Aging school buildings hold treasured memories


“We may complain about our school work, perhaps we think the lessons hard. We’d much prefer to be out playing and running in the big schoolyard. But with the passing of the years the dearest memories we’ll call will be of hours that we spent within the old brick schoolhouse wall.

“We may consider it a trial to have to add and multiply, and lessons in geography bring many a long-drawn, anxious sigh, but with the passing of the years, when time has cast its purple haze, the memories that we treasure will be of long-gone, old school days.”

— Lenore Hetrick

I recall like it was yesterday, watching my youngest walk across the Jeromesville School gymnasium floor in her first high heels to accept her eighth-grade diploma. The joyful classmates celebrated their promotion to the high school building, 40 years newer, a few miles away.

It brought back memories of my own time on that old gymnasium floor — all the basketball games, dodgeball blasts, junior high dances, square dance lessons, my own eighth-grade promotion and delivering my first speech.

What that old gymnasium prompted most of all, though, was the sentiment of knowing my own father had accepted his high school diploma on that same shining gym floor. It is where he enjoyed his glory days, playing center for his high school basketball team, undefeated in his senior year.

His old, very humbly-styled black basketball shoes remained on a shelf in the old backroom of our home.

Generations, just like my own family, had symbolically crossed that floor. A whole lot of life unfolded there. It was there we gathered as a community to celebrate so many things. In that gymnasium, we had happily received our first polio vaccine in a tiny cup. It is where I accepted my first dance with a boy in seventh grade. Dressed in uniform and black and white saddle shoes, it is where I loved being a cheerleader for basketball games.

The red brick school, built in 1927, has been a touchpoint for generations of this small, rural community. Within those old halls are echoes of teachers, student teachers, coaches, and principals, all serving as mentors to so many young people attempting to find their way.

Last week, the cornerstone was removed in preparation to say goodbye to this building. Inside was a golden time capsule, laid with great ceremony when the school first opened. A small American flag, a Bible and old pennies were among the things found inside. Dreams of adding indoor plumbing was the goal described.

Today there will be an open house, giving a grateful community one last walk through a place that has meant so much to so many. A brand new school is nearing the end of construction, combining three older buildings at other locations into one large complex, housing preschool through high school. My oldest grandson will start first grade there in September. We have much to celebrate.

The aging buildings in our school district are set for destruction. It is time to say goodbye. But so many vibrant memories of that place will continue to walk through life with us all, dressed in worn-down gym shoes, saddle shoes, a first pair of high heels. This is a small school that has housed many footprints, miles of many lifetimes, walking through the hallways and classrooms, grabbing hold of forever memories, stepping out and marching on to a bigger life.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.



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