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September 11, 2002

Crystal Lake celebrates 50 years

Some of school's first students share their views
Record-Eagle staff writer
BENZONIA - For some, it was a chance to remember or visit their child's school. For the kids, it was chance to get out of class and eat cupcakes at lunch.
      For Joe Smeltzer, the trip down memory lane was a chance to reminisce while spending some time with his grandson.
      Smeltzer and his grandson Tom Smeltzer were part of a program to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Crystal Lake Elementary School, which opened as a K-3 school in 1952.
      The Smeltzers - Tom is a fifth-grader - shared their views of life then and now as part of a morning program for students, staff and the public at the school.
      "The pleasant part for me was being able to do something with my grandson," he said.
      Joe Smeltzer, 65, was a sophomore at Benzonia School, a K-12 school across the street, when the four-classroom Crystal Lake Elementary opened to relieve overcrowding at the "old" school building.
      The "new" school was necessary as classes were being held in the basement.
      When Joe Smeltzer graduated, his class had 45 students, which was pretty much average for the high school classes, he said.
      "I think the younger classes were getting a bit larger," he said.
      Joe Smeltzer said the school district was growing then, even before Benzonia School, Honor School and Thompsonville School consolidated to become the Benzie Central district with one high school and smaller elementaries, including Crystal Lake.
      Crystal Lake has continued to add on in recent years, Parent Teacher Committee president Laura Brian said.
      The school now has 249 students in kindergarten through the sixth grade.
      The growth is not the only change in 50 years, Joe Smeltzer said.
      The methods of teaching and the worries kids have now are far different than when he was in school, he said.
      Teen pregnancy rates, instances of sexually transmitted diseases and other more grown-up worries trouble kids today far more than they did when he was in school, Joe Smeltzer said.
      Because of that, teaching has to focus on health-related issues more, he said.
      But Monday, the kids and teachers were not talking about serious health issues.
      They were celebrating 50 years as the Crystal Lake Lakers.
      The school was presented with a new school flag with the dates 1952-2002 sewn on and a limestone rock with a sailboat etched on it to commemorate the Lakers.
      Although the celebration only lasted one day, Brian said the school will continue to mark its anniversary throughout the year.
      Stacey Smith is the reporter for Leelanau, Manistee and Benzie counties. She can be reached at (231) 933-1408, or at
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