable buildings and the sidewalks were cedar mulch."

In 2000, the taxpayers approved a bond election to greatly expand the campus, with one caveat. "The number one priority was to preserve this 1913 building." Not only was it preserved, architects for the new structures echoed the Johnston building design, to celebrate the new by honoring the old.

Bitzkie urged today's students to think about all the success "that came out of this building," as he outlined successful careers and accomplishments by former students. "You're walking on the same floors as they did 100 years ago."

Rancher and President of Bandera County Farm Bureau Mazurek recalled a very different campus from what exists today. "Seventy-one years ago, I enrolled in first grade with a Big Chief Tablet and one pencil," said Mazurek. The country was at war during Mazurek's early years, "so everything was rationed. For lunch we had government commodities. We had honey, peanut butter and pinto beans."

Rooms in the Johnston building were heated with big pot-bellied stoves. "We had to find and carry wood in every day. We liked to play cowboys and Indians and would build a fort and sometimes the sixth graders would steal the wood from our fort!"

Every day started with the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance.

While some students got to ride to school on the one bus driven by "Smitty the Bus Driver," others, like Mazurek, rode their horses. "We girls rolled up our skirts over our jeans and when we got to school, we rolled the skirts down and the jeans up."

In those days, sports were for boys. They played basketball outside, wearing their straw hats to keep the sun out of their eyes.

It wasn't until 1950 that the UIL started girls' volleyball and basketball, recalled Mazurek, who eventually became one of the district's most beloved (and feared!) coaches.

Even though the Bandera school of her student days lacked some things, it provided a good education, because "we had great teachers, discipline and the basic curriculum."

Following a warm introduction by grandson Emmett Evans, County Judge Richard Evans recalled his student days at the school. Mazurek was one of his teachers. "When she said 'meet me at the gym before PE,' that was not a good thing," he said. Evans remembered when Sycamore Street ran straight through the campus. "It was part of the football field. The goal posts were portable and we had to move them across the street to play a game."

Evans encouraged today's students to shoulder their responsibilities. "We are looking to you to take care of our county, our state and our country.

"I have a quote in my office that says 'The world is run by those who show up," said Evans. "You better show up."

The centennial celebration was attended by many former and current students, teachers, school board members, family and friends. Among those guests were three generations of descendants of Magnus Johnston: grandson Gary Johnston, great-granddaughter Daria Johnston Williams, and great-great-grandson Luke Williams.

A power point presentation of the school's history brought back plenty of great memories and laughter.

Providing entertainment for the program were the BHS jazz band and choir, and BHS and BMS cheerleaders.

Following the program, students enjoyed an ice cream social in the courtyard and guests enjoyed reminiscing at a reception in the Johnston building, which now houses state of the art computer labs and a library.