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Renovation of historic Las Vegas school prompts search for alumni.
Photo: PR (City of Las Vegas)
The renovation and preservation of Las Vegas’ first elementary school will be completed late this summer, in time for a re-dedication and celebration planned for early fall. Fifth Street School, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, opened in 1936, shortly after completion of the Hoover Dam, and is located within walking distance of the Fremont Street Experience. Students attended the school until the mid-60s.
The list of alumni includes Myram Borders and United States District Judge Lloyd D. George. Borders, a former United Press International bureau chief for Las Vegas and retired manager of the Las Vegas News Bureau, was born in Kentucky but has lived in Las Vegas since the 1940s. She graduated from Fifth Street School in 1950 and attended Las Vegas High School—the community’s only high school at the time. “There were only about 10,000 people here then,” Borders says. “The first major Strip hotel was El Rancho Vegas, which was four miles out of town. Downtown was concentrated between Charleston Boulevard and Bonanza Road.”
Borders remembers the school well. “Its size was grand for being just a grammar school, and all the students were very close and united,” she recalls. “A two-story building held the gymnasium where games and performances took place. The interior courtyards would be filled with children during recess and lunchtime, while the exterior grassy fields held regular softball games.”
When asked about personal memories of Fifth Street School, Borders recollects some of her most valuable life lessons. “Mrs. Doris Hancock, who was my kindergarten teacher during World War II, taught us what to do in case we were caught outside during an air raid. She said to lie in a gutter and hold the back of your head,” Borders says. “I was in a car accident and avoided serious injury when I grabbed the back of my head and rolled into a ball as the car went over a cliff.”
“My fifth grade geography teacher, Mrs. Theil, spoke of her world travels, which inspired my love of exploring. Because of her I, too, have traveled the world, having been to every continent and many countries.
“Finally, my eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Burr, had a grading system that gave you an ‘A’ for 93 percent and above. I had a 92.5 percent in math and asked if I could still get an ‘A’—get it rounded up. She gave me a ‘B.’ I learned never to expect any breaks in life, and I still believe one shouldn’t expect them.”
Borders sees the restoration of one of Las Vegas’ oldest structures as a great accomplishment. “The city has a habit of blowing up old property,” she says. “This gives the future generations an idea of our past. The restoration offers a sense of history and reality.”
Plans for the building’s renovation include multi-purpose performance areas, a gallery, conference rooms, open courtyards, and the outdoor Centennial Plaza. Its tenants will include the UNLV Fine Arts Program, Downtown Design Center for the School of Architecture, Nevada School of the Arts, American Institute of Architects, and City of Las Vegas Cultural Affairs Division.
Judge Lloyd D. George can view the construction project from his office building, which is across Las Vegas Boulevard from his boyhood school. George graduated from Fifth Street School in 1943 and now works in the federal courthouse named in his honor. Born in Idaho, George moved to Las Vegas at the age of three. He attended Las Vegas High School, where he served as student body president. George says he is delighted with the renovation, which serves as a daily reminder of his school years, and says he predicts the landmark will benefit future generations of Las Vegans.
If you attended Fifth Street School and have memorabilia that can be displayed or want further information, use the Contact info listed below.
Historic Fifth Street School
401 S. 4th St., Ste. 145, Las Vegas