• Feil, Lisa, Adirondack Enterprise, "From its days in a wooden schoolhouse, St. Bernard's has endured", October 24, 1997.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, September 26,1992
St. Bernard's celebrates 70 years of Catholic school
He promptly purchased a parcel of land between the church and River Street from Wal Murray, the owner of the Riverside Inn. The property contained a five-room former residence that was destined to be the initial St. Bernard's School. The building was of wood frame construction and housed the first three grades.
Actually, due to the number of students, the first grade was divided into two classes. The Sisters of Mercy furnished the faculty with the first grade classes taught by Sister Mary Eileen and Sister Mary Purification. Sister Mary Helena had grade two and Sister Mary James had grade three. The nuns were housed at St. Mary's Hospital Convent on Ampersand Avenue.
From this modest beginning St. Bernard's School has advanced to its present status as a highly respected parochial school celebrating its 70th anniversary in this September of 1992. During the intervening years many students gained their primary education here and can look back fondly on the memories associated with schoolmates during those formative years. Obviously alumni members of those first three grades of 1922 are not too numerous since the age category would necessarily be in the 75-year-old group. However, there are to be representatives from each and every class present for the anniversary celebration this year. A procession of single individuals from all of the 70 years is being planned as a feature of the commemoration.
During the second year of operation the school's enrollment had increased to the point whereby the church sacristy had to be used as another classroom. Father Creedon and his assistant, Father Edgar Gallagher, were able to convince Bishop Conroy that a new school was certainly needed. Fortunately, at that time Paul Jacquet, an eminient architect, was a member of the congregation and his design was approved for the new building to rise at 32 River Street. When completed in 1924, the new school was considered to be the finest education edifice in the community. (The Petrova High School was opened one year later.)
The first classes to attend the new St. Bemard's School in the fall of 1924 consisted of five grades. Principal was Sister M. Eileen and among the all Sister of Mercy teachers were Sr. M. Helena, Sr. M. Carmel, Sr. M. Inez, and Sr. M. Roberta. In 1926 grade 6 was added; in 1932 grade 7 was added; and in 1933 grade 8 was added. Sister Mary Bridget was music teacher from the very beginning.
Early in their presence at St. Bernard's the Sisters of Mercy acquired the house at 30 River Street, right next door to the school. This eliminated the back and forth transportation from St. Mary's Hospital. After some necessary renovation work this became the convent which served the order for so many years.
Shortly after the new school was in operation lay members of the parish began to participate in service functions. A lunch program was instigated by Katherine McDonnell, who also served as public health nurse. She equipped a full kitchen in the school's basement where the adjoining hall served as the dining area. Over the ensuing years this program was abetted by the Catholic Daughters, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Knights of Columbus, and the Mothers Club.
A school newspaper, "The Clarion," was first published in 1930 and was issued three times a year. The effort was not only an enjoyable experience for the students but it also reached an enviable record in statewide competition. Over a period of years between 1938 and 1947 the publication won first place at the annual convention in New York City nine times!
All the fun was not related solely to academics, since there were plenty of sport activities available. In 1944 St. Bernard's purchased the Coleman property, which ran from River Street to Church Street adjacent to the school's southern boundary. During the administration of Monsignor Kitts the area was developed into a large playground. In the winter Fathers Argy and Wiley, with the help of custodian Hugh McKillip, would flood the playground to provide skating and hockey for the students.
Father Zimmerman came to St. Bernard's in 1957 and shortly after his arrival he was invested with the title of monsignor. He immediately set forth on a plan to build a Catholic high school. Once more the Sisters of Mercy were called upon to staff the faculty and, as usual, consented to assume the responsibility. St. Pius X High School was opened for the fall semester of 1959 and at that same time grades seven and eight were transferred from St. Bernard's. Pius would later close.
