Bob Gordan led the last class he taught up a steel ladder and through an access hatch in the roof at Seiberling Elementary in 1988 … or was it the 1987 class?
Gordan, 84, recalls that day from an armchair in his Goodyear Heights home a quarter mile from the construction site of the Seiberling Community Learning Center, open to students when school resumes next year after Christmas break. The retired Akron teacher of 31 years has lived in that home his whole life. That’s nearly as long as Newton, the reason for scaling the roof that day, sat atop Seiberling Elementary until the building came down.
Newton never moved for 90 years. Not even when he was shot.
“The kids were amazed to see the bullet holes in the owl,” Gordan said, remembering that day atop the building with a pack of curious kids.
The bullet holes have become part of the legend surrounding a five-foot tall statue of an owl named Newton. And Newton has forever become part of Seiberling’s past and future.
The iconic owl holds a special place for many who attended or taught at the school — and even some who never went to school there.
Akron Ward 10 Councilman Garry Moneypenny would press against the window of his father’s car on trips up Brittain Road to Chapel Hill. He and his five siblings would vie for a view of Newton.
“We would all lean over to that side of the car because my father would say, ‘Watch for the owl, watch for the owl,’ ” Moneypenny said.
His father, now 80, attended the school 70 years ago. And Moneypenny, who never attended Seiberling, continued to glance at the roof nearly every time he drove by until the day it was demolished.
“The people’s voices were loud and clear,” Moneypenny recalled in the weeks before demolition began. “There will be no new Seiberling without that owl.”
“They definitely had to guard Newton during the demolition,” Seiberling Principal Megan Mannion said. “They actually had to put people by him.”
The bird is endangered. And seeing that Newton finds a resting place inside the new building was a demand from the community that Mannion and other Akron educators couldn’t ignore.
And so the owl was protected and guarded until construction workers transported Newton to a facilities building where the bird awaits completion of the new Seiberling structure. Students are now using the former Goodyear Middle School as temporary space.
Vote on Newton
The years of exposure to the elements have turned Newton’s coat to a dingy, weathered green. So the decision to repaint Newton has been put to public vote at www.eastcluster.info/, where votes will be taken until April 26 on a “natural green patina” or a “shiny copper” paint job.
Mannion said the Seiberling PTA has been busy mailing bricks from the torn-down building to alumni living as far away as California. For the dedication of the new community learning center, Mannion said members of the school community will create and distribute T-shirts.
Gordan looks forward to the dedication event. And he looks back on his “very, very wonderful life” living in the shadow of a building topped by a five-foot owl statue he will never forget.
“It broke my heart as I watched my old room fall to the ground,” he said of the demolition. But he hopes to sing the Seiberling anthem one last time at the dedication to the new community learning center — “if the good Lord lets me live by the time they dedicate the thing.”
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or email@example.com.