Tomahawk Elementary celebrates 60 years as students and teachers from several decades fill the halls

Carol Chatelain was a music teacher at Tomahawk for 29 years. She is pictured with her guitar in the very top photo in the historical  display behind her.
Carol Chatelain was a music teacher at Tomahawk for 29 years. She is pictured with her guitar during her teaching days in the very top photo in the historical display behind her.

It has been 60 years since Tomahawk Elementary opened its doors on the former Wood Dairy Farm land near 79th and Lamar. It was the spring of 1955 and the Johnson County suburbs were booming. Almost before the first students had arrived in the building, a bond issue was in place to build the first addition to the school.

Thursday night, many former students who walked the halls of Tomahawk over the 60 years – and their teachers – returned to the school to celebrate the anniversary and the history. Music teacher Carol Chatelain was one of those former teachers. She spent 29 years teaching music at Tomahawk, starting in 1966. She said the students she taught and the faculty she worked with at Tomahawk, along with the parents, were the highlight of her career.

Fran Martinsen, who was the school nurse for eight years agrees that it was filled with “marvelous kids.” Some of those marvelous kids from the early days, when the school was packed with three sections of each grade, have seen their children and grandchildren go through Tomahawk.

Tomahawk is now home to about 285 students, who all helped set the stage for the Thursday night reunion and celebration that included exhibits on the history of the school, a musical performance, a time capsule and food. The halls were lined with pictures and memorabilia from the 60 years of history in the making.

The fourth grade research project for the anniversary involved a trove of glass bottles that were excavated from a ditch along the Tomahawk property during construction in the 1990s. The bottles were saved by a custodian as they were unearthed. Students traced the history of the bottles, some from companies dating to the late 1800s. The dairy farm had occupied the property since shorty after World War I.

Fourth grade students Sydney show thei bottle they researched. The bottle had been discovered on the land in the 1990s.
Fourth grade students Sydney Reed-Schall and Sydney Riley show the bottle they researched. The bottle had been discovered on the land in the 1990s. It was from the Fletcher’s Castoria company which dates to 1865.
Tomahawk Principal David Conrady welcomed current and former students, parents and faculty to Tomahawk for the 60th asnniversary celebration Thursday evening.
Tomahawk Principal David Conrady welcomed current and former students, parents and faculty to Tomahawk for the 60th anniversary celebration Thursday evening.