Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Wayback Machine is on Overdrive

So the other day my friend Sam shot me an e-mail containing this little piece of history:

Jeebus help me, that's Mrs. Wheeler's 1961-1962 1st Grade class--MY class--arrayed on the steps of Jackson-Wilson Elementary School in Waynesboro, VA. Sam is in the front row, third from your left, and I'm... well, see if you can spot me.

A couple of things:

--notice the distinct lack of... diversity... in the student population; Waynesboro schools weren't integrated/desegregated until the fall of 1965.

--Jackson-Wilson was originally Wilson High School and, at least as far as I could tell, had had no significant maintenance since it opened in 1922. During fire drills students on the upper floors exited via rickety fire escapes which under load tended to sway and pull away a bit from the brick walls. Didn't matter; the place was a firetrap anyway, what with all the tinder-dry wooden floors and walls, the latter being slathered with asbestos-laden-but-still-highly-flammable plaster guaranteed to save our parents the expense of having our little bodies buried after we asphyxiated from smoke inhalation. Oh, and our Civil Defense drills (the infamous "duck and cover" technique detailed in this masterfully understated 1951 film) were a hoot! The teachers would march us out of our classrooms and into the hallway where we assumed the ("kiss your ass goodbye!") position and waited patiently for the coming Nuclear Holocaust. Yeah, we were all going to die horrible radioactive deaths, but at least we were arrayed alphabetically!

Here's the original school complex--1st & 2nd grades in the building to your left (site of my class photo), 3rd and 4th grades (plus an auditorium) in the middle (note the aforementioned fire escape), a rarely-used gymnasium and the School Board offices to your right. To your farthest left (and all but invisible) is the "Cafeteria Building" which housed the (duh!) cafeteria, 5th and 6th grade classrooms, and the Main Office, wherein dwelled the Supreme and Exalted Ruler of our little domain, Mr. Wright, the Principal.*

And here it is as it stands today. They tore down the two middle buildings around 1968, soon after they moved the student population to one of the newer elementary schools (Berkeley Glenn, should you be that interested).

Another view. The Waynesboro School Board still occupies "The Hill," the metonymous term used by local teachers to precede the phrase "did something really stupid today." My mother, a 9th grade English teacher for 13 years (and head of the department for many of those years--her tales of Machiavellian manipulations within the school system would stand your hair on end), used that phrase a LOT.

The Cafeteria Building, still standing, still used, only now it's occupied by the (Shenandoah) Valley Program for Aging Services.

So did you figure out which one was me? No? Well, I'm the guy dead center, face partially obscured, standing between the two hot chicks (a feat rarely repeated since):

*Who was a nice enough--looked like someone's grandfather and probably was--but OMIGAWD! He had a spanking machine in his office! A SPANKING MACHINE! And he was allowed to use it whenever he wanted for whatever offense he so chose! I know this is true because the 6th graders told us!

Edit: For those of you too young to catch the Rocky & Bullwinkle reference in the title, here's some information on the Wayback Machine.


Cathy VanPatten said...

OMG! Such nostalgia!!

I don't recall MY 1st grade class having a picture like that... I was in Mrs. Dougherty's class. It was the dumb class. Only time I was ever in the dumb class, and I'm not sure how I got there (although my mom says I over-thought the little "readiness" test they apparently gave... ).

One of the things I remember very fondly about that old school was the Mother Goose and characters linoleum in the reading corners. I'm sure that was destroyed with the wrecking ball. And the CLOAK ROOMS! Ooohhh. Scary!

So... who are the babes you are standing between?

G. W. Ferguson said...

That's Cindy Wehry (!) on the left side of the photo and Wendy Bird Something-Or-Other on the right. She lived in what later became the Reinhardt house and her mom and mine were friends. The family was later transferred, as were so many people I/we knew in elementary school.

Yeah, the cloak rooms were a little spooky, but what I most remember is the whole school had a peculiar aroma--maybe a mix of floor wax, industrial cleanser, and aging steam radiators.

I do wish I'd somehow managed to abscond with some of that linoleum. Dad took me by there during the demolition and I salvaged a brick from the 1st/2nd grade building, but it's long gone now.

Here's a blast from the past for ya: "Clifton, come to the office. Clifton, come to the office, please!" and you knew someone had thrown up somewhere.

Speaking of Clifton, Sam Moyer and I were comparing notes years ago and we both remember our classes collecting canned goods for him at Christmas and the horrible embarrassment of having out teachers making him sing for us before giving him the food.

Cathy VanPatten said...

Ah, Cindy Wehry! I wonder what is up with her. I thought it might be her, but I could only ID a few people in that photo with a bit of confidence... I think I see Jimmy Campbell, Libby Perry, Liz Frey, and Stephanie Lewis.

I did peg you, but only because from the smaller picture, it looked like you had bangs (which is how your hair was from at least jr. high on)--but in close up, it looks like a very severe crew cut! What was with the whole crew cut thing, anyway?

Oh man, Clifton!

You know, I remember the food drives, but I don't remember the singing. Man, so wrong! But those were the days, huh?

Cathy VanPatten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cathy VanPatten said...

Sorry! Posted twice for some reason!

Capcom said...

Hey you cheated, your face was hidden! :-)

Sure, we remember the Wayback Machine! I couldn't decide though if I wanted to hang out with Mr. Peabody or that wizard who sent Tooter Turtle back in time. I guess Peabody was cooler, with the Sherlock look and all that.

Nice bunch of school memories, tx for posting it. :-)

Beth said...

My husband's name was David Evans and he was in second grade there in 1961-1962 at that school. His teacher that year was Mrs. Aries (unsure of spelling). Mrs Martin was his first grade teacher the year before.