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Former custodian remembers decades of work at Kennedy

5/10/2012

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Alfred Geist did it all in his 60 years while working at Kennedy Middle School.

Everything from shaking hands with future president John F. Kennedy to seeing his nine children and 19 grandchildren all graduate from the school.

Geist often would get to see his kids while they were in school. He also found out right away if they got in trouble.

"They always said, 'We can't do a thing here at school which might not be quite right, that you didn't know before the day was over,' " Geist said with a grin.

Geist, 82, also has six great-grandchildren, and one of them is an eighth-grader who will graduate in Kennedy's final class Friday night. Kennedy will close after this school year.

It all started June 1, 1950, Geist's first day of work as a custodian at the school. The priest who married Geist said there would be an opening, and he got the job.

In 1970, Geist started working in maintenance at the school.

"There was always something wrong somewhere," he said.

Geist got to know the students during his years; he knew especially well the students who had to stay after school. They were at their desks while he cleaned around them, and Geist got to know their names.

Whether they were held after school or not, Geist knew them all.

"We had so many good kids," Geist said.

Geist's children played sports, and that's one thing he misses in retirement -- the games. He at times would keep score at games while he worked at the school.

"I missed the sports," he said. "They were all in sports."

One of Geist's duties was to help prepare for Kennedy's visit to Hays in 1959. There was a banquet for 640 people in the school's gym.

"We had to close the building down," Geist said. "They were in the gym; that was capacity.

"I got to shake hands with Kennedy. After the program was over, he stood up front of the stage" to shake hands.

The school changed its name from Jefferson West to Kennedy in the late 1960s.

"Kennedy school has quite a good history," Geist said.

Geist's preference was to keep the school open.

"Big mistake, honestly and truly," he said. "Should never happen; should stay as was."

Geist retired at the end of June 2010. He did it quietly, with no fanfare -- just the way he wanted it.

"I didn't want it very much known," he said. "I kept it pretty quiet; I got scolded.

"I didn't want to make a big deal of it."

Geist had other job opportunities in his 60 years at the school. One of the reasons he stayed was because the school allowed him time to take off in the summer to harvest his wheat crop.

In retirement, Geist still has his farm. He also has fond memories of his 60 years at Kennedy.

"They were good years," he said. "I got to know a lot of good people."