The tiny classroom desks have been entrenched at St. Mary Help of Christians School for – who knows? – maybe 40 years or 50. Even 60.
Their day has passed, but thanks to teachers, parents and students, 15 of the desks have found a new life.
Refinished and decorated with their own appealing themes, the desks will be auctioned at St. Mary’s Eve of Chocolate Friday night.
No one seems to know where the primary-colored desks came from or how long they’ve been around. Hundreds of kindergarten students and later 4-K students enjoyed them over the years.
But the desks have no trays to store notebooks and other items and weren’t suitable for first-graders, Principal Peggy Wertz said.
All it took was a remake – a much happier choice than storing them out of sight.
“Each class could have a desk to personalize and put them up for auction,” Wertz said of the project. “With the help of their homeroom mothers and teachers, the students would decide how they would decorate them or personalize them.”
Janiece Driscoll worked with her son Jim’s seventh-grade class on the project, and he and his friends had so much fun on it.
It took a lot of elbow grease to strip the desk, but the students decided not to remove the existing carvings on the desk from the past – many of them children’s initials.
The seventh-graders “restored the desk by using a quote out of a book and adding an illustration,” Driscoll said. “It was really neat.”
The legs of the desk also were shortened, making it suitable as a bed or lap desk. Another desk also received a “trim” and a delightful transformation, including dog paws on the bottom of two legs.
“Our fifth-graders wanted to set our desk apart,” said Erin Gunnels, the wife of veterinarian George Runnels. “So now it’s for feeding dogs. The children signed the bottom of the desk and added their fingerprints.”
First-grader Ella Cooper got her picture taken with the desk she used when she was younger, like last year. The project for the desk “was really fun,” Ella said, “all gooey and messy.” The children in her class left their handprints in areas on desk in the shape of a palmetto tree.
“They thought it was so cool,” said Ella’s mom, Amanda Cooper. “It was really great working with the kids and getting them excited, knowing it will benefit them and their education and the school they work so hard for.”
Alice Judd, St. Mary’s art teacher, helped the second-graders create a mosaic table. The students pick out color tiles and place in sequence.
“We tried to keep them in certain patterns or would adjust,” she said. “They had a lot of fun and had the chance to work on patterns. The kids enjoyed gluing on their own tiles and creating a bright, cheery table.”
The desks will feature a minimum bid of $100. Others still remain untouched and will be considered for a future auction, said Wertz.
A retired Aiken County School District principal, she attended St. Mary as a child and was thrilled to return as principal about eight years ago.
“When I retire again, I’d rather have one of these desks instead of a $300 piece of crystal,” Wertz said. “They can have special meaning to people.”
Want to attend?
Event: St. Mary’s Eve of Chocolate.
Date and location: The event will be held at St. Angela Hall in St. Mary Help of Christian Catholic Church Friday at 6:30 p.m.
• Activities: Dinner, live music and the auction are scheduled. The auction will include the restored children’s desks and many other items and prizes.
• Tickets: They’re $25 per person and are available at the St. Mary school office at 649-2071.
STAFF PHOTO BY ROB NOVIT St. Mary kindergarten students Luz Duran and Wyatt Donaldson show off an artfully illustrated children’s desk. Scheduled for auction Friday, this desk and others may have been used at the church school as long ago as the 1950s.×
STAFF PHOTO BY ROB NOVIT St. Mary students from left Jesse Feliz-Brown, Brennan Webster, Ella Cooper and Lili Ross show the refurbished desks they had in kindergarten – nine years ago for Brennan, now an eighth grader. More than a dozen children’s desks that have been restored and decorated will be auctioned at the school Friday night.×