Former music teacher and FFS Head of School from 1969 to 2005, Terry Farley joined us to share some of his cherished memories.
Frankford Friends School has a rich history of educating and instilling Quaker values to its students; the same values that we strive to instill in our students today. First opening its doors in 1798 (originally at Unity and Waln Streets and then at its current location in 1833), many people have entered the gates of FFS throughout the last 223 years, all joined together by the familiar shared beliefs that guide us towards a Quaker education for our children. Though many changes have taken place since the inception of FFS, that thread of guiding children to become lifelong learners and advocates for social justice remains the same.
Terry Farley was the music teacher and FFS Principal from 1969 to 2005. He recently joined us to share some of his cherished memories from that time, along with those of his wife, Carol, who also played many important roles at FFS. When the Farleys retired in 2005, the main school building which had been constructed in the late 19th century, was renamed the Terrence and Carol Farley building in honor of their long tenure and service to Frankford Friends School. That building is now home to our Early Childhood program.
An astounding twenty-two Heads of School preceded Terry at FFS, beginning with Watson Atkinson in 1800. Today, Kathryn Park Cook serves in her sixth year as Head of School, carefully nurturing the school’s ideals and the traditions that remain lovingly intact to this day. For example, the tradition of Quaker Week, a week in the fall where the community comes together for multi-age, cooperative learning experiences around the Quaker testimonies, has been a mainstay at FFS since 1982. The School Fair has brought the FFS community together since the 1930’s, with the Winter and Spring Concerts (including the FFS Handbell Choir) being much anticipated events each year as well. And, of course, the belief that every child has that “light” within to make the world a better place for all of humankind remains at the core of the FFS mission.
Memories from Terry Farley: Daily Life
“One of the things I remember is arriving at school early in the morning. I could always walk to school.
In the morning, it was nice to see the parents, but it was especially nice to see the kids. The Kindergarteners would take my hand and we would walk around together. I guess I made them feel at home. It was wonderful when a little child would take your hand.
When I first came to FFS, we had two people, Mary Caughie and Rose King, who were our bus matrons and school cooks. During recess break at 10:45 they would always have tea ready for us, and our science teacher, Helen Satterethwaite, would often bring us something to eat. That was something to look forward to!
I had one day a week when I was on recess duty. There was always a kickball, soccer, or street hockey game happening. I would referee those sometimes. We had slides, a jungle gym, parallel bars… all of which were later banned by the insurance company."
"I would usually teach music in the afternoon. When I wasn’t teaching music, I taught Challenge classes to Grades 4, 5, and 6 for forty-five minutes. That involved playing games, doing puzzles, and all kinds of other collaborative work. I would have the students line up in the lunchroom and I’d pass out colored notecards to divy up the students into groups. Each student would get a different color than the person next to them so that they couldn’t work or sit next to the buddy that they walked in with. They’d have to work with somebody else and learn to get along.”
Trial By Fire
“We used to run our own buses. That took a lot of our attention. Reba Lammy, who was the principal before me, started the first bus service with a limousine. We eventually grew to have two buses and a VW van as transportation. We even had a garage built in East Frankford to house the buses. Students came from Northeast Philadelphia, up to the county line area, and all the way down to Mayfair. The students who lived in Frankford didn’t use the bus. Other students traveled on the El from neighborhoods that were lower in the city.
One of the first things that happened as Head of School was a traumatic traffic accident involving a school community member. I had no experience at all in telling people bad news, so I ran across the street to the Methodist Church to talk to the pastor there. I asked him if he would help me communicate to the family. It was he who taught me to say, ‘Who can we call to help?’ I always remembered that as a wonderful thing to say to a person during a moment of crisis. That was a moment of ‘trial by fire,’ as people say. That was my first year, and it was a really hard way to start.”
The Campus and Its One-of-a-Kind Moments
“The Pre-K classroom was in the little house on the corner of the property, which is now where the Trickey Building is. That was also where all the school records were kept. The art room was in the basement of the Meeting House.
