After yesterday's excitement of learning about the ambitious restoration of what I call the old junior high, what others call the high school, what some call the Ninth Grade Center and what even others remember as their Sixth-grade Center, I paid a visit.
There's a fence around the front of the building, suggesting that the public ought to stay away while construction workers throw debris from the third story to the ground below. The work on the front-face windows continues. Seeing this, I drove around to the Pine Street Annex and parked. I figured the contractor must have an office inside where I hoped to meet him for that big promised hug and thanks. I also brought a Pocket Girdles book along, just in case.
Walking down the hallway of the old junior high annex for the first time in years, I saw unfamiliar business names on the roster. My first impression was that I've hardly kept up with the professional and business additions to my home town. At the end of the hall in the same area where a very young and handsome Jack Bloxom (retired NIC baseball coach) taught us eighth-grade history, there's a financial services office.
Rather than going on a wild goose chase through the building, I decided to walk in and ask about the contractor's whereabouts. I waited a minute before Kevin Younger walked from his desk and told me that Brad Scott operates out of his home but can usually be found on the site. Kevin encouraged me to go ahead and look for him by going through the back door into the old gym. I reassured Kevin I could always apologize for my stupidity if someone discovered me there and ordered me out.
Off I went into the past. Well, it didn't look exactly like the past because there's lots of equipment and debris sitting around the gym area, but that famous running track that circled the above us in the bleachers as we ate our sack lunches by day and hoped a lot by night at the Friday-night dances----it remains intact. I walked across the layer of floor boards lying beneath the once-spit-shined surface where prospective athletic stars like Smoky Chubb and Mike Parkins dazzled us teens with their basketball savvy.
A tinge of guilt caused me to tiptoe quietly and carefully across the gym, past the boiler room, then past Betty Cross's health classroom and up the small set of stairs toward the lobby where so many students entered the school each morning and headed up or down for their first-period classes. Like a deer snooping in an off-limits garden, I chose each step carefully, surveying my surroundings as I walked up those same stairs where Charlie Stidwell stood each morning for belt and short-skirt checks.
Again, I had to step around debris while walking down the hallway by the office where Mrs. Keiski read the Bible every morning. Then, there was Room 14 at the end of the hall. In that infamous room Miriam Buck shared her algebra papers with a large group of us nearly every morning. Many of us just didn't get algebra.
Our teacher scared the beejeebers out of us, and we knew we dare not show up to class without a completed assignment. Miriam was smart. She got algebra, and she was generous with her assignments. I'd venture to say that many of us would never have passed algebra, had it not been for Miriam. Sadly, she died a few years after we graduated from high school, so we never really got to tell her how much we appreciated her generosity with those papers. We were too desperate as ninth graders to think of such things.
I could hear men's voices around the corner from Room 14, but upon turning, I saw no one. I wheeled around, worried that some construction worker would appear out of nowhere and yell at me to get out of the building. But, as I returned around the corner, the hallway remained empty. I chuckled to myself that getting yelled at for an indiscretion would seem perfectly normal in this setting. That had happened a time or two before.
I retraced my steps and soon decided it was probably best to get out of here. Besides, I'd gotten a view of the old building for the first time in more than 25 years. That was probably more than most people could brag. Back down the stairs, I again passed Betty Cross's health room where she always kept that creepy skeleton which helped us learn anatomy. The skeleton's gone but not the blackboard.
"Aha," I thought. "Maybe I can get permission to come down here and use the blackboard for an idea I have for my Lessons with Love book cover. The trip had not been in vain, even though I hadn't met the owner.
As I stepped back into the gym, I felt one last urge to walk over toward the lunchroom and then into the hallway near that God-awful girls' locker room where the herd of us awkward, hopelessly modest 14-year-olds had to strip naked and take a shower every day after P.E. That dingy place always gave me the creeps because it reminded me too much of the showers where Germans exterminated Jews during World War II.
As I neared the infamous locker room across the hall from Priscilla Judge's English classroom, a tall young man walked down the stairs toward me. He looked harmless enough and didn't seem too concerned of my presence. I introduced myself and learned that his father is the contractor. Having thought about that building and its restoration all day, the adrenalin of the moment rendered me nearly speechless. I had so much to say to him that it was hard to know where to start.
I think he got the message that I was excited about the upcoming revival of my old school. He walked with me to the car where I gave him a copy of Pocket Girdles and asked him to encourage his father to read the title chapter and "The Nuts and Bolts of Junior High Choir." I even pointed out and explained to him the importance of the Whatnot Shop. He'd never heard of the place.
Matt Scott seemed genuinely pleased with my visit and told me to come back and look around any time. By all means, he said, feel free to use the blackboards. I'll take him up on that offer, and when I do, I'll carry along a copy of our alumni Cedar Post with Kyle Delamarter's wonderful story of our junior high principal Charlie Stidwell. Maybe his dad will get some ideas for naming that restored auditorium or the gym-floor banquet room.
I love taking visits to yesterday, but yesterday's journey through that grand old school was superb.