This past Sunday was my Dad’s 84th birthday, so Martin and I went back to my hometown of Shelby, Ohio to visit with Pop-pop (my Dad) and take him to lunch. We had a great visit and a really nice time with Pop-pop. He is a blessing.
He is also the ONLY reason I return to Shelby, ever. The town that I grew up in is, essentially, dead to me now. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not because I had some sort of horrible youth (I had a great childhood there) or any other “bad” reason. It’s just that, well, besides my Dad, there is no reason for me to go back there any more. My life has moved on, and so has Shelby. And this fact was nowhere more obvious than at the site of my former junior high school. It now looks like this –
Yes, my old junior high school is in the process of being demolished, making way for a new industrial park complex or something or other. (The dramatic panoramic shot above was taken by yours truly with my smart phone – cool, huh?) I was not surprised by this news – I have known about its impending destruction for a while. The city of Shelby even honored the building’s many years of service with a “good bye party,” attended by several decades of former students. I could not go; I think I would have been really saddened by it all…
I mean, this is the building where I went to my first boy-girl dance – and while I secretly hoped John C. would ask me to dance, I got asked by Patti G., my school bus driver’s daughter. This is the building that was home to Mrs. Catherwood and “Pup Tales,” the junior high version of “Whippet Tales,” our school newspaper. Mrs. C and Pup Tales were the impetus for me to begin writing. I spent hours in the band and practice rooms, living out my own “Glee” experience before Glee even existed…
It was on these front steps – now barely recognizable AS front steps –
…that I smoked my first cigarettes after football practice while I waited for Pop-pop to pick me up after work. And I kidded myself into believing that he and my Mom didn’t know I smoked. I mean, really – is there anything more arrogant and stupid than a fourteen-year-old boy?
Anyway, it made me sad to see my old haunt now reduced to piles of broken bricks and twisted metal. For a moment, I considered breaching the fence and retrieving a brick, then I asked myself, “Why?” I mean, what good would one brick do me, especially when it represents something that (soon) will no longer exist?
One thing that will never cease to exist are all the fond memories I have of that school and my time there. Football games and band practices, excruciating PE periods (I still HATE “Scramble!”) and fun wood and metal shop classes. The building had three floors; in eighth grade, it felt like a sky scraper to me.
I shall remember you with great fondness, “old” Shelby Junior High School. Thank you for the education and experiences you gave me and, most of all, thank you for being a big part of a childhood I treasure. Red and Gray 4-evr!