Mayor Harry Kelley Remembers
Going to School at City Hall
Harry Kelley's 1934 graduation photo with his classmates shows him on the back row. He is the first person on the left.
Not just as the office building where he has served as mayor for the past seven terms, but also as a school house where Kelley spent 11 years and from which he was graduated in 1934.
"It's funny how things work out" he says, "My present office was my English classroom back in the 1930s, when I went to high school in this very building. It's a small world."
Built around 1915 by the Maryland State Department of Education, the imposing brick structure at Baltimore Avenue and 3rd Street was designed originally as a summer training center for student teachers who came to the area from Towson Normal School.
In about 1917, though, Worcester County purchased the property, and shortly afterward Ocean City boasted its first high school.
There were four classrooms in the new facility, two on each floor. The high school curriculum included French, Spanish, Latin, History, English and Science. Teachers were Lizzie Bishop, Roxie Cropper, Mildred Rayne, Kathryn Laws and Ralph Dennis. The first graduating class consisted of just seven students: Maude Cropper, Hilda Rounds, Mildred Bunting, Harold Dinsmore, John Lynch, Calvin Quillen and Edward Thomas.
Things changed during the 1920s, however, after the town's elementary school closed and the grade school was moved into the City Hall structure. Eight new classrooms were added then, and the Ocean City school system-elementary through secondary- was consolidated under one roof.
Meanwhile, enter Mayor Harry Kelley, who was five years old in 1923.
Kelley skipped the first grade. Rules about starting school were evidently not to clear or strictly enforced. As the Mayor recalls today, "Dorothy Gray, my teacher, let me start school in the second grade because all my buddies were in that class."
The Mayor then enjoyed 11 years of public schooling, never dreaming the old school house would become his official office.
As a member of the 13-person class of 1934, he recalls, "It was a beautiful time to grow up. Oh, we weren't that studious but we got by." One not-so-fond memory includes the current City Hall Xerox Room. Back in the 1920s, that same area served as the principal's discipline room. Harry Kelley remembers it well: "I spent a lot of time there."
According to Kelly, the educational system in the resort flourished, partly because of some wonderful teachers: "I remember Dot Powell, Irma Jester, Elizabeth Laws, Myra Powell and Miss Sudberry. At that time, along with mom and dad, the teachers molded your character...they stood by you. Sometimes I was meaner than hell to them, but they were such lovely individuals and they never gave up on me, "Oh, you weren't mean, Harry." Really, I'll always be grateful I could go to school here."
But then the town grew and as a result the public school system outgrew the brick building. In 1954, the last graduating class matriculated from Ocean City High School, with subsequent classes attending the newly constructed Stephen Decatur High School. In 1965, grade school students moved on to the new Ocean City Elementary School on Center Drive in West Ocean City.
The brick building did not stay vacant for long. In 1968 it was purchased by the Town of Ocean City to be used as its City Hall.
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