Walking The Halls by William Klein

My old high school is about to be torn down, and I’m conflicted about it. I see that things need to change and supported the decision. It is not as cost effective as it was when it was first built. I believe it costs a million dollars a year to keep the lights on, maybe more. I get the idea of “out with the old and in with the new” but the sentimentalist in me has a hard time saying goodbye to the old place.

The plan is to tear down the school, move the students to two other schools, pass a levy and build a state-of-the-art school there. I don’t see that happening anytime soon, as they can’t seem to pass a levy in this town. No wonder when I asked a few former teachers who benefited from the system and refuse to vote for it themselves. I still can’t figure out their reasoning when considering the levies that passed in support of them being teachers benefited the system tremendously.

They didn’t teach my generation that property values are connected to a strong education system. During my years, I remember when they were talking about sports programs and extra curriculars were threatened to be cut and how outraged we were as students. As conservative parents, the extra cents out of the pocket doesn’t make a lot of sense these days; yet, we wonder why more kids are expressing their angst and fighting the system with their outrage. It may be because they don’t see a lot of investment in their futures.

As I drive through the old parking lot, I pass the vocational wing that housed the auto body shop, the print shop, the photoshop, the special education wing and additional facilities. The vocational classes helped my classmates find jobs and lined their pockets pretty well. In those days people could get jobs coming out of high school and work at the Ford, Chevy plants or LTV Steel or other factories and tool and die shops. My sister who took a typing class there and became a secretarial aid and only had two years of college is making more money than those of us who attended four years of college and had post graduate education.

My old school is a part of the landscape that calls me back to a scene my parents viewed. Every time we lose a landmark, a part of history is wiped away. The belltower at the front of the school, the classic Georgian architecture standing side by side with the bland Bauhaus white block outside make it look like a potpourri of confusion.

In the wintertime they open the doors so seniors can walk the halls and get their steps and exercise away from the elements. On the weekends, the pool is open for a small fee.

The green cinder block that serves as the walls have stories. The dark green, brown and gray terrazzo flooring and geometric stenciled floors have seen many a bugger flicked, many a vomitus regurgitation, many a defeated lumbering soul and many a triumphant leaping victor and still retains an unblemished and crackless foundation. The old craftsmanship stands the tests of time.

I saw the old bank of pay phones where kids were called to the carpet for being out of class and making “unnecessary calls.” It makes me smile when I consider students can do that right from their desks today and do. Every corner had an experience.

No great revelations have come to me while walking the halls. No epiphanies like how being thrown into a locker as a freshman made me the man I am today. Although the trauma of being called a “moldy” in junior high was real in 7th grade when kids looked to foam you on the last day of school because of your grade status — that may have established a stigma that is hard to shake. Such is the primal mind.

I remember someone placing a french fry on the ledge in a cafeteria in junior high to see how long it would be there before the place was cleaned. The fry remained in its pristine saturated fat state for quite a while and may have even grown some legs into the next year in junior high.

My mother used to say, it’s not the place that matters, it’s the people in the place that make it a home. True and well said. Let’s hope those same people in my town are willing to give a new place a new chance for our kids, so they can have a home to make memories of their own.

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