PITTSFIELD -- The cafeteria at Crosby Elementary School was packed on Tuesday night, buzzing with chattering parents, excited kids and reunited friends.
Principal Donna Baker quieted the room as best she could and asked the crowd, "How many of you were here when the school opened on Nov. 8, 1962 -- 50 years ago?"
Ward 7 City Councilor and former school administrator Tony Simonelli's eyes glanced from left to right as he was the only one in the room to raise his hand.
"It brings back a lot of memories. Of course back then, the cafeteria seemed a lot larger," said Simonelli, lighting up like a middle schooler again. He was part of the seventh-grade class when the building first opened as John C. Crosby Junior High School.
Nearly 100 students, city officials, family and staff members gathered on Tuesday night to celebrate the school's half-century birthday.
The nearly 40-acre West Street property is named after the late Massachusetts Su preme Court judge and third mayor of Pittsfield. The family home and land was deeded to the city in 1956, after the passing of Crosby's wife, Henrietta, stipulating that it be used for playgrounds or a school. Today the school's flag pole is approximately where the former Crosby homestead sat.
On Tuesday, children and adults feted Crosby's legacy with remarks from the principal and Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, a school neighbor; a birthday rap led by fourth-graders, birthday cakes served by staff, and a dance party featuring hits from 1962.
Fourth-graders Jaden Laugh lin and his friend David said their favorite parts of the school were the outdoor areas and playground, which were updated in 2008.
Luz Franco, the mother of Crosby second-grader Erica Franco, said they've been involved with the school since Erica was a year old. "The kind of individual attention they give you, the kind that a lot of families need here, is so appreciated. We are lucky we have them here," the mother said.
In her remarks, Baker referenced a 1962 Eagle article on the Crosby school's opening day. It cited the tardiness of a couple of school buses and the malfunction of a few lockers.
The school became Crosby Elementary in 1985, and it currently serves about 400 students in pre-kindergarten through Grade 5.
"Today I can report that buses still run late on some days and lockers still don't always work properly," said Baker.
The school hasn't had a major renovation since it opened.
"There are days when we might wish that we had this amenity or some new piece of equipment," she said, "but as the principal of this school I can tell you without hesitation that every day, we are incredibly proud of what we do and who we are as a school community."
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Seven fun facts about Crosby
• The first classes at Crosby, which opened as a junior high school, had a total of 960 students enrolled.
• Lawrence J. Murphy was the first principal at Crosby.
• The Crosby property on West Street in Pittsfield was once known as Sabine Farm.
• In addition to academics, home economics, drafting and metal fabrication were also taught in the school during its early years.
• Crosby's three-level design was created by architect John H. Fisher. From an aerial view, the school's buildings resemble a pointed arrow.
• The estimated cost to build Crosby in 1962 was $1.8 million.
• Crosby's modern amenities include an Amazing World play structure, outdoor fitness equipment, an outdoor classroom, raised garden beds and a wheelchair-accessible garden bed.Crosby 1962