Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kickin’ it old school

This morning, I had a doctor's appointment, a routine checkup. Everything went very well, and when we were done, my doctor said, "You're perfect!" She's too kind. Have I mentioned I love my doctor? I'll head up to my former lab soon for some bloodwork, but she said everything looks good, and that she can't yell at me for anything. It was a very good visit.

Lakeville HS My doctor's office is in the same building where I went to elementary school. I've always meant to stop in and look at the rest of the building that is open, and today was my opportunity. I wish I'd had my camera with me, but got an enthusiastic okay to come back and take pictures, and I look forward to doing that.

The building was built in 1931 as Lakeville High School, but by the time I got there in second grade (around 1969), the new high school had been built, and this building became Lakeville Elementary. They had added onto the old building by the time I got there, and in grades 2-4, I was in the newer part. The fifth and sixth grade classrooms were in the old part. A few years ago, they built a new elementary school by the (newer) high school, so Lakeville Elementary stopped operating as a school. Happily, it was not torn down, continuing as the Newton Center, and includes a couple of offices (like my doctors'), and an auditorium where small productions are held. It operated as a library branch for a while, but that moved out recently when a new branch was built. It is used as a banquet and reception hall, as well as a meeting place. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

It was the spookiest feeling when I walked through those doors. The main office is right by the entrance, and when it was a school, it was the principal's office. I explained that I went there in grade school, and wondered if I could have a look around. The director said "Sure!" and one of the workers there, Jan, even took me around and unlocked different rooms for me and showed me around. She went there, too, but was a few years behind me. She thought my face looked familiar, but we didn't recognize each others' names. Jan said the building is very well-built and structurally sound, so I hope it will be there for years to come. It's been so long since I've been there, and there has been so much renovation, that it was hard to remember what was what. Jan filled in some gaps for me...she showed me their new, modern kitchen, and said, "And next door here, some people have told me that this was the dining room, but I don't remember eating in here." I said, "No, we ate in the gym." She agreed, and said, "I think I remember going through the cafeteria line here, and then we'd go across the hall and eat in the gym."

Old classroom She remembered the fifth and sixth grade teachers (I had Mr. Barger for fifth and Mrs. Keel for sixth), although we couldn't remember which rooms were whose. I'm pretty sure I remember where the school's library was, on the second floor by the stairs. Although all of these rooms have been remodeled, most retain the brick walls, at least partway up. The original, heavy wood doors are still there, with the transoms above. The same tile floor is in place, with the stairs worn just the way I remember them, from thousands of passages of small feet. Some of the lockers are still in place, and I still remember the general location of mine.

The gym is now the theater, because it did triple duty even when I was there. There was the basketball floor with the bleachers on the sides (the bleachers have been removed); they set long tables up for the lunch hour; and the stage was also there. Jan even took me up onstage, and I said, "I'm sure this is the original floor." (Wood slats about two inches wide.) I wasn't into getting parts in school plays (I was usually the prompter, because I had such a quiet voice...a nice way to let even untalented kids take part!), but I took part in a few chorus productions. I seem to recall being one of the nine ladies dancing for a Christmas production. Haha! She took me down into the basement, which I don't ever recall being in before, and that's where they have dressing rooms and lounge areas set up for actors. Very nice!

They have some display windows where some of the lockers used to be, and most of the items within come from when it was Lakeville High School. I saw several names there of the parents of some of my classmates.

Blackboard It brought back such a feeling of nostalgia that it was almost mind-boggling. Not that I want to be that age again--I was painfully shy, and although I have many fond memories from that time, I'm happy with where I'm at and with the person I've become. It's not a matter of wanting to be back in that's walking those hallways that I walked 40 years ago; seeing the paned windows of Mr. Cox's office (the principal...he was an elderly gentleman, as kind as could be, and took me under his wing because he was also my Dad's principal for a few years); remembering my brief sojourn as a fourth-grade cheerleader (I was terrible), doing cartwheels in front of where the bleachers used to be; queuing up in the brick-lined hallway for a fire drill or a walk to the auditorium; hearing the remembered squeak of tennis shoes on the basketball court; the echoes of young voices in the high-ceilinged rooms, especially during the exuberant return from recess, and the slam of lockers; recalling the clamshell desks of younger grades and the larger ones once I was an "upperclassman"; the smell of chalk dust and the feeling of a job well done when it was my turn to wipe down the chalkboard and see it clean and ready for more math problems; the wooden floor of the small library, and the smiles of the two librarians when I would come in, because they knew I loved to read--even letting me pick out books for them to order.

I don't want to be that little girl again, but I was happy to remember her five years at the school, and I couldn't help but wonder if I'd left a little of my psychic energy there over those five years. Do some of the echoes of young voices from years gone by contain my voice--as quiet as it was?


  1. The past is to be respected and the future looked forward to as indeed you do.

  2. i dream of working in a school that left that kind of impression on a child.


  3. Smiling, almost laughing, at the thought of you in the chorus and as a cheerleader - those are so not you now :o)

  4. Beth, that was a beautiful, heartfelt piece. Going back to a place from your past can give you so much perspective. I like to think that echoes of who we are get left behind. I don't know if they necessarily influence anyone else, but certainly the lives you have touched during your life have done that.

  5. Awww... thanks for sharing! It sounds like you had a really nice childhood!

    be well...

  6. Glad you were pronounced healthy. What an emotional trip that must have been.

  7. Is the air raid siren still there?

  8. It is always amazing to me how the other senses can trigger our memories like they do. Sight, sound, smell, these things can trigger the memories to come back strong. thanks for sharing.

  9. Do you suppose that's everyone's dream, or just yours and mine? I've wanted for years to go back to my old elementary school and roam the halls. I particularly want to see if some of the places I remember actually existed. A couple of us used to go to this weird room in the basement and the janitor would give us treats and told us not to tell anyone else. I kind of doubt that would be allowed any more. The janitor would probably be in jail, in fact!

  10. hi beth....

    glad the doctor visit went well. and your account of walking the halls of lakeville elementary school was superb! i think i wrote you a while back about a similar experience i had when walking the halls of IUSB. it's amazing how you can be jolted back in time by going into a building you haven't been in in many years. it's not simply a nostalgia trip, it really does make you think about who you were and who you've become. fascinating!

    hmmm, i don't think i recall you being a cheerleader! i agree with ken....that is totally not you! :)



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