Riley Elementary School

63
City/Town: Sand Springs
Location Class: School
Year Built: 1918
Year Abandoned: 1988
Status: Demolished
Photojournalist: David Linde

Riley was closed in June 1988, when the building was 70 years old. Most of its students were sent to Mark Twain Elementary School, 541 S. 43rd West Ave., or to Chouteau Elementary School, 575 N. 39th West Ave.

A task force had proposed the closing of Riley and several other schools after Tulsa Public Schools’ enrollment fell from approximately 80,000 students in 1968 to 59,000 in 1978.

At the time of its proposal, the task force was considering a projection that enrollment would fall to 52,000 by 1981. The district now has about 43,000 students.

In 1981, then-Superintendent Larry Zenke said Riley was one of five schools in need of major renovations. Between 1981 and 1988, the district expanded the facility and bought eight acres to expand its 2.5-acre campus.

District officials and patrons had expressed concern about the building’s cramped quarters and condition for years. Tulsa World archives show that in 1976, Frenchie Loving, director of the West O’ Main Improvement Association, said the building, “aside from being too small, is a fire trap, too.”

Danny Wasson, who lives three houses away from Riley, said the boarded-up school has been a common target of vandals and a popular night-time haven for homeless people recently.

“Police have been called there several times to get people out that wasn’t supposed to be there,” he said.

Riley is among properties that are scheduled to be acquired by the state for the extension of the Gilcrease Expressway, said Bill Cyganovich, the city of Tulsa’s lead transportation engineer.

The extension would connect west Tulsa to Interstate 44 and the Keystone Expressway.

Plans call for the route to start at I-44 and West 51st Street, then head north and east of 57th West Avenue, which it would parallel until it crosses the Arkansas River. It then would continue north to the Keystone Expressway, while running east of Terwilliger Park and atop 57th West Avenue.

Officials said the 82-year-old vacant school building was being used for storage.

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Jodie Lasater
Jodie Lasater
9 years ago

I started Kindergarten at Riley in 1955 and went through the 6th grade. I lived across from Charles Page Blvd. so I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to get to travel through the famous underpass everyday. Through the years I have remained in contact with many classmates; Pam Hix, Phyllis Copeland, Karen Cherry, Kenny Hancock, Nancy Stollemyer (just to name a few) and we love sharing our personal Riley memories. I even married Paul Varnell who started Riley in 1954.

Thanks for putting this website together.

dennis
dennis
Reply to  Jodie Lasater
9 years ago

hi jodie lasater varnell…………….i met you at the mayfair reunion, i was the big ugly guy, but i didnt see any small good lookin guys, so take your pick…..ha……..anyway, you gave me garys phone number and i was able to contact gary and we had a good conversation…………..hope to see you again, and gary and paul, at the next reunion. remember when the tunnel was our tornado shelter, by time we walked to the tunnel from west 3rd people were standing out side, the tunnel was full, so we stood outside in the rain like geese and watched for the… Read more »

Ron Pry
9 years ago

Didn't see my last reply on here yet so I will try again. Dennis I do indeed remember all the good times at Riley. I thought Mrs. Brinkly was Mrs. Brink and Mr Harrington was Mr. Herring. Could be wrong though because is has been a LONG time. Ricky is in Tahlequah, and Susan our sister is in Sand Springs. We lived on west 12th street and walked to school every day. I still talk to Gary Varnell on Facebook once in a while and Joe (Chris) Rask also. We lived next door to Sandra Madden and yes I think… Read more »

dennis
dennis
Reply to  Ron Pry
9 years ago

hello ron pry, this is dennis white,…….such a wonderful surprise when i revisited this site and guess who……ron pry and gary varnell. you may remember me mostly from cub scouts. My mom was a den mother. I can still see the scoutmasters face, cant remember his name. want to say mr. roberts. Do remember joe rask……….what happened to sandra madden? no surprise she was the heart throb for others too. ron, our paths have crossed so many times……..went to neo in miami, picher was part of our tromping grounds, my room mate went with the, at that time, mayors daughter.… Read more »

Ron Pry
Reply to  dennis
9 years ago

Hey Dennis Yes I remember Mr. Roberts. He had a son Bill who was in scouts also. I taught at Picher from 83 to 89 and then we moved to Vinita. We don't get back home much but that doesn't me we forget everyone. Don't know about Sandra. I knew they moved to Porter I think a long time ago. She had a brother Rodney. Those were some great times at Riley. You know Mike Warmer is no longer with us. I remember Mr. Varnell and Mr Warma coaching us in baseball. My Dad also coached a couple of years.… Read more »

Ron Pry
Ron Pry
9 years ago

Oh, I forgot to say that we live in Hewitt Texas. I retired from teaching (Band) after 29 years in Oklahoma the last 16 at Vinita, and we moved down here and I am still teaching band, but Oklahoma will ALWAYS be home to us

