Schools — October Memoir Challenge
This is my fourteenth post, for age 14, of the October Memoir and Backstory Challenge hosted by Jane Anne McLachlan. My previous posts: Baby Speed Eater, Two Tales, Curls, Most Magical Christmas, Kindergarten, Places, Mental Health in 1969, The Boxcar Children, The Little House Books, Too Thin, Four Square, Curls: Take Two, and Scouting.
I thought about writing about schools earlier in the memoir challenge, but I didn’t have photos to illustrate. Then, I ended up going to my hometown of Louisiana, Missouri on Friday for the first time in six years (more photos and the story behind that in yesterday’s post, A River Town — Saturday Snapshots). So, I took pictures of the schools to use in a memoir post. Since I started High School at age 14, this seems like a good day to cover the school system in Louisiana as I experienced it from 1968 to 1980.
We moved to Louisiana in November of the year I was in 1st Grade. The Primary School for Kindergarten through Grade 2 was brand new–built in “pods” using the latest architecture and teaching constructs. You can still see the pods in the roof lines.
At the time we were there, the small center part of each pod housed the bathrooms and other utilities, the outer rings were completely open. In second grade, for example, I was in a class of about forty students taught by two team teachers. The other sixty second graders were on the other side of the bathrooms being taught by three team teachers. There were no walls — that’s a hundred students and five teachers in one large open space.
Yeah. Our class, the first 1st graders, and the classes behind us were known as the “pod children.” We had a reputation right through high school of lack of discipline and short attention spans. I heard that eventually they built walls in the pods to make separate classrooms.
Now, the sign in front of the school says Elementary School, so I’m guessing that they have put some more grades in there. Louisiana has a smaller population than when I lived there and, I suspect, an older one, so fewer students.
For third and fourth grade, we went to Meriwether School. Since we learned about Lewis and Clark about the same time, I always assumed the school was named after Meriwether Lewis, but that, just now, struck me as unlikely — it would be named the Lewis School, wouldn’t it? So, I wonder who Mr. or Mrs. Meriwether was to have a school named after them.
Anyway, here’s the school as it is today. It appears to be used for storage and bus parking.
The two story section on the left was the cafeteria for both Meriwether and the Middle School where we went for the next four grades. The two buildings are close enough to walk between the two — pleasant on good weather days, misery when it snowed or rained.
For the first time, yesterday, I realized the significance that there was never a cafeteria in the Middle School. It must have been built so long ago that lunch programs didn’t exist yet. What an interesting transition in the schools of America when the expectation went from everyone bringing food from home to food preparation and service in the schools. For our school district, the solution was a cafeteria in a newer building that served meals to six grades in two buildings.
Here’s the back side of the Middle School — this was a very familiar view to students since it’s where the buses let us off and it was the path to and from Meriwether for the lunch room. The gymnasium is on the right, part of a newer annex. The library was on the third floor of the left part of the building.
Below is the front door of the oldest part of the old Middle School. When I was there, the fifth and sixth grades classrooms were to the right of this door. The “For Sale” sign would have seemed funny to us then, but it’s kind of sad now. Someone tried to turn the old Middle School into art studios, but they never really made a go of it. It would make a groovy bed and breakfast if the chalkboards, cloak rooms, and woodwork are still intact, but I’m sure it would be an expensive proposition to fix it up that way and there’s not enough tourism in Louisiana to justify it.
All those white boards cover windows. At some point, they must have decided to sacrifice light to reduce energy costs.
The Junior High entrance was here by the office and the gym. We had lockers in this part of the school and changed classes — a big difference from the 5th and 6th grade experience even though we were all in the same building.
We never called this the Annex, even though that’s what it said above the door. We did know a little about R.R. Rowley though — a former science teacher. His fossil collection is embedded in the wall surrounding the Rowley cemetery plot at Riverview Cemetery. You can still see it today.
The High School looks so different now with new additions that I don’t recognize much except the low roof line and the color of the bricks. The signs outside say High School and Middle School, so there are more grades here than when I attended.
The view in the other direction was more familiar. Every year during my high school math classes, I watched the autumn change of colors on that hill — displaying the attentiveness of a pod child.
Circle Center was our newly built pod-based school. It wasn’t quite as open as what you are describing. It was as if they were trying to implement Montessori architecture without understanding the philosophy. First grade at the old elementary school didn’t have an on-site cafeteria. The head lunch lady cooked our meal at her home and brought it down to us. The. Best. School. Lunch. Ever. Of course, that would violate every rule and statute in the book now.
If I am not mistaken, the strip mall pictured was built in 1977, the year I started high school. It contained a Wal-Mart, which I had never heard of until then. Our family shopped a lot in St. Louis and I knew a lot of store chains but not that one. Over the next four years, many small stores downtown closed.
By reading facebook I learned a year or two ago that the WalMart had closed, and a new one opened in Bowling Green 11 miles away. People seemed to be grieving its loss the way we grieved the home owned little businesses all those years ago. Just a week or two ago I learned that the Kroger, pictured, is closing as well.
This was interesting. Luckily the “pod” concept hit Canada after my schooling and before my kids entered school. In fact, my kids went to a school that had been built in pods but had walls added later – years before they arrived.
Several years ago, on a visit to my brother, who still lives i the town I grew up in, he drove me around town to see the “old sights” from our youth. When he drove us past the site of my old high school, I was SHOCKED to learn it had been torn down and town houses built there.
Now, high school was a miserable time for me, as you’ll learn in my next post, but still, it was horrible to see those years eradicated. It still hurts to think of it, for no good reason I can decipher.
I love those old brick schools. My elementary school had a courtyard in the middle surrounded by hallways to classrooms, the principal’s office, a library, and bathrooms. I loved that school. It was such a sad day when they tore it down to build a retirement community.
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No pods for me in elementary school but we did have an annex and that’s where the first and second graders were.
At third grade we moved into the main school located on the opposite side of the cafeteria.
Since we lived on the coast, the school was also a hurricane evacuation center. When we had a hurricane, we often had to go there and spend the night. My father adamently refused to go in the school to spend the night, he stayed outside in the car!!!
Living in Willoughby, which was a little peninsula sticking out into the water of the Chesapeake, it always flooded. Twice we were evacuated by US Army ducks. ( A 6 wheeled amphibious truck that could travel on land as a truck or in the water as a boat) How exciting!
That does sound exciting for a kid! Maybe a bit scary for the adults.
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