In 1962 a four-room primary school was built on the site of the former Coleman tennis court overlooking River Street and Lake Flower. After the closing of Pius X High School in June of 1971, this new primary school, together with the St. Bernard's elementary facility, housed 265 students. Up until 1958 the faculty was made up entirely of religious nuns with the exception of Miss Jane Morgan, who taught music. Later Mrs. Margaret Duffy assumed this volunteer service.
The convent at 30 River St. which had been purchased by the Sisters of Mercy as mentioned earlier, was sold to St. Bernard's Parish in 1958 and these sisters teaching at the time of the closing of Pius X were housed at the renovated convent at 29 Church Street. Over the years more than 50 Sisters of Mercy have served the parish and, due to the limited space afforded to this article, we cannot bestow individual homage to these devoted teachers who gave freely of their time and talents to the generations of scholars entrusted to their guidance.
As the number of religious instructors began to wane, it became obvious that lay teachers must be engaged to fill the vacancies. In the fall of 1958 Mrs. Eleanor Clark became the first lay teacher to join the staff at St. Bernard's and in 1968, Mr. Raymond Craig became the first male instructor. During the 1971-72 school year the teaching staff consisted of six religious and eight lay teachers, which indicated the trend for the future.
In 1973 St. Bernard's School celebrated its 50th anniversary with various commemorative programs. At that time Father C. J. McAvoy was pastor and Sister Joseph Marie was the school principal. The highlight of the celebration was held on March 4 with a Mass served by Father McAvoy assisted by Father James Kane and Father Ronald Asafaylo. Following the ceremony a dinner was served to 50 Sisters, members of the clergy, and lay teachers who were past and present faculty members of St. Bernard's School.
Another 20 years have passed by and we are now celebrating our number 70. Although many changes have taken place since 1922, St. Bernard's is still a fine parochial school with a current enrollment of 145 students. The two adjacent buildings offer a curriculum that reflect the advanced teaching methods developed over that span of 70 years without losing sight of the original goal, which centered on basic education within a Christian atmosphere. Current Principal Rebecca Marlowe announced that a faculty of 15 teachers would administer classes ranging from nursery school through five elementary grades starting on Sept. 3, 1992.
Both Ms. Marlowe and Pastor Douglas Comstock are happy to continue this learning experience within our community.
There are not many of us still around who attended that first St. Bernard's School, which once stood in what is now the playground area but a special comradeship remains between those who began their academic training in that humble 1922 facility. Certainly none of us can forget the selfless dedication exhibited by the Sisters of Mercy who taught us our first lessons. May St. Bernard's School continue to serve the youngsters of our community through their formative year well into the future for at least another 70 years. Happy birthday!
The Malone Farmer, April 10, 1922
Father Creedon of Saranac Lake, is planning the establishment of a parochial School there, having secured an option, according to report, on the Colbath property on River Street. The school will be for the younger children, beginning at first with the first three grades. Later it is expected that the grades will be increased to six or eight. The Colbath property fronts on Lake Flower, has ample and beautiful grounds, is near St. Bernard's church and is an ideal location.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, November 16, 2002
80 years as the beacon of Catholic education
St. Bernard's to celebrate anniversary
By ED FORBES
Enterprise Staff Writer
SARANAC LAKE- - Eighty years of achievement and tradition will be honored as St. Bernard's School celebrates its anniversary with a special liturgy and program Sunday.
Following an anniversary Mass at 10 a.m., St. Bernard's alumni are invited to tour the school and enjoy a reception. A slide show and power point presentation will highlight the school's heritage.
Since 1922, St. Bernard's has been an enduring beacon of Catholic education in the North Country. Rebecca Marlowe, the school's principal sees a strong future.
"We're doing pretty well." Marlowe said recently "We have support from parishioners and our parents. We're really lucky in that respect."
His school enrolls 137 students in nursery school through grade five. While most students are Catholic, the school welcomes children of all faiths. Students are challenged by their faculty to grow and learn in the contexts of faith, respect and responsibility.
A number of physical improvements have been made in the past few years, among them the restoration of the main school building's facade, the installation of new playground equipment, new bathrooms and a new faculty lounge.
