North Adams Transcript
ADAMS -- In addition to St. Stanislaus Kostka School’s 100th anniversary festivities scheduled in June, a member of the Historical Society is readying a book that identifies each member of the school’s 100 graduating classes from 1912-2012.
Eugene Michalenko is putting the finishing touches on the 72-page publication, "I Remember When IWas In School," will feature photos of all 100 classes and the names of each member. Adams Specialty Printing will publish the book, with a tentative release date of March 8. According to Michalenko and Mary Jette, a member of the school’s Centennial Committee, more than 300 copies have already been sold in advance.
"I’ve identified, I would say, easily 97 percent of the faces," Michalenko said. "I started pursuing it aggressively in late November, but it’s been a hobby since sometime during the ‘90s. It’s taken less time than I thought it would. Sometimes I’ll get someone from a class in the 1950s, ‘60s or ‘70s that can just take a look at the picture of their graduating class and write down every single name."
The book can be purchased on the St. Stanislaus Kostka School’s website http://www.diospringfield.org/SUBDOMAIN/ststansadams or by contacting either Michalenko or Jette. The price is $15.
"There’s over 2,700 names in there,
St. Stan’s began holding classes in 1912 and had taken in over 400 students before the end of that year. The largest graduating class was in 1960, with 55 students. The current class has 10.
Michalenko, himself a member of the St. Stan’s class of 1969, initially became inspired by a former town school, Notre Dame, which catalogued its graduates from opening to close, dating from the 1890s to the 1970s.
The second crucial piece was a single photo, taken in 1922 during a theatrical production of "Gypsy Wedding" at the Polish National Alliance bar. Michalenko tracked down two residents who appeared in the photo, and through these individuals was able to identify most of the other faces. Shortly after this exercise, it was on to the St. Stan’s graduates.
Michalenko’s greatest success in identifying former students came during his time spent as a vigil member at the church, when he was able to network with some of the church’s oldest living members, including graduates of the school and their sons, daughters, nieces and nephews.
Michalenko’s search took him all over town and put him in contact with people like Elizabeth Godeck, a graduate of the class of 1930, whose husband graduated in 1931. Godeck was able to correctly name all 46 members of her class and more than 75 percent of those in her husband’s.
"It’s been tremendous," said Jette. "We have a list of over 1,000 alumni we’ve sent all the information out to. They’ve been responding with book orders and also by sending donations to the school. It’s amazing -- 100 years, to have all the names, that’s pretty good."
Residents can preview photos of the graduating classes at Town Hall and Colby Hall at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, where Michalenko has hung displays.
"Historically, these photos are all very nice, but you put a name to them and all of a sudden they have a hundred times more value," said Michalenko. "The names give life to the faces."
To reach Phil Demers,
St. Stanislaus Kostka School centennial gala weekend
* June 22: Social at the Polish National Alliance, including a historical picture display
* June 23: Stamford Country Club golf tournament in the morning followed by a centennial gala dinner dance at St. Elizabeth Parish Center in North Adams
* June 24: Picnic at the Polanka Grounds on Mill Street