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Manor bell could get new life in Hempfield School District

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Penn Trafford Star Manor Bank employees, Becky Prizner, Debbie Coffen and Phyllis Henfell, with the Manor School Bell outside the entrance to the bank on Race Street.

The old Manor Elementary School bell might be coming out of retirement.

Nearly a quarter-century after the Hempfield Area School District closed the school, district officials have revived their desire to install the 1901 cast-iron bell as a showpiece on the high school campus. The idea stems from discussion in the high school's Project 18 government class about ways to generate school spirit, Hempfield school board President Sonya Brajdic said.

District officials are in the midst of ironing out the details with Manor Council members, who are receptive to the proposal despite the fact that school officials had abandoned a previous plan to feature the bell as part of a memorial on the high school grounds. The new plan calls for a regularly reviewed agreement in which the school district may use the bell, but Manor would retain ownership.

Since the early 2000s, the bell has rested on a piece of concrete in a flower bed in front of Manor Bank on Race Street in the borough.

“I think it's just a great conversation piece and a great part of the history in the district,” Brajdic said.

Hempfield Area initially kept the bell despite selling the school in 1992, two years after district officials shut the building. At the time, Hempfield officials said they were planning a $90,000 project, with the bell from the American Bell Foundry in Northville, Mich., as the centerpiece for a small park.

As those plans went dormant by the late 1990s, Manor officials stepped in to retrieve the bell from storage at the high school in 2000, said Jerry Nedley a former Manor councilman.

Manor officials then talked about putting a plaque by the bell to commemorate its place in borough history, but that plan never happened.

“I went through a lot to get that thing, and I wouldn't like to give it up from the town,” said Nedley, 78. “We still have some old people that are really fond of having the bell there.”

But sitting council members view Hempfield's request as a nice gesture – as long as Manor preserves ownership of the bell, council President Dawn Lynn said.

“We are glad to see that it's going to be used in a positive manner,” she said.

An old bell carries significance for students in the other school district that includes part of Manor, too.

The Penn-Trafford School District has an annual “battle for the bell” with Gateway School District that honors the old rivalry between the Trafford and Pitcairn high school football teams. The winner of that football game gets to display a bell that once was on a Pennsylvania Railroad steam engine.

Hempfield officials still are determining what to do with the bell. It might be rung at sporting events or special occasions, including graduation, Brajdic said.

District officials have no problem with Manor's wish to keep the bell if the school stops using it, she said.

“If we take it down, and it gets put in the cupboard somewhere, then someone should have an opportunity to use it.”

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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