OBITUARIES: Decatur | Shoals | Huntsville
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Eastwood Elementary to celebrate 50th year
By Deangelo McDaniel for
Brennen Smith/
Laura Norman, with granddaughter Mary Emma Harper and daughter Caroline Harper. Norman was one of the first students to attend Eastwood Elementary. Twenty years later, Caroline attended the same school.

The twisting halls at Eastwood Elementary carry different memories for Laura Norman, her daughter and granddaughter.

Norman, a teacher at Cedar Ridge Middle School, was one of the first students to attend classes when Decatur opened Eastwood for the 1962-63 school year.

"Back then, Point Mallard was mostly woods and pastureland," she said.

The herd of cattle that grazed in view of the playground was still there when Norman's daughter, Caroline Harper, enrolled almost 20 years later.

Eastwood Elementary will celebrate its 50th birthday April 14 from 2 to 4 p.m.

At 3 p.m., the school will have what Principal Margaret Greer calls "alumni alive."

"We want all the people who have attended school here to come back and share their stories," she said.

Eastwood opened as a grades 1-6 school, and the late Arlo Abercrombie was its first principal. Several of its first students, like Norman, had attended classes at Walter Jackson, but the city was anticipating growth in the area.

By the time Norman's daughter enrolled in 1982, Point Mallard was one of the fastest-growing areas in Decatur and Eastwood's enrollment had increased to almost 300.

But it was still common for cows to escape and make their way toward the playground. That happened one day when Harper was on the swings.

"I turned around and saw a herd of cows coming toward me," she said. "The teacher told me to jump on her shoulders and I did."

The golf course, wave pool, new homes, General Electric and T.C. Almon Recreation Center had consumed most of the pastureland when Harper's daughter, Mary Emma Harper, enrolled two years ago as the third generation in the family to attend the school.

Eastwood has 230 students and many unanswered questions about its history.

Greer wants to know where the name came from and how the school got its eagle mascot.

LeAnn Baggett, a student from 1970-75 and teacher since 1996, said her grandfather, H.R. Leeman, was superintendent of education during Eastwood's construction.

She said the school is on the east side of Decatur and most of the area was wooded in 1962. "I'm sure that's why it's called Eastwood," Baggett said.

As for the mascot, students still report seeing eagles in the area. Greer said she saw one on campus shortly after she became principal seven years ago.

Baggett said the one mystery that may never be solved involves a snake that caused her to jump on the top of her desk.

She said a classmate brought a non-poisonous snake to school but failed to place a cover on top of the cage.

"The snake got out and I don't think anyone ever found it," Baggett said.

Deangelo McDaniel can be reached at 256-340-2469 or

The celebration

Eastwood Elementary is a K-5 school with 230 students. The school is celebrating its 50th birthday on April 14 from 2 to 4 p.m. If you are a former student and want to be part of the celebration, contact Principal Margaret Greer at 256-552-3043 or by email at

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