As 92-year-old Bette Bailey leafed through the yellowing pages of an old PTA minutes book, she was momentarily transported back to 1934.
That year, Bailey's mother was nominated as vice president of the Longfellow Elementary School parent group, and the proof was written in perfect script around Page 100.
"The last time she was inside this building was a long time ago," said Bailey's daughter, Meg Snyder, 62, of Pennsauken. At age 9, Bailey would walk about a half-mile each day to the school, where she sang in the chorus and stayed on the good side of the strict but caring principal, Eleanor Coe.
Bailey wasn't the only former student sitting in the school's multipurpose room on Friday lost in snippets of history. Dozens of alumni were scouring through old yearbooks, newspaper clippings, and photos strewn across tables for a goodbye tour of the soon-to-be demolished building.
Up a flight of stairs, others strolled through halls again, peering into classrooms and recalling trips to the principal's office.
The 93-year-old school long ago saw its glory days. For years, officials considered tearing it down because of its leaky ceilings and myriad maintenance issues. Finally, a bond referendum that passed in March forced its closure.
By September, the school will be replaced with a community park with walking trails, a gazebo and playgrounds. The project will cost $800,000. The school district, which owns the property, plans to repurpose the lot for field trips and nature observations.
Some bricks, clocks, and other items will be preserved and incorporated into other buildings throughout the district, he said. Kids and teachers have already been assigned to new elementary schools for the upcoming year.
The three-story brick building with large wooden front doors was designed in 1925 by Irwin Thornton Catharine, architect of the Philadelphia public schools. Construction was completed a year later, said Pennsauken Historical Society president Robert Fisher-Hughes.
At the time, the formerly agricultural town was transitioning into a suburb and the population was exploding, Fisher-Hughes said. Longfellow was built to accommodate the huge spike in student enrollments.
The idea for a farewell tour of Longfellow began after a newly hired counselor stumbled upon a treasure trove of records related to the school's past.
In September, counselor Marge Gaffney was reorganizing a closet in her office when she found stacked boxes of hundreds of photos dating back decades. On Friday, she helped guide alumni through a table of documents.
"It's exciting to finally see former students looking through all of this," Gaffney said. "It's part of the school's history."
Traditions at Longfellow remained frozen in time for decades. Alumni from the 1930s and 1970s alike shared stories of sledding down a small hill next to the school and walking home for lunch.
Peering through the rectangular window of her fifth-grade classroom, Margie Horvick-Visconti expected to find rows of desks facing a blackboard. Instead, she found a computer lab.
With her grade-school memory book in hand, Horvick-Visconti pointed out classmates in photos. She recalled one distinct memory: approaching the principal in kindergarten with her friend Peggy to question the school's dress code.
"We walked to the principal's office one day and said, 'We think it's wrong girls have to wear dresses in the freezing cold,'" Horvick-Visconti said. "That was my big feminist move in kindergarten. … I'll never forget that."