I was driving out of town on a recent visit to my hometown, when I headed past the location of my junior high school, Shields Junior High School. The term “middle school” didn’t exist in the ’70s as far as I know.
The building was torn down years ago, which is a shame, because I’d love to walk through it again and experience the emotions that come from revisiting the sites of one’s youth.
But each day, I’d make my way down the big slope to the gym at the bottom of the hill. That huge building still stands. In addition to the gym (well, the “boys’ gym.” The main building housed the “girls’ gym”), the building was home to the choir and band rooms, where I spent time each day.
The building is serving no apparent purpose these days. Delinquents have discovered it, as evidenced by the graffiti throughout. Since it was broad daylight, though, I felt safe enough exploring this place that had played a big role in my life, back in the late 1970s.
Heading up to the front door. So many lunchtimes, after eating, friends and I would linger on the slope and down this sidewalk. It’s looking pretty rough these days.
Another memory: just to the left of the front door, the restrooms. Boy, I’d forgotten them, but looking at this again, I so remember standing in here. One specific memory is holding a friend’s scarf while she used the bathroom. As you can tell from the look of things, this wasn’t exactly the Hilton even back in its prime, and there weren’t perks like hooks on the doors. If I recall correctly, you even had to hold the stall door shut to keep it from swinging open.
So many memories here, in the choir room. Sure, it looks bare now, but right at the spot where someone’s so rudely scrawled profanity, there was a piano. It’s where I first accompanied a choir — “The Water is Wide” runs through my head as I remember. It’s just strange to think that life lessons were learned, memories were created … and now the site of all that is ruined. It seems wrong somehow.
In this room, I spend many an hour in woodwind band sectionals. I played oboe. Check out the blackboard on the left. No whiteboards in this place!
And here’s the room where “full band” met. The director used to have tantrums every now and then and walk out. I guess if he saw this room now, he’d leave for sure.
There are the doors where we’d hurry out of the building from band at the end of the day.
James M. Shields — thanks to the wonder of the internet, I see he was the first settler in Seymour, in 1816 — I wonder how he would feel about having this huge edifice put up in his honor (it was built in 1937), and now seeing it in such sad shape? I guess we’ll never know.
Thirty-five years ago, this walk led up the rise, where we’d all scurry back to the main school building. For today, though, it’s where the sidewalk ends.
Enjoy more tales about growing up in Seymour — small town Indiana — in the 1970s in my book, I Love to Tell the Story: Growing Up Blessed and Baptist in Small Town Indiana (affiliate link).