Saturday, 23 November 2013

This Old School

In roughly seven months....my old junior high school (Anderson, Bama) will shut down finally.

I attended there for nine years, and then passed onto another local school for the final three. The school's best years have come and gone.

It was the small school that tended to operate without any threats on the kids there. The teachers were typically level-headed (some exceptions). You got a four-star education in a small town atmosphere.

Anderson is a unique place. It's in the middle nowhere, where rural life meets up with rural expectations. Cursing wasn't allowed. Excitement could be achieved by discussing last night's episode of the Six-Million-Dollar Man. If anyone went off to the Smoky Mountains for the summer vacation....that was big time stuff to discuss. You wore five-dollar jeans from Sears, and Chuck Taylor tennis shoes that you bought for seven bucks (they are sixty to seventy now, and made in China).

As the 1920s came....the glorious era after WW I.....so came Ford and the vehicles. Farming reached a point where you made an actual income and had money left over at the end of the year. The town of Anderson survived off a couple of Mom and Pop shops, a church or two, and a sawmill. Along came the cotton gin, a real doctor, a theater, and Anderson started to boom in the 1920s and 1930s. Depression may have come to Anderson in some form after 1929, but it wasn't the same thing as you would have noticed in Chicago or New York. They made money in Anderson, and spent money in Anderson.

By the end of the 1930s.....the locals had deemed the necessity of putting up a real school....bricks and all.....like other towns in the area were achieving. Two families donated up property in what was "new" Anderson, and the county agreed to put up a five-room brick school with a gym.

It's safe to say in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.....the town was connected to the school. The Halloween carnival was a four-star affair where just about everyone showed up for at least an hour or two. The Thanksgiving meal? You'd typically see three hundred folks for that dinner at the school. The basketball games could draw a crowd of two hundred on a good night.

The school building was part of the community.....part of it's drawing card.....part of it's success.

Somewhere in the 1980s....modern culture arrived at Anderson, and it ran through an odd period. To some degree....things would never be the same. 

By the early 90's....the general store was mostly run-down. The gas station business had hit absolute maximum and bumping against new environmental regulations. Booze arrests and fines paid a bigger draw for the cop hired to keep things quiet and simple.

About a decade ago....the school board noted things were getting tight on the budget. It was the hint of things to come. Two or three years ago....they got to the decision of making Anderson's school into a six-year deal. That virtually changed the perception of parents and the school forever. Numbers decreased, and the county board made their decision that this is the final school year for Anderson. 

The property? Well....it gets interesting because there's some agreement by the county back in the 1940s era about it reverting back to original ownership if they ever shut down the school. Some judge will sort through this.

There are four basic pieces to the property. The ballfield has limits......maybe the town will buy it and keep running softball out there.

The new gym? It's got potential as a church, or as some business operation.

The property out on the road? Maybe residential property.

But the main building....the brick building of some seventy-years old? It's hard to say. Heating the old brick building costs a ton of money. Renovating it.....revolves around money and what purpose could you dream up? An antique shop?

There are five or six thousand folks who floated through Anderson Junior High School over the years and still living. Most everyone has some vivid memory. It's the kind of thing that three folks will gather on a porch....sip ice tea and chomp on gingerbread cookies....reminiscing about some teacher's explanation of 'banana juice', the boring English classes with the diagraming mess, and the Halloween carnival episode where someone sat on a cake by accident.

We were young, naive and innocent once. And it was a good feeling.