Happy Columbus Day!

Columbus Day is a holiday that’s fallen out of favor.

Christopher Columbus didn’t “discover” America. It was here all along, as every Native American knows.

He wasn’t even the first outsider to find the continent — not by a few centuries.

Today, Westport schools were not even closed.

Back in 1957 though, Columbus Day was a Big Deal.

In Mark Groth’s Saugatuck Elementary School 2nd grade classroom, Pat Bonardi — a 1st year teacher — had her students create a replica of the Santa Maria. They used packing crates, drawing paper and flower pots.

The Westport Town Crier immortalized their work:

Mark Groth stands proudly on the far left of the Santa Maria. Next to him are Ann Denues, Doug Golden, Paula Cairo, Sarah Waldo and Richard Fell.

Mark Groth stands proudly on the far left of the Santa Maria. Next to him are Ann Denues, Doug Golden, Paula Cairo, Sarah Waldo and Richard Fell.

Mark thanks his mother for saving that clipping, 59 years ago. He also thanks — and remembers — Miss Bonardi.

“When the time came around to pick 2 students for the Audio-Visual crew (rolling 16mm or filmstrip projectors around to classrooms), I had my hand up first,” he says.

Now he’s just retired — after 40 years as media producer at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

He worked with all kinds of fancy equipment there. And 2nd graders today — at the “new” Saugatuck El, on Riverside Avenue — probably use desktop animation software and tablet apps to create a 2016 version of the Santa Maria.

If they still teach about Christopher Columbus in school.

9 responses to “Happy Columbus Day!

  1. My second grade at Saugatuck Elementary followed Mark’s by a year or two and, frankly, I can’t remember if my teacher was Miss Bonardi or Mrs. Becker! Third grade I do remember vividly however. Miss DeMayo was the love of my life back then and my best pal was Huck Scarry…fellow beach rat. I wonder where Huck is these days. Anyone know?

    • You can Google Huck Scarry. He is following in the career of his dad, Richard Scarry, creating books for children. I knew the Scarrys when they lived on Bradley St. at the beach, before they left for Switzerland.

  2. I was also a few years behind these kids. But I certainly remember those names. I had a crush on both Miss Bonardi and Miss DeMeo…

  3. Alice Crowther

    Such a wonderful story. What a difference 60 years makes.

  4. A blot on his (Columbus) copybook, indeed. Why not “Leif Erikson Day”?

  5. Mark Groth grew up to be a guy who could fix anything. I built a set recently for “She Loves Me” that involved several rotating turntables and I was often reminded of the Staples Players production of “Charley’s Aunt” where we had 3 sets that rotated around. I have a vivid memory of Mark sitting surrounded by nuts and bolts and pieces of pipe when the central pivot on one of the turntables broke and had to be replaced …about 2 hours before showtime!

  6. Jonathan Maddock

    I had Miss Bonardi as my second grade teacher when I was in Hillspoint in 1962/3(?). It was a combined class with 1st graders.
    She was great at student encouragement, and I remember back to her fondly.

  7. Sandra Johnson

    As a former elementary teacher (and even when I moved up to middle school), Columbus Day was an important part of our school year. One year my fifth grade class put on a play about Columbus with some other students from upper grades also performing. We all loved Columbus back in the “olden days!”