Friday, June 3, 2011

Razing a School Raises Emotions

Last Tuesday, on a very cold spring day, the wrecking crew began the long task of demolishing our elementary school.  A subject that has, from the start, created a lot of angst and discontent among the people of my small town, the razing of our town's began a whole new wave of bitter and sweet emotions and sent them rippling through town.  I  don't have that deep attachment that generations here do, I didn't go to school there but my kids did.

I went to school in Michigan, and, a few years ago, my school was torn down and a new one built in it's place.  So, I understand the emotions people are feeling.  When my old school was being razed, the school took every step they could in letting alumni know of the impending tear down.  In particular, there were tiles that we made in art class that had been used to line the pond in one of the many courtyards and along the walls to the gym/cafeteria.  We made those tiles sometime during the 1970/72 school years (I think - Mr. DeBernardi was the teacher then before Mr. Melton) and they were ceremoniously laid in the small duck pond in the courtyard next to the cafeteria.  The same courtyard where one year Miss Green's class (That would be Mean Miss Green - not the other Miss Greene) built an authentic Navajo hogan out of sticks and mud, creating a life size diorama of Native American Life in Arizona right there in Michigan.  That hogan stood for well over a year, throughout a Michigan winter before finally being removed to make room some other class project.

My school had three playgrounds.  The 4-6th grade playground that sat at the top of the hill that lead down to a private pond.  The one where Some 6th graders hid at the bottom and caused a huge stir among the rest of us who wondered what they were up to (I won't name names but Nancy Crites and Carol Williams MIGHT want to ask their spouses about it).  The 1-3rd grade playground where the kickball field was and the kindergarten playground that had the big cheese, a set of concrete cylinders painted yellow with holes in them looked like a yellow cheese castle.  But I digress.

I was in Michigan on the last day of school and stopped into the school office to see if my tile was still available.  The whole of the student body was in assembly so I was allowed to wonder the halls to see if I could find my tile.  And this is what I did.

I headed straight for my kindergarten room.  I walked over to the chalk board that was still located at the far end of the room.  I picked up a piece of chalk and wrote on the board:

1966/67 Mrs. Collins room.  Afternoon kids were the smartest class to ever come through Harlan.

Then I headed to the first grade hall where I went to my old room.  I walked straight to the board and wrote:

1967/68 Mrs. Carlin's Class - Learned to read with Dick and Jane.  Still like Sally the best.

and it went on:

1968/69 Mrs. Bobicz (Miss Cowan) used to put masking tape on Tommy Barbay and Julie Sakuta's mouths to keep them from talking all the time.

1969/70 Mrs. Rop (married to the tall, scary, Assistant Principal who never smiled)'s class - Eric Freeburg married Jody Laurie on the playground, complete with bridesmaids, groomsmen and kleenex flowers.

1970/71 Mrs. Knight's class.  We spent our free time playing the Partridge Family LP, singing "I Think I Love You" over and over.  Poor Connie Austin always had to pretend to be Keith Partridge.

1971/72 Mrs. Mellon's class - What can I say?  Her hand lotion was greasy and it stunk. Thanks goodness I had my best friend Karen to get me through.

1972/73 Mrs. Black's class - Brian Young really did steal my (and Karen's) shoes, tie them in impossible knots to the top of the jungle gym and spit in them as we were being called back in to class.  We never "narc'd" either.  Why?  Because we secretly liked it.

I didn't find my tile that day but I had a great time walking down memory lane and leaving the current teachers those notes on their boards.  So, I really do understand the melancholy people are feeling here.  They can tear down the building but they can't take away your memories.

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