Marlowe said that the school plans to rebuild the main building's right and left rear entrances this coming summer, a project with costs estimated to be between $30,000 and $40,000.
St. Bernard's has always drawn its strength from the commitment and volunteerism of its students, faculty, alumni, parents and the parish's members. All of these groups have come together again and again to push the institution forward. Marlowe expects that to remain a constant.
The school has grown greatly from a modest beginning.
In 1922, the Rev. Joseph Creeden was appointed pastor of St. Bernard's Church, and arriving in Saranac Lake, he saw that the burgeoning parish had no school in which to cultivate its young members.
According to a history written for the school's 70th anniversary in 1992 by John Duquette, a 1939 graduate of St. Bernard's eighth grade, Creeden quickly acquired a small, wood-frame house adjacent to the parish which stood on the site of the school's present playground.
To staff the new venture, Creeden approached members of the Sisters of Mercy who were running a hospital for tuberculosis patients on Ampersand Avenue.
The first faculty consisted of Sr. Mary Eileen Clarke, who taught first grade and served as the school's principal; Sr. Mary Purification the other first grade teacher, Sr. Mary Helena, who taught second grade; and, Sr. Mary James, who took charge of the third grade.
At the start of the 1923 school year, the school had grown and required use of the sacristy in the old church as a classroom. When Bishop Joseph Conroy visited the parish that fall, it was not difficult for Creeden, Sr. Eileen and the pastor, the Rev. Edgar Gallagher to make the case for a new school building.
Paul Jacquet was retained to be the school's architect, and in 1924 work on the 32 River Street building began. When it opened, it was the finest school in the village. Petrova Elementary School would be completed the following year.
The first classes to use the building spanned five grades. As the students got older, grades were added. In 1926, grade six was added; 1932 school year. From 1937 to 1948, saw a seventh grade, and in 1933, an eighth grade was formed.
In the late 1920s, a lunch program was initiated by Katherine McDonnell, who also served as a nurse. The lunch program has evolved over the years and at different times has been the responsibility of the Catholic Daughters, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Knights of Columbus, the Parent-Educator Association and, this year, the Saranac Lake Central School District.
The Clarion, a school newspaper, was founded in 1930 and was published three times during each school year. From 1937 to 1948, paper won nine honors at school press association conventions.
In 1938, Veronica Lake, who went on to become an accomplished actress, garnered an eighth grade diploma at St. Bernard's.
St. Bernard's acquired its field in 1944, and in the winters, it was often flooded by the Revs. Argy and Wiley for skating and hockey.
Beyond athletics, St. Bernard's students in this period produced yearbooks and participated in a number of community service-oriented endeavors, among them volunteering for the Red Cross and forming the Junior Sodality. The Sodality was a spiritual group of older students who aided in major Masses and ran food drives for needy families during the holidays.
Christmas and St Patrick's Day assemblies were always popular mainstays. Musical performances and dancing always highlighted these events.
In 1950, the Mother's Club now known as the Parent-Educator Association, was formed to act as a liaison between the school and the community. The group has been an unfailing aid in raising funds for all types of projects.
The Rev. Noel Zimmerman assumed the pastorship in 1957 and, as Creeden had done, he called on the Sisters of Mercy for help — this time to aid him in founding the Pius X Catholic High School, which opened in 1959.
By 1962, the school had grown with the onslaught of babyboomers and required a new building. A four-classroom building was erected next to the main building on River Street. In 1971, this building and the main building housed 265 students.
Eleanor Clark became the first lay teacher at the start of the 1958 year, and since then, St. Bernard's has increasingly relied on the strength of lay faculty members. In 1968, Raymond Craig started as the school's first male teacher.
St. Bernard's has celebrated anniversaries ever since its 50th in 1972, and Marlow is very proud of this year's celebration.
She is sad, though, that Duquette, who died last year, will not be able to take part. The school's de facto historian is remembered nonetheless, as a sign erected last spring is dedicated in his honor.