Ron Pry
9 years ago

Hey Dennis, this is Ron (Ronnie Pry) I do indeed remember all those fun times at Riley. We lived on west 12th street and walked to school every day. Still talk to Gary Varnell from time to time on Facebook. We lived next door to Sandra Madden and her family and I think everyone had a crush on her. The teacher's names bring back a lot of memories. Thought Mrs. Brinkly was Mrs. Brink, though, and Mr. Harrington was Mr. Herring. I could be wrong since it has been a LONG time. No one has mentioned the kindergarten teacher Miss.… Read more »

Gary N. Varnell
Gary N. Varnell
9 years ago

I went to Riley in the early 50's from 2nd grade on. Some of my teachers were Mrs. Cartmill, Mrs Belt, principal was Mr. Van Noy. I still can't figure out how he got those quarters out from behind our ears during recess, haha.

I remember during my 6th grade year being on safety patrol and the rumor of the "Monkey Man" living in the tunnel under Charles Page Blvd.

Those were the good years of Little League Baseball.

Would love to hear from friends from back then.

dennis white
dennis white
Reply to  Gary N. Varnell
9 years ago

hi gary……good to see and hear from you……..spoke to you, by phone, afew weeks back.. we played little league ball together, I remeber your dad and mr. warma so well. I either played short or caught, when you didn't . at riley with you and thru the 8th at madison, still playing ball and watching jack carter loft every thing over the fence. graduated dwhs in 65, with your spouse……..a small world. also was a safety patrol, was so proud of that white belt and badge……..also the monkey man in the tunnel. hope you can make the mayfair addition reunion… Read more »

Gwen Sneed
Gwen Sneed
9 years ago

😀 i went to Riley in the late '50s. I moved after the third grade. I can still remember recess. And I still have my report cards. I would like to know what junior high and high school my classmates went to.

kathy
kathy
Reply to  Gwen Sneed
9 years ago

Junior high would have been Madison Middle school. Then it would have been called Madison Junior High.

Karen Miles-Dobbins
Karen Miles-Dobbins
9 years ago

I attended the first grade at Riley, in 1966, and my teacher's name was Mrs. Hensley. It's such a shame when something gets old, society is so quick to just get rid of it.

Randy Meadows
Randy Meadows
9 years ago

Also, in the 1960's we used to have bomb drills where everyone would have to go into the main hallway, get on the floor in the fetal position and cover our heads with our hands. I wish I could remember the teachers name, she taught 3rd or 4th grade back then, and I used to know it, she was a strict teacher who would slap you on the hand with a ruler, but she was truly a great teacher.

Randy Meadows
Randy Meadows
9 years ago

I attended Riley in the 1960's. I think it was from 1963-1969. The first grade was in the small building to the West of the School. I remember second grade, the teacher's name was Miss (or Mrs.) McGillicutty, and we had a gym teacher around the forth or fifth grade named Mr. Enos, who was later replaced with a teacher named Mr. McDaniel. I cannot remember the 3rd grade teachers name, but I can see her clearly as I remember her well. We also had a teacher, believe it was music class, who was named Mrs. Fields. The principals name… Read more »

Gwen Moore Sneed
Gwen Moore Sneed
Reply to  Randy Meadows
9 years ago

what junior high and/or high school did you go to after grade school?

Sandra
Sandra
Reply to  Randy Meadows
8 years ago

Hi Randy this is Sandi Durant. The 3rd grade treacher was Mrs Wilburton or at least she was mine. She had a long pojnted nose and she told the class that some accused her of being a witch because she could touch the sideof her nose with her finger and a windowwould open. LOL. She was joking of course. That window had something wrong with it and would open at any time. I think I knew your brother David? Is that correct? I bet I could write a book about Riley with all the memories I havefrom my childhood. I… Read more »

Sandra
Sandra
Reply to  Randy Meadows
8 years ago

Hi Randy this is Sandi Durant. The 3rd grade treacher was Mrs Wilburton or at least she was mine. She had a long pojnted nose and she told the class that some accused her of being a witch because she could touch the sideof her nose with her finger and a windowwould open. LOL. She was joking of course. That window had something wrong with it and would open at any time. I think I knew your brother David? Is that correct? It would have been nice if could have just one more walk down her old halls. She is… Read more »

Sandra
Sandra
Reply to  Randy Meadows
8 years ago

Hi Randy this is Sandi Durant. The 3rd grade treacher was Mrs Wilburton or at least she was mine. She had a long pojnted nose and she told the class that some accused her of being a witch because she could touch the sideof her nose with her finger and a windowwould open. LOL. She was joking of course. That window had something wrong. I think I knew your brother David? Is that correct? It would have been nice if could have just one more walk down her old halls. She is being torn down now! So very Sad!