One of the big things we did in the early 1990s was to renovate the Meeting House. The school’s classrooms were originally located in the upper floors of the Meeting House when it was first built in 1833. We took the ceiling out, put up temporary beams, and raised the roofline. We then took out the second story and made it into a one-story building with a balcony area. A few years later, when we added the seventh and eighth grades, we needed extra rooms. We were able to rent the building where the IDEA Lab is now (the Parsonage of the former Methodist Church), across the street from the Meeting House, for their classrooms.
Where The Nest stands today, there used to be a large Methodist Church. In 2012, it was demolished. When that happened, I took home a stone fallen from its walls. Today, the stone is out in my garden with a cat buried underneath it. The cat, named Friendly, was a gift from a FFS parent who brought in a whole box of kittens that she had found in a dumpster. She brought them to school to see who would adopt one. It was always interesting when something one-of-a-kind like that would happen during the day.”
Coming Together as a Community
“We regularly came together as a whole community for Meeting for Worship. Being together in the quiet like that made a lasting impression on many of our parents, visitors, and students. During Meeting for Worship, we also began the custom of partnering older children with younger ones.
A Heartwarming Tradition Continued Today
In day-to-day life at FFS, our oldest students act as mentors to our younger friends by modeling how to take good care of each other with kindness and compassion. Their knack for leadership was on full display during Quaker week this year. Our Pre-K class was absolutely enamored with the level of patience, kindness, interest, and excitement that the seventh graders showed them during community games. To properly send their thanks, the Pre-Kers created a triptych mural in Art with Teacher Lisa, which they presented as a gift to their middle school friends!
During the pandemic, middle school students gather to lead younger students in weekly games and activities via Zoom. Younger students relish the time spent together with their older mentors and the older students get to practice leadership and encourage a healthy lifestyle.
“I feel thankful that we get to see more kids in our school” -Audrey, First Grade“
I love that the middle school can be with us and we can see them.” -Maddie, First Grade
“I really like all the games because they were really good and I think the middle schoolers do a great job leading us through the whole thing.” -Stella, First Grade
What an exciting day it will be when we can all be together in person again!
"There was a school fair every year that took place on the playground. We had lunches served. Some people would stay all day. A lot of alums and retired teachers would come back to visit then too. We also had open houses. In preparation, we would write up an ad to put in the newspapers. On the day of the open house, we would all meet in the Meeting House and then I’d take 10-12 people around to see the school.”
What People Loved About FFS
“FFS was one of several Friends schools that was selected to be included in a film made by the Yearly Meeting’s Committee on Education in the 1970s, about the particular qualities that are important in a Friends school. Though strikingly different in size and environment, the threads that were common to each school were reflected in the religious and human values that we cherished and in how we developed the inner resources of each person to bear service to the world. Dan Test, a visiting consultant from the Committee on Education said, ‘You have a first-rate school! Shout it from the housetops and let people know how excellent you are.’ That spurred a flurry of inquiries about us and seemed to increase the number of applications.
One of the things I know for sure that our alumni would say — FFS was a safe place to be. The kids were well taken care of and they liked their teachers very much. Everyone would also come back to visit. They might wait a couple of years, but when they came back, they would often say that it was the best school experience of their lives. The shield was our symbol at the time and represented how our school sheltered its students. If there were hard times, our students knew that Frankford Friends was one place they could count on to be steady.”
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Commonalities Between the FFS of Yesterday and Today
“The basic tenets and the original aim of the school still remain in place. In our old publications, we would often use a quote from Sam Caldwell: ‘The distinctive aim of Quaker Education, above and beyond excellence in academic instruction, is to encourage, nurture, foster, or fashion people whose characters are influenced by the distinctive experience and perception of the Religious Society of Friends.’ The phrase that our faculty and students used all the time was ‘love, learning, peace.’ Now, you talk about ‘building a better future for humankind’ which is a wonderful way to merge the tenets of love, learning, and peace towards a common goal. The facilities have certainly changed, the faculty has changed, heads have changed, curriculum has changed — but the basic tenets of why we’re doing it are still the same and always have been.”