The grand old lady of the Gulfport School District had welcomed many of the city's young faces. The original building was constructed in 1921 in what was then East Gulfport.
   The elementary school, situated near the beach on picturesque Second Street - the Beverly Hills of Gulfport in the 1950s and '60s - had additional office and classroom space built after World War II.
   Sadly, Katrina devastated the historic school and grounds.
   Many who remember a simpler time have a warm spot in their hearts for the school.
   Ray Bolger, the Scarecrow from the "Wizard of Oz," made an unexpected visit in the 1970s and entertained the students with stories and dance.
   I was a wide-eyed 5-year-old in Sadie Beeman's first-grade class in 1963 when we overheard Miss Flynt telling Mrs. Beeman that President Kennedy had been killed.
   Memories recall Mrs. Kelly, the sweet school crossing guard, and Mrs. Dearman, Mrs. Amsler, Mrs. Hallom and Mrs. Robinson, teachers who watched us play at recess under the beautiful Live oaks on the beachfront playground.
   The hallways and stairs still had the original Georgia pine, with the windows and high ceilings. The school was so well-ventilated the lack of air conditioning went unnoticed.
   Beloved East Ward is one of many lost or damaged landmarks difficult to accept because of the direct link to so many lives.
   The school was among the places mentioned when the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced the Mississippi Coast is one of the sites on America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2006. The future of this property is in doubt, but even in its present condition, it still brings a smile to many faces.
SUN HERALD SPORTS