By Jeanne Sager
JEFFERSONVILLE August 8, 2006 Sam Yasgur aint afraid of no ghosts.
Before Saturday, the county attorney hadnt walked the halls of his alma mater in Jeffersonville since 1959.
There are a lot of ghosts in that building, he warned. A lot of great ghosts.
A member of the first graduating class from the combined Jeffersonville-Youngsville Central School District, Yasgur remembers running downtown at lunch to Teds.
Hed get a quickie one two hot dogs, fries and a Coke or a quickie two a hamburger, fries and a Coke.
Then hed run back up the hill to class.
Yasgur spun tales of days gone by Saturday, a day dedicated to history and public education in Jeffersonville.
The town turned out to dedicate the latest Sullivan Renaissance project cooked up by the JEMS (once Jeffersonville Enhances Main Street, now Jeffersonville Enhances More of Sullivan).
With the discovery of the old bell from the 1916 Jeffersonville Union Free School, former JEMS head Barbara Hahn developed a plan.
She had the bell, rescued from the girls locker room shower in the new circa 1938 Jeff school building and, with it, the original landscape plan for the 38 construction project.
The idea was to beautify Jeffersonville by putting into play the landscape plan, a plan the original builders couldnt employ because of a lack of funds.
At the time, the entire building project cost a whopping $417,500, funded in part by a Public Works Administration project kicked off by the Roosevelt administrations New Deal.
Almost 70 years later, the landscape plan was once again nixed this time by the Department of Homeland Security, which will not allow any planting underneath windows that can be used for ingress and egress.
But the JEMS moved ahead with a commemorative area, adapting the 1938 landscape plan and turning to the community for help funding a commemorative area.
The JEMS took their inspiration from the bell with the slogan, now silent, its message still echoes across the countryside: the gift of education is for all children.
Rural education is a gift thats highly underrated, Hahn said.
Her husband, former Jeff veterinarian George Hahn, graduated from Jeff-Youngsville in 1950 with a class of 19.
Three of them became doctors, Hahn said, another grad was a commander in the Air Force, while a fifth served as chief of police in a California city.
Yasgur went on to become a lawyer even though he came from a school where the football team could field an entire offensive line with just three family names on the gridiron.
He did it coming from a school that boasted a rifle team with the principal as its advisor.
We had some great teachers, Yasgur said, but we didnt realize just how much we were learning and how much they were giving us.
Theres something very profound about not growing, Yasgur continued. The size of this school served us well . . . we had good teachers who cared.
We got an education you dont measure on tests, he said. We got a system of values and a system of belonging.
Teacher Carol Slotkin only planned on staying in Jeffersonville a year or two that was in 1969.
Today shes head of the teachers union at Sullivan West, the woman responsible for getting the Jeff school building on both the state and national historic registers.
People have asked her again and again, Is teaching today any different?
No, she said. Kids need the love and support we can provide.
The size of the building, the name over the door none of it matters.
What matters is what goes on inside, she said.
What goes on outside in the community matters too.
The spirit of community brought Sam Yasgur back to Sullivan County
When he saw Monticello on his trip back to the county to interview for his current position, he said he almost made a U-turn.
It was as if I came back to my high school reunion, and the junior prom king and queen were fat, bald and missing their teeth! he said with a laugh.
But he continued on to Jeffersonville, and he was home.
Tom Cummings lives in Staatsburg these days, but the Class of 77 graduate knew he couldnt say no to Barbara and George Hahn when they asked for his help.
He was the engineer behind the commemorative area while dozens of other community members pitched in to get the project ready in time for the Sullivan Renaissance judging later this month.
And Saturday, when the community came together to dedicate the bell, they wandered the halls of the Jeffersonville school to relive history and say hello to some friendly ghosts.