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My Elementary School Has Burned Down


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I was driving home this morning from my overnight job when I found my old elementary school, which I attended back in the sixties, consumed in flame. I watched in horror as my old sixth grade class, the science room, gym, and cafeteria/library were consumed in flame. It is heartbreaking. I loved that school and it served as the model of the school in my story Courage and Passion. I am heartbroken.

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I loved that school and it served as the model of the school in my story Courage and Passion. I am heartbroken.

Now that you mention it, Courage and Passion is one of my all-time favorite stories. If anyone has not yet read it you can find it HERE!


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I went to school in a small town and started first grade in the same building where I later graduated from high school. That building is long gone, and I hadn't realized just how much I miss it until I read your note above, FreeThinker. I share your sorrow over the loss of that tangible grounding for your memories.


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One of my enduring memories is returning to the house I lived in in Indianapolis from age 6 to 10, very formative years in a boy's life. I remembered it as a large brick house set in a vast yard. The house had been built as a farmer's house, but when I lived there the town had grown and now it was on the outskirts. I only knew it was originally a farm house because there was a barn in the backyard, and a portico on the side containing a watering trough for horses. We had a neighbor on one side and an extensive vacant lot on the other. The front yard was huge, the house being well back from the street.

We moved from Indianapolis to Cleveland when I was ten, and I didn't come back to Indianpolis for at least 20 years. When I did, I thought I'd drive by the house, just to see if it matched my memories of it.

I was shocked when I drove by. It was a small house. The front yard was somewhat larger than most, but not gigantic as I remembered it. The barn was still there, but it was small, not vast and somewhat dark and imposing to a child. The immense vacant lot how had a small house on it, and it was a normal sized lot.

They say that things that look big to a kid are normal sized to an adult, and though I'd heard this, this was the first time I really saw it for myself. That huge house and property were rather normal, or even somewhat smaller than average. And seeing it was quite a shock.

I didn't drive by my old elementary school, which was across the street from Butler Univeristy's field house and football stadium when I attended there. But the area that Altimexis describes in the opening chapter of his Naptown Tales was just north of where I'm describing, and it wasn't there yet at all, way back then.

Memories. They recall a different world, and a child's skewed perception of what reality was.

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Like many of us, I suspect, my memories of the past have been filtered through my imagination and wishful thinking and tendency to rewrite the past in my favor. Like Cole, I was shocked to revisit the scenes of childhood experience and find them different in so many ways from my memory of them. Camy asks if the actuality is important. If I were a historian or a biographer I would have to answer 'Yes.' As a poet I would give him only an enigmatic look before turning away.

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I wonder if daily torment and bullying in primary school, (ages 6-12) had an impact that neither enlarged nor diminished my perception of the school.

The size and nature of the buildings are exactly the same for me now, as they were sixty years ago. I've always put it down to having to relate to the reality of the yard and the classrooms in order to know how to escape and hide from my tormentors.

The only thing that memory provides for me is that I was conflicted by my attraction to those who bashed me. See my story, The Best Memories of Their Lives which was based on facts taken from those years.

At a 50 year reunion, I found that I knew every boy's face and remembered that I liked some of those faces more than others. I had no memory or association for any of the girl's faces. I had no idea of the attraction, or lack of it, being related to my sexual orientation. A year later in highschool, when I was 13, I remember a much more intense realisation of my sexual attraction to my fellow male students...and that consumed me with a passion that I now remember as being smaller than it seemed in those days. Then again, some things really weren't as big then, as they are now. :evilgrin:

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As I understand it, the explanation for this phenomena is simple. If you see something once again that you haven't seen since you were a young preteen, it inevitably looks smaller. That makes sense. You were smaller. It's all relative. We remember objects based on their size relative to our own. So, your perceptions were perfectly valid. You weren't remembering the size of the house or yard or barn wrongly, you were simply comparing them to a different baseline. Of course, this is moot for things you see from time to time as you grow, since you adjust each time.

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As I understand it, the explanation for this phenomena is simple. If you see something once again that you haven't seen since you were a young preteen, it inevitably looks smaller. That makes sense. You were smaller. It's all relative.

Very true. Plus, as Tom Wolfe said, "you can never go home again." It ain't the same place.

But even if the physical building burns or collapses, or the people you knew move away or grow old or die, they're all still alive and well in your memories. I'd remind Free Thinker that your beloved school will always live throw your stories, and that gives it a little bit of immortality.

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...a little bit of immortality.

The only thing that ever really remains is 'the art' we create.

The Moving Finger writes and having writ moves on.

Nor all thy Piety nor Wit, Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam

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II loved that school and it served as the model of the school in my story Courage and Passion. I am heartbroken.

BTW, thanks for mentioning that. I had not read Courage and Passion before, and it's a terrific story, very well-done. The late 1960s was a very special time for America, especially for teenagers coming of age, and I thought you captured that time very well. The school and its students certainly live and breathe in your novel.

Link here, for those who need it: http://awesomedude.c...ge_and_passion/

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"The one charm of the past is that it is the past." (Oscar Wilde) As such we are allowed great latitude in the memory of our earlier times.

In my mid-twenties I found myself with a free summer with no work responsibilities. I wanted to spend it outdoors and so I applied at the local summer camp for a part time job, any job would do. The owner decided I should run the little projects shop they had for the kids, ages 10-15.

At a loss for some simple woodworking projects, I remembered the good old days of 7th grade and Mr. Warner who ran the woodshop, so I went to visit. He had dozens of little project sheets with concise instructions and the dimensions of each and every piece of a birdhouse or box. That seemed to be just what I needed.

I felt like Alice down the rabbit hole the minute I walked in the building, and it did seem to be a miniature of my memories. The students seemed to be mere children, Hobbits to my eyes. Could I have ever looked like this a dozen years ago? Mr. Warner was kind, gray haired and had no memory of me, about what I expected. But he was just as kind as I remembered and I walked away with dozens of his project plans.

I think that set me up for the summer of teaching kids how to saw and hammer, sand and polish. It also gave me a chance to pass along some of Mr. Warner's wisdom because he used to tell us we weren't just building a birdhouse, we were building memories. How right he was.

Now I have the urge to travel north and visit the neighborhood where I grew up. Somewhere in the maze of trees behind our old home there is probably a birdhouse attached to a tree. It still ought to be there, it was made with mahogony scraps and that hardest of woods took forever to finish.

Yes, FT...memories last beyond the stacks of stones we build.

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