“In Those Days, It Was Just Called ‘Friends’”

KZ learns about SFS history from two alumni experts—their classmate’s mother and grandmother.

When the KZ teachers asked Marika Cutler ’64 and her daughter, Mia Meyer ’94, to share what Sidwell Friends School was like when they attended decades ago, they jumped at the chance. Not only do the pair have fond memories of their time at SFS, but one student in Ana Gilbert and Cassie Quash’s class has a very special place in their hearts: Mia’s son and Marika’s grandson.

Using photos from the SFS Archives and her family’s collection, Marika described her experience on the Wisconsin Avenue campus when it served students from ages 4–18. Her class was the last one to use the old Upper School building, formerly the home of Thomas and Frances Sidwell. “In those days, it was just called ‘Friends,’” Marika told the kindergartners. She also recalled the shop classes that were taught to both boys and girls. (“Me, too! Even when I was there we had shop,” her daughter chimed in.)

The students saw similarities as well as differences. A photo of Founder’s Day in the 1950s, with all three divisions sitting outside for speeches and performances, felt familiar enough. Mia shared a photo of herself as a Lower Schooler with her own grandmother on Grandparent’s Day in the 1980s—an event Marika had the chance to attend this year as a grandparent herself.

Images of the Edgemoor Lane campus in the 1980s were even more recognizable for the children. As they struggled to map the old Groome building onto their current campus, Mia oriented them by pointing out where there is now a sandbox to the west of Groome. Why no sandbox until recently? “I bet they hadn’t invented it yet,” suggested one kindergartner.

Another image of a young Lower School band in 1981 performing in the breezeway between Manor House and the Groome building prompted much discussion. The band’s bass drum art declared the group’s name to be “The Beatles.” “Who are The Beatles?” the class asked. For Marika, who was in high school when the real Beatles first came to the United States and remembers her male SFS classmates trying to dress and act like the Fab Four, their naiveté came as a surprise. After rattling off a few hit song titles, another common chord was struck, and the entire class—including three generations of this Sidwell Friends family—ended the history lesson with an impromptu rendition of “Yellow Submarine.” Beatlemania lives on.

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