Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Photo Essay Part Two

The big excitement of my trip home came on Saturday, the day of the Elm River Township School 100th Anniversary Celebration. Huzzah!
My sister and her family came for it and camped out in my mom and dad's yard overnight. Here we see my nephews Jeremy, left, and Jacob, right, getting the tent set up.
The reason they camped out overnight was that we were having a family dinner on Sunday, so it saved them a trip, as they live about 30 miles away. Of course, back there we actually measure distance with distance, not time. A 30 mile drive will, typically, take about 30 minutes in that neck of the woods, rather than the 1 hour+ it would likely take out here.

Here we see the front of the school. When I went there over 20 years ago it had this shitty green asphalt (I think) siding that was rotting and falling off. That it has the nice, white vinyl siding is thanks to my mother's efforts as the President of the School Board.

(In crotchety old voice) Back in my day, the school was K-8 and was divided into two rooms, the Little Room and the Big Room. The Little Room accommodated K-4, while the Big Room was for 5-8. There was one teacher for each room, and the teacher in the Big Room was also the Principal.
Now the school is only K-6 and has only one teacher. The Big Room is now a computer lab, and all grades are taught in this, the Little Room, which could now be called the SpongeBob Room.
I didn't take any pictures of the Big Room because...I just didn't. I also didn't take any pictures of the office, which was where the Kindergarteners spent most of their days being taught by the teacher's aide. When I was in the office on Saturday I noticed that they still have the old mimeograph machine, though there's also laser printers and copiers. While the new equipment is more efficient, nothing can replace the mimeograph smell, which, sadly, most kids these days will never encounter.

These are what were known as "The Booths." They're just outside the Big Room and their purpose was to give students a quiet place when necessary, which was fairly often given that four different grades were sharing the same space. They were also used for students taking Iowa tests and various other assessment and aptitude tests. My dad built these, which is why I took a picture of them.

The drinking fountain is located in the hallway roughly equidistant from the Big and Little Rooms. I'm standing in the area where we used to hang our coats. Circled are my sister Kim, left, and my mother, right.

Just as the school had been K-8 before dropping down to K-6, it had once actually been K-12. The high school section was up the stairs that can be seen in the drinking fountain picture. Circled above is my dad, who went all the way through the school from Kindergarten to 12th grade, pictured with his graduating class. He likes to brag and say that he graduated fifth in his class. Note that the sixth person pictured at the bottom is the Superintendent, and not part of the graduating class...

This is the Music Room, where we...well, I'm not sure what the hell we did here. Sometimes we did yoga, sometimes we did what could only be described as interpretive dance...the music teacher (who was also the art teacher) was sort of bohemian...but in a provincial Midwestern kind of way.
In any case, the main thing we did in the room was put on programs at Christmas and in the spring (the spring program also serving as the graduation ceremonies for Kindergarten and 8th grade). Paricipation in the programs was, by necessity, mandatory, so many times in the course of my 9 years here I could be found, along with everyone else, standing up there singing and dancing and acting. When I was young, I loved it. As I got older and weirder and became the target for abuse from pretty much everyone in the school, I became a lot more cynical and withdrawn and did everything I could to not draw attention to myself, so by the end I really hated performing in the fucking Christmas and Spring programs.
In the 8th grade we had a different music teacher who wrote a program called "Americana" that we performed in the spring. It was the biggest cheesefest I ever had the misfortune to be involved with.
As summer rolled around there were rumors about the music teacher wanting us to perform "Americana" for the VFW or something. Everyone said, "There's no way. I won't do it."
At least that's what they said to each other, with their chests puffed out, but when they were actually asked to do it they folded like...like something that folds really easily and quickly.
I suppose I can't really blame them. After all, most of them still had to go back in the fall, whereas I was out and off to high school (which was 20 miles away, btw). Beyond that, they were getting a lot of pressure from their parents, whereas I was getting support from mine.
In any case, everyone involved agreed to the command performance, except for one holdout.
As much as those bastards didn't want to do it, and as much as they were too wimpy to take a stand, never once did I get a thank you for being the one to stand up and say, "No, I don't want to do this, and you can't make me."
In fact, I got bitched at by them for not going along, even though not a single one of them actually wanted to put on the performance. Ungrateful punks.

It's not set up for service in this picture, but this was the lunch room. Basically it was just a big kitchen. We had a single cook who essentially made home-cooked meals for us, since, at most, there were usually only about 20 of us total, which is the size of some families in that neck of the woods. Actually, I should leave out the "neck" part and just call it "the woods."
Anyway, as was pointed out at the reunion dinner that night by a former principal, we used to actually say grace before eating.
Separation of Church and What?

I noticed while I was there that the exact same playground equipment that was there when I was a student is still there.
Here we see Jacob being a monkey on the monkey bars.
And speaking of playground equipment...

...the whole time I went to the school no one was ever able to figure out WTF this thing was for. I always suspected that it was part of something else and that the other parts were missing, but that doesn't really help any. It consists of rims that are large enough to allow a basketball through joined together, but we never had any idea what the point of it was. Are you just supposed to throw the ball through? Are you supposed to try to get it to go through a specific rim? WTF? A few of us were talking about this at the reunion and I decided that I would put this out there in the hopes that someone would know what it's for. Anyone?
(Someone pointed out that we used to climb it, but I pointed out that we used to climb everything)

If I could put time in a bottle (or in this case, a PVC pipe), the first thing that I'd like to do...is figure out where I buried the damn thing.
In 1987 the students buried a time capsule, which the reunion comittee decided to dig up for the occasion.
They had a map that told them how to find the capsule. The only problem was that the map relied on landmarks that no longer exist.
So it took them a while to find it.
Pictured here are some of the students who put stuff in it (it was all pretty boring stuff: newspaper clippings, various pins and buttons, letters to the future, and some toys), along with the two people who had been teachers at the time.
Mrs. Lickman, the woman in the blue dress, taught the Little Room. She's retired now, and actually spent her entire career teaching at the school. Behind her is Mr. Morehouse, who took over as Principal in 1985, when I was about halfway through 7th grade.
If I could be said to have a Robin Williams in Dead Poet Society sort of figure in my life, which I'm not really sure I can, Mr. Morehouse would be it. He was funny, liked science fiction, treated me like an equal, and had respect for my intelligence. I could have used him a few years earlier. By the time he came along, too much damage had already been done.
Oh, and the bald guy holding the capsule is actually two years younger than I am, which makes me feel much, much better about my gray hair, because, gray or not, at least it's there.
Damn, this photo essay is going to take a bunch of posts to complete...


Merlin T Wizard said...

The best I can figure, that's a funball thingie. Maybe it's a backwoods, cheapass version. The ones we had growing up were close to what they're selling here:


I don't think I ever saw anyone play with those things, though.

Heimdall said...

"Funball," huh? Hmm...it seems to me that a more apt name would be "The Exact Opposite of Fun" ball.
Like I said, we climbed on it. Every so often someone would throw a ball through it just for the sheer hell of it.

Sharon said...

Om my God!! I so remember the mimeograph paper smell! Wow...what a walk down memerory lane for you, Jon! I'm catching up and I'm really enjoying your "photo essay". Thanks for sharing!