A relic from Pattison Elementary School made a public re-appearance in the gardens of Fairlawn Mansion and Museum June 10.

The sign had been sitting behind a shed on the property for some time, said Megan Meyer, Superior Public Museums executive director.

"Since we were re-doing the gardens, we thought it would be a perfect way to honor Martin by putting it out in the garden and not having it in hiding anymore," Meyer said.

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A slice of Superior's education history, the sign from Martin Pattison Elementary School, rests in the gardens at Fairlawn Museum and Mansion, Pattison's former home., on Friday, June 25, 2021. (Maria Lockwood / mlockwood@superiortelegram.com)
A slice of Superior's education history, the sign from Martin Pattison Elementary School, rests in the gardens at Fairlawn Museum and Mansion, Pattison's former home., on Friday, June 25, 2021. (Maria Lockwood / mlockwood@superiortelegram.com)

Teachers from Pattison Elementary School gathered June 25 on the lawn of Fairlawn Mansion to see the sign and to reconnect. They brought old yearbooks, T-shirts and memories of the school, which was torn down in 2002.

“I liked the chalkboards that would slide up and down,” said Lori Olson. “You’d open them up and you can write underneath and then you could pull it down and write on top.”

There was a bathroom on the third floor with a ladder to the roof. Students couldn’t use it, but staff could. Pictures gave the teachers another glimpse of old hallways and classrooms.

“It was just such a small community. We all had the same lunch all the time. We could all go together in the lounge at lunchtime. I mean, I still miss that,” said Susan Vogt.

A T-shirt worn by Lori Olson lists the students, teachers and staff from Pattison Elementary School during its last year of operation, 2001-2002, at Fairlawn Mansion and Museum Friday, June 25, 2021. (Maria Lockwood / mlockwood@superiortelegram.com)
A T-shirt worn by Lori Olson lists the students, teachers and staff from Pattison Elementary School during its last year of operation, 2001-2002, at Fairlawn Mansion and Museum Friday, June 25, 2021. (Maria Lockwood / mlockwood@superiortelegram.com)

They celebrated milestones together, from baby and bridal showers to Ann Novak’s popular Christmas parties.

Kelly Duffy said when she adopted her son at the age of 8, then-principal Rose Gross brought the entire school together to hold a baby shower for him.

“I taught in 10 different schools through my 34 years. This school was special,” Duffy said. “The sense of community.”

Construction of the school on North 21st Street was completed in 1920, according to the Douglas County Historical Society. It was named after Martin Pattison, who was elected mayor of Superior three times. Pattison, who built Fairlawn, made his fortune in lumber, mining and banking. He donated 600 acres of land around Manitou Falls to preserve the area as Pattison State Park.

Yearbooks from Pattison Elementary School rest on a table at Fairlawn Mansion and Museum Friday, July 25, 2021. (Maria Lockwood / mlockwood@superiortelegram.com)
Yearbooks from Pattison Elementary School rest on a table at Fairlawn Mansion and Museum Friday, July 25, 2021. (Maria Lockwood / mlockwood@superiortelegram.com)

Pattison School was shuttered in 2002 after construction of Northern Lights Elementary School was completed.

Olson and Stefanie Smetak arranged the impromptu reunion after seeing a Facebook post about the sign. Olson was Smetak’s mentor when she started teaching third grade at the school.

“My students, they’re in their 30s now,” Smetak said.

About a dozen educators made time to attend, drawn together by shared experiences and friendship.

“We had such a good team, and they’re just some of the best years,” said Deb Jones. “I worked really closely with Kelly (Duffy) and we had some really phenomenal teaching experiences.”

They brought fifth-graders out on the LL Smith Jr. research boat to study Lake Superior and spent three days camping at Gooseberry Falls with students and parent chaperones.

The educators chatted, then walked to the Pattison relic for a picture. There was no itinerary, just time to reconnect.

“I really enjoyed these people. Sometimes you have to have an excuse to see people again that you miss,” Smetak said.

The educators discussed connecting through a Facebook group, and making plans for a 20-year anniversary in 2022. The sign is on display at Fairlawn, rain or shine. A board with information on the school put together by the Douglas County Historical Society is also on display inside the museum.