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.

Meg Snyder (left) listens to her mother, Bette Bailey, tell stories of the days in the 1930s when she attended Longfellow Elementary School in Pennsauken. The school will be torn down and replaced with a community park by next year.
Elizabeth Robertson
Meg Snyder (left) listens to her mother, Bette Bailey, tell stories of the days in the 1930s when she attended Longfellow Elementary School in Pennsauken. The school will be torn down and replaced with a community park by next year.

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.

“The building is outliving its usefulness. Kids aren’t in danger going there, but it’s getting to a serious state of disrepair,” said district spokesman Frank Sinatra. 

Longfellow School alumni visit one last time during the final open house.
Elizabeth Robertson
Longfellow School alumni visit one last time during the final open house.

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.

Longfellow alumni Margie Horvick of Hainesport (front) and  sister Tracy Dibease of Voorhees laugh as they pull the long string to turn on a light in a classroom coat room.
Elizabeth Robertson
Longfellow alumni Margie Horvick of Hainesport (front) and  sister Tracy Dibease of Voorhees laugh as they pull the long string to turn on a light in a classroom coat room.

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.

“Pennsauken was undergoing a transformation,” said Fisher-Hughes, who attended from 1966 to 1973. “The Ben Franklin Bridge was being completed and Route 130 through Pennsauken was built. It really became a boom town.”

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.

Longfellow kindergarten teachers Andrea Jalosjos (left) and Pam Grant look at some of the old class photos during the open house.
Elizabeth Robertson
Longfellow kindergarten teachers Andrea Jalosjos (left) and Pam Grant look at some of the old class photos during the open house.

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."

Horvick (left) and Dibease take a last look at the school.
Elizabeth Robertson
Horvick (left) and Dibease take a last look at the school.