Alumni of Westwood's First Pine Hill School Join Community's Farewell to Hanlon School (Updated)


Photo courtesy of Paul Fallavollita. Alumni of the former Pine Hill School, later renamed the Paul R. Hanlon School, sit at the school's elementary student desks as adults. Pictured are (L-R) Paul Fallavollita, Matt Buckley, and Bill Cannata.

Westwood has come full circle, with community members saying farewell on Saturday, March 2nd to the Paul R. Hanlon School at 790 Gay Street, formerly called the Pine Hill School, to make way for a new, consolidated school campus that bears a name with a familiar ring -- it’s also named Pine Hill School. The new Pine Hill School, named in a vote by its students, themselves, opened its doors to its new students on Tuesday, February 27th.

The closing of Westwood’s Hanlon School and Deerfield School and the consolidation of their student bodies and staff at the new Pine Hill campus represents a unification of past with present and future. At Saturday’s farewell event, PTO moms and their kids walked the halls of Hanlon School for the last time, joined in their farewells to the building by other former occupants – the alumni of the first Pine Hill school in Westwood, before it was renamed to the Paul R. Hanlon school in honor of one of Westwood’s most active residents.

Photo courtesy of Paul Fallavollita. The new Pine Hill School sits at the site of the Paul R. Hanlon School which in turn was renamed from Westwood's first Pine Hill School. The latter's existence is remembered in photos and report cards.

Whether coming to the walk-through with memories of Hanlon School or the first Pine Hill School, visitors said their goodbyes to the same building, cafeteria, gym, and classrooms where they had memories of being students - from kindergarten to grade 5 for Hanlon students, and from first through fifth grade for students of the first Pine Hill.

Paul Fallavollita, a Medway resident and member of Pine Hill Class of 1970, drove over with a friend to meet other former classmates there at 4:00 p.m., the start of the event. They didn’t leave until around 6:30 p.m., with just half an hour to go before its end.

They wandered the halls and classrooms, perusing a display of photo albums in the gymnasium and a slide show that was playing on a loop. Visitors were given a chance to leave their names on slips of paper and request photos from those albums. Mr. Fallavollita stumbled on photo of his brother, five years his senior, holding a fifth grade class picture sign. Finding his brother’s fifth grade class photo especially tickled Mr. Fallavollita, as he himself was holder of the class sign in his own first grade class photo, one year later.

Photo courtesy of Paul Fallavollita. Westwood Minute interviewed Paul Fallavollita, Pine Hill Class of 1970, who is pictured here in first grade, holding his class sign.

As a child, Mr. Fallavollita walked to the first Pine Hill School from his home in Islington on Washington Street, where his mother still resides. He contrasts his impression of then to his impression of it as an adult.

“As a grammar school child, everything seemed big. But we were there, and everything seems small!” he remarks.

Regardless of size, however, the memories still flowed. Seeing the cafeteria brought back memories of buying two peanut butter cookies for just a few cents and 35 cent school lunches. Speaking with old classmates, “We remembered Ms. Ganderson. At Christmas, she got married and came back a Mrs. Perlmutter,” he recalls.

Photo courtesy of Paul Fallavollita. Seated in the center of the front row of this fifth grade Pine Hill class photo is Paul Fallavollita's older brother.

Mr. Fallavollita had heard that the Hanlon family, whose patriarch the Hanlon school was named after, was in attendance. A graduate of Westwood High School, Paul Hanlon was a member of the Board of Selectmen from 1976 to 1985, and also served on the Westwood Finance Committee. Mr. Hanlon’s children attended the first Pine Hill School, remembers Mr. Fallavollita. Mr. Hanlon’s daughter, Mildred, was Mr. Fallavollita’s classmate.

Mr. Fallavollita searched for Mildred at the walk-through. He found her sister, Sandy, who then pointed out Mildred. The ensuing conversation reminded him of post-elementary school memories as well. He was reminded of the time that Sandy, Mildred, Mr. Fallavollita, and another boy went to get ice cream at the location of the present Lamberts plaza. The other boy was driving without his license. While they were leaving, “The kid backed into someone,” he says, with amusement.

“Get together a group of people who share a similar experience and you get their points of view – it’s fun. You remember pieces of it, but it gets funny when it all comes together,” says Mr. Fallavollita. “It was a lot of fun, seeing people we grew up with, or have seen on and off over the years. I enjoyed it – the camaraderie,” said Mr. Fallavollita.

And what memory of elementary school is complete without a fire alarm? Mr. Fallavollita heard the school building’s fire alarm go off twice during his walk-through. Soon after, a Westwood Fire truck pulled up. Even that was an opportunity to reminisce. One of Mr. Fallavollita’s friends, a former classmate and retired Westwood firefighter, headed over to greet members of the emergency response team upon their arrival. (There was no fire hazard noted).

Photo by Westwood Minute/Darlene Wong Cancell.

Following the event, Mr. Fallavollita and his friends headed to Lewis’ in Norwood, to continue their storytelling over comfort food and drinks.

“A fun time was had by all,” he says. Hopefully this concluding comment is also one that will be shared by the new students of Pine Hill, when many years later, they recall their elementary school education in Westwood.

Thanks to Paul Fallavollita for sharing his story with Westwood Minute.

Updated 3/5/2024 at 6:41 p.m. A photo has been added along with minor edits.

You may also enjoy:

Public Tours of Pine Hill Elementary School (Calendar event)

Opening Day at Pine Hill Elementary: Hanlon & Deerfield Students, Staff Come Together

Westwood's New School to be Named "Pine Hill Elementary"

Westwood's Newest Elementary School Will Be Named By Its Students

Photo courtesy of Paul Fallavollita. In this fifth grade photo from 1970, Paul Fallavollita is pictured in the top row, second student from the left. Click left/right to scroll.
Photo courtesy of Paul Fallavollita. In this fourth grade photo from 1969, Paul Fallavollita is in the top row, farthest to the right. Click left/right to scroll.
Photo courtesy of Paul Fallavollita. In this third grade photo from 1968, Paul Fallavollita stands in the second row, on the left, wearing a cub scout uniform with yellow tie. Click left/right to scroll.
Photo courtesy of Paul Fallavollita. In this second grade photo from 1967, Paul Fallavollita is in the second row, in bow tie, second from the farthest right. Click left/right to scroll.
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