An official Amherst Schools historian has been named.
Russ Marty’s connection to the district runs deep: His great-grandfather-in-law is Fred Powers, namesake of Powers Elementary School.
“I’m obsessed with that Fred Powers era right now,” he said, showing off the hand-bells the longtime principal used for years to call children in from recess. The relics are on display at Steele High School, where Marty is an intervention specialist.
His wife, Emily, teaches social studies just down the hall. She is a fourth-generation Amherst educator.
Marty has recently started converting old Powers family home videos, which unbelievably date back as far as the 1930s. The footage shows a developing city.
“You see the people, the dress, the way they lived and it blows you away,” he said, playing black-and-white clips streaming on a tablet.
You can see that video and more, too, by visiting www.amherstk12.org and clicking the “Alumni” tab, where a link to historical curiosities can be found.
The archives include video of the Marching Comets band, Gallery of Success ceremonies, graduations, proms, Pop Shows, and more.
Inside the school, visitors can find artifacts of school days past exhibited in a case near the shared city-school television studio.
It holds chalkboard slates once used by Marion L. Steele, athletic letters, photos, and Fred Powers’ report cards from 1885 to 1896.
Soon it will also showcase a digital picture frame with a host of videos. Marty said the priceless footage creates a connection to the past for today’s students, though it’s hard to make them understand how rare such movies are.
“In 1961, you didn’t have an iPhone to take a video anytime you wanted,” he said. “They take video for granted… History can be a struggle for students but when they get a personal connection to it, you get that wow moment. You see a light go off in their minds.”
His concern now is preservation. Marty said he’s discovered long-shelved, dust-covered treasures inside the high school, and has also received donations from the public. Amherst can’t afford to lose those historical treasures, he said.
Anyone who wants to add to the collection can make donations by calling 440-988-1346, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, tweeting @HistoryAmherst, or sending correspondence to Marty’s care at Steele High School, 450 Washington St.
He’s willing to store sensitive records in a temperature-controlled space, digitize videos, or make copies of significant finds that owners just can’t part with.
Marty said he has no intention of replacing the Amherst Historical Society, where his father serves as president. He’s only seeking school-related items and has no hard feelings if they’re donated instead to the Society.
His quest has been officially endorsed by district leaders, who created a non-paid volunteer “historian” position at Marty’s request.
The next step will be a big one. With the blessing of principal Debbie Waller and superintendent Steven Sayers, Marty plans to hunt down time capsules buried by children through the decades under the Powers Elementary lawn.
“I’m going to get myself a metal detector and go searching,” he said.
If they can be safely recovered, there will be time capsule-opening events.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Russ Marty shows off relics from the Amherst Schools’ past that he’s collected and placed in a dispay case at Steele High.