Sandra
Sandra
Reply to  Randy Meadows
8 years ago

Hi Randy this is Sandi Durant. The 3rd grade treacher was Mrs Wilburton. I think I knew your brother David? Is that correct? It would have been nice if could have just one more walk down her old halls. She is being torn down now! So very Sad!

Richard Hatcher
Richard Hatcher
Reply to  Randy Meadows
8 years ago

Hello Randy I went to Riley with you Known then As Ricky Hatcher I go by Richard now. alot of good memories there

Kathy
Kathy
9 years ago

I went to Riley in the early 70's from Kindergarden up. I loved the school and the teachers. Does everyone remember Mrs Edwards the Fifth grade teacher, Mr Jackson the science teacher, Mrs Armstrong the art teacher, and of course Mr. Gregg the gym teacher. The school was a beautiful place I wish the pictures could be of the school in it's hay day. Not eye sore today.

JoAnna Y.
JoAnna Y.
Reply to  Kathy
9 years ago

Yes, In fact I remember all the girls crying when Mr. Jackson left. We thought they fired him. I saw him years later at a restaurant and he said that he had just quit to go back to school. Do you remember the robot he made that would ask you questions?
JoAnna

Clayton
Clayton
Reply to  Kathy
5 years ago

I too was at Riley but in the 60's k- 6th. I had a Miss Edwards in 5th grade, her first year. All of us guys had a crush, it was hilarious looking back. Super sweet lady. I remember Mr Gregg, Mrs McCracken, Mrs Dodson and more. Mr Yost was principal for a few tears during my time. I hated to see this building go away, my sister and I both went. My last year, 6th grade was 70-71.

paula
paula
9 years ago

i went to this school when i was young the small little building by its self on the right side was for indian children to take classes and learn our heritage when you walked to school across the street you had to walk through a under ground walk that everyone would stand and hit you or make fun of you when you walk through…the school was cold durning the winter and hot as could be during summer…i really dont miss that school….at night you could hear alot of sounds under ground when no one was there nobody really liked going… Read more »

Cori
Cori
10 years ago

In the late 90's American Theater Company used this building as a set/ costume storage and scen shop in some of the pictures you can see old set peices that were once used in their productions. The used to be a large 3 story red brick building that was attached to the white brick building that housed the set storage and scene shop. The red brick building is where the the costume storage was located and where my mom had to take us to to pull costumes from storage. This was the most scariest place I have ever been there… Read more »

Susan B
Susan B
10 years ago

In it's glory days, Riley was an incredibly beautiful school. Marble everywhere, brass fixtures, beautiful wood work. Even the grounds, though asphalt, had large, mature trees and pieces of playground equipment deemed dangerous these days…I remember going to the principal's office EVERY day and they'd have a bandaid lying there for me and whatever body part I had skinned at recess. Made friends there that I have to this day, made friends there that are no longer with us. Does anyone remember, if you rode a bicycle to school, it had to pass inspection? Checking out jump ropes, four-square balls… Read more »

linda dugan (cherry)
linda dugan (cherry)
Reply to  Susan B
9 years ago

went to riley thanks for the pictures.a little sad.when you are looking at the pictures you can sure feel yourself go back in time.

Lisa
Lisa
Reply to  linda dugan (cherry)
3 years ago

I. Knew a "Melody Cherry" in the mid 70s any relation?

CarlaRockwood
CarlaRockwood
Reply to  Susan B
8 years ago

Wow, looking at these photos, I can certainly place every room…I remember checking out equipment at lunch and singing in Ms. Moran's class. My art teacher was Ms. Metsker and we did some fantastic art projects, including painting the walls in the underpass. Mr Jackson was my favorite and I often wander what /where he went once I'd gone on to Madison Jr. High. I ran into Ms. Edwards a few times over the years, still as sweet and warm as I remember. I also had Mrs. McCracken, and Mrs Stephens and Mr. Clarke and Mr. Gregg. Mrs Ralston was… Read more »

Dina Parry Singleotn
Dina Parry Singleotn
Reply to  CarlaRockwood
5 years ago

I'm glad I found this site. I remember all the same teachers. Ms. Moran was wonderful. She asked me to sing at the 6th grade final program. I was so honored because she was so good at teaching. Ms. Metsker was my favorite teacher. I loved the art we did. Once she took us to her ranch and we got to ride horses. Definitely a high point. Wish I knew where she is. I only attended Riley in the 6th grade in 1976. then went to Madison Jr. High for two and on to Booker T. Washington High, graduating in… Read more »

dennis
dennis
10 years ago

wrong…james whitcomb riley. named after the poet. vern station was located across charles page blvd, on north side of the street, not medio, next station west was bruner station. rode the trolley to downtown tulsa many times…only a nickel. left jwr in spring of 1959, headed to james madison jr. high………as stated hate to see the old girl in such sad shape……such good memories…mr. harrington, mrs armstrong. mrs brinkly. mrs rose…….and my heart throb sandra madden……..oh where are you sissy miller, tom bowers, gary varnell, roy petty, the pry twins, leale edwards, perry holloway……..time time time…..thanks for this sight ….well… Read more »

Gwen Moore Sneed
Gwen Moore Sneed
Reply to  dennis
9 years ago

You and I attended JWR at about the same time. I still have my kindergarten class picture dated 1955-56. I wish I knew where my classmates are now. That was so many years ago. I remember Mark Stevens, Pamela Hix, Judy McBride, JoAnn Lassiter, Jimmy Don Ward. The principals name was Mr Vannoy!

