It was not a remarkable building. It was like other school buildings that were built in the 30’s and 40’s; lots of red bricks and tall windows, dimly lit wide hallways, institutional colors of paint on the walls, tile floors. It was sturdy and meant to last forever despite the wear and tear of thousands of rambunctious kids, muddy boots, indoor recesses, and community events.
When the old school opened in 1939, it was the first time this many children had been in one location. They came from one room schools scattered about the county. This modern, state of the art building became the focal point of the community. It wasn’t just a place that opened at eight o’clock and closed at three. It played host to Farm Bureau events, Grange contests, dances and sock hops, 4H fashion shows and judgings, Board of Education meetings, school musicals and operettas, penny suppers, spaghetti dinners, art shows, science fairs, traveling storytellers, acting troupes, school carnivals, and basketball, wrestling, and other sports practices and games. It was where childhood sweethearts met, kisses were stolen, notes were written, and best friends were discovered. There were scores of eighth grade graduations and spelling bees, pie auctions, cake walks and PTA meetings.
The old school was alive with the lives of the community and it belonged to everyone. It was the community.
When I began teaching at the school, it had already been through a midlife crisis. A “new addition” had been added to the east end of the building and it was no longer the “country” school… it had been absorbed into the city school system.
It was the beginning of my career. It’s where I jumped in head first, ready to swim or sink. It’s where all the college methods courses got tossed out the window and where I made friendships that lasted a lifetime. It was where I learned to teach.
A week or so ago, the old school came tumbling down. It was a victim of progress, a change for the better, time to move on. The children and teachers had already moved into a modern, state of the art building. Once again it was the first time this many children had been in one location. This time they came from several elementary schools scattered about the city. It’s doubtful that this new building will serve the same purpose as the old building. It will be a place of learning, but not a community focal point as schools were in the past.
A small pile of bricks still waits for those who want a piece of local history to cherish. The playground equipment will be gone eventually and a green space will appear, with hopes of new businesses or developments moving in and taking over the site.
But it will be a long time until the memories of the old school are gone.