BILLINGS-Students, teachers, and staff, past and present are celebrating Orchard Elementary’s 100th anniversary.
“We’re celebrating our one hundred year anniversary, excited to be here and honor the students we currently have as well as the alumni,” Orchard Principal Dustin Gaugler said.
“The crown jewel of the South Side, it’s cool to have an opportunity to honor the families and students have gone here in the past,” Gaugler said.
So, how do you celebrate a century?
“You have to go with the trifecta; so food, music, and games,” Gaugler said.
“Orchard is a neighborhood school, it’s a generational school so it’s cool, a lot of our parents have come here, so it’s cool for them to come back to our school and just see how things have changed over the years and see what their kids are doing,” Gaugler said.
Orchard has been improved many times in the past century.
“They took down the original building. Some changes are some of the facilities and the programs they have, they have two principals now, which is wonderful for here,” former teacher at Orchard, Rilla Hardgrove said.
“There’s a certain culture here, that even if they move away they’re drawn back, just the overall their friendliness, they care about each other, I like that,” Hardgrove said.
Alumni could walk down the halls again and take a look back, alumni including one man who holds Orchard near and dear to his heart.
Dick Fick spent most of his teaching career at Orchard.
“Well I was here for 15 years, and we had six principals, so I don’t know, I think we wore them out,”
”Back there in the seventies, I’m not sure of the year, Principal Ted came back from a Principal’s meeting, he said I’ve got a big announcement- that the female teachers will be allowed to wear a nice pantsuit, occasionally, no slacks, no blouse, but a nice pantsuit occasionally,” Fick said.
There was no shortage of reminiscing-reunions of past coworkers, students, even children and grandchildren of former students he’d encouraged or influenced.
Curriculum may be a little different now,
“Agriculture is so important in this state, I took kids on a field trip to a cattle sale, and boy they were surprised, they’d never seen anything like a cow going to the bathroom,” Fick said.
Clearly, a lot has changed. But one thing that has stayed the same-
“One thing that I enjoyed was the parents sending such good kids,” Fick said.
“It’s really rewarding to be here because the kids love the attention that you give them, I don’t know, it’s just a very special place,” Hardgrove said.
There was also an exhibit contributed by the Western Heritage Center on the development and history of Billings’ South Side.