Dennis
Dennis
Reply to  Gwen Moore Sneed
9 years ago

hi gwen…….didnt expect any reply. I was in the 3rd grade when you entered kindergarten. My goodness how time flies. I recognize some of the names you mention. pam hix, judy mcbride, joann lassiter and jim ward. I probably knew their brothers or sisters. jim wards brother is perry ward. They lived just across charles page blvd. first house on the west, a yellow house, if i remember correctly. The lassiters lived in my neighborhood. The mayfairf addition, west 3rd st. was my stomping ground.. I attended madison jr. high after riley. Moved to the west side of tulsa and… Read more »

Karen Cherry
Karen Cherry
Reply to  Dennis
9 years ago

Hi Dennis, my name is Karen Cherry-Steinman. My sister and I went to the Mayfair reunion last Oct. We lived across the street from Mayfair, there were four of us Danny, Linda, LaDonna and my self.

karen Cherry
karen Cherry
Reply to  Gwen Moore Sneed
9 years ago

Oh my gosh Gwen, don't know if you will remember me but we were in kindergarten together.My name is Karen Cherry. Pam Hix and JoAnn (Jodie) Lassiter have been talking about Riley and wondered where all the classmates were. I still live in Tulsa as does JoAnn ( she goes by Jodie now). If you are in Tulsa or close there is a mini reunion planned for Sunday May 1, of course it is for Central High School but so many of us from Riley went to Madison and then on to Central. I hope to hear from you. Karen… Read more »

Jodie Lasater
Jodie Lasater
Reply to  Gwen Moore Sneed
9 years ago

Hi Gwen, this is JoAnn (Jodie) Lasater. Me and Karen Cherry were just talking about you this morning. We have been wondering about all our classmates that we haven't heard from in years. Did anyone ask you if you remembered our kindergarten teacher's name??? It's driving us crazy not being able to remember.

Are you on Face Book?

Nancy Stottlemyre
Nancy Stottlemyre
Reply to  Gwen Moore Sneed
9 years ago

Hi Gwen, I was also in that kindergarten class with you. Our teacher was Ms Knight. Mark Stevens came to one of our mini reunions. Jimmy Don was living in Texas I don't know if he is still there.

karla
karla
Reply to  dennis
9 years ago

I lived down 57th w. ave. and it was the street just across from Riley. It was medio station

dennis
dennis
Reply to  karla
8 years ago

karla……….thank you for setting me straight. i always thought it was vern. i believe bruner was the next station to the west, if i am not wrong again. i do remeber the bruner grocery.

anyway………..thanks for correcting me.

did you attend riley?

THOR
THOR
10 years ago

Those picture bring back alot of memories.

Tim
Tim
Reply to  THOR
9 years ago

Gotta be Thor Massey..

Sandy Nichols
Sandy Nichols
Reply to  Tim
5 years ago

I remember Marlo Massey.

Fiend
Fiend
10 years ago

I found some more info. The full name of the school was James Whitworth Riley Elementary. The Medio Station was directly north of this school, it was a part of the Sand Springs passenger rail system. There is a small tunnel that goes under the road from Riley to the old station. The station is not there anymore, but the tunnel is. The tunnel is on the south side of the road, it has a fence around it, its flooded though.

Lisa Oyler
Lisa Oyler
10 years ago

Wow! This is so heartbreaking! When I look at these pictures of Riley it brings back memories of some of the best times in my life. Even tho its in horrible shape I can see things that I remember, like the cafeteria/library and the gym. I attended Riley from 75-80. Two of my favorte teachers there were Mr. Gregg and Mrs. Miller. Thanks for sharing these pictures.

Angie Cable
Angie Cable
11 years ago

OMG! This is so creepy!! I went to school here in the 70's from Kindergarten to 6th grade. It's haunting to flashback to pictures in my mind when it was in tact. Thanks for uploading and for the website. Angie

Don Harris
Don Harris
11 years ago

In the 30’s Tulsa Public Schools had a school call Medio in the same area. I think this could be the same school.

Nikole S
Nikole S
11 years ago

Looks like a cool place to roam around in 😀

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