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Opinion

‘Rankin’ high on their list

6/7/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

On the Mark — By Craig Marks

My mother swears she still has her Zaner-Bloser penmanship certificate, the one she received — after many attempts — from her Rankin penmanship teacher, Miss Dunn.

“You had to use a dipped pen,” said Rita Marks. “I had one heck of a time, because my loops always filled with ink. But I wanted that certificate.”

Miss Dunn also taught eighth-grade math at Rankin, one of the schools closing up shop this week. At the time — the 1940s — there was no middle or junior high school. You were at Rankin until Buchtel was ready for you.

My father, Burton Marks, also attended Rankin, his stint beginning around 1935. I asked Burt and Rita for some of their memories of the school, with the understanding that if they were not forthcoming, I would be forced to recount old “Little Rascals” plotlines and attribute them as their own recollections.

They kindly obliged. I began by asking my mother which teachers she remembers, and she responded, “All of them.”

She then went through the names. Miss Dunn, who my mother remembers being “one tough cookie.” Miss Kennedy, the gym teacher, who launched a crusade against nail biters. English teacher Miss Points, who never saw a sentence that didn’t need to be diagramed (and would probably have a fit about these sentence fragments). Miss Smith. Mrs. Hardman.

Gertrude Cronin taught social studies.

“Miss Cronin was my favorite,” said Rita. “She had a competition each grading period. The person with the most points sat in the first seat.”

(My mother doesn’t want me to add that, more often than not, her view of the blackboard was pretty good. So I won’t.)

On Fridays after school, the Rankin students headed downtown to take ballroom dancing lessons at Charles Brown’s studio. The dance class (my parents can’t recall if it was sponsored by Rankin) was a chance for socializing with classmates.

“You’d get a ride down, and you’d get a ride home,” said Rita. “The big deal was that there was an intermission, and you always hoped there was someone there who’d buy you a Coke.”

More music memories followed. The elementary school’s orchestra (a concept that may go the way of ink dip pens) was led by Miss Yoder and included my dad in the woodwinds section. It performed during Rankin’s paper drives, serenading the people stuffing newspapers in burlap sacks.

Recalling the paper drives led my dad to remember the yearly carnivals Rankin held in the gym.

“I loved the fish pond,” said Burt. “And they had a cakewalk. You would go on a walk, and if you were on the right square when the music stopped, you got the cake.”

My parents recall their principal, Miss Madden. They wouldn’t go into details, but she apparently made sure school was no cakewalk.

Akron’s public schools are undergoing extreme makeovers. Some, like Buchtel High School and Litchfield Middle School, are being rebuilt, while others, like Essex Elementary School and Rankin, will become memories.

And for Rankin alumni like Burton and Rita Marks, very good memories.

“Those were really special years,” said Rita.

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