Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Change Happens

... or, as it appears more often in polite society, “The only constant is change.”  In any case, I think both quotes are correctly attributed to Captain Obvious.

At this point, you need to thank your lucky stars that I haven’t just finished binge-watching an entire season of The Curse of Oak Island; otherwise, this story might be full of references to those inane goings-on.

Additional treasure maps, I mean blueprints, from Fairview’s days before our arrival, bring to light the myriad alterations that took place to craft our unique environment.  The school that took over from what served well one hundred years ago at the corner of Fairview Ave and Catalpa Dr. only had to deal with fewer than 400 students in 1929, but it wasn’t long until the senior class alone would flirt with such large numbers.  

Other than the sheer force of numbers, changing curricula also necessitated their fair share of modifications.  Fortunately, 2408 Philadelphia Drive was built to be able to adapt to the changes that would keep it ahead of the curve, as well as expectations.

One of the areas that changed on the most regular basis was what we knew as the shop and gymnasium portions of the north wing.  Schools had to serve both the academic and extra-curricular aspects of adolescence, so there were vocational education classes that could help prepare students with job-ready training, just as athletics and allied activities served to provide interaction beyond the scope of the classroom.

As blatantly pro-college as Mr. Longnecker and Miss Folger were, they knew they had to provide for everyone, at least to some level of scrutiny.  After all, there was a stained glass window that said that’s the way it had to be.

Behold ... how the shop area, underneath what would be the gym of our day, looked from the get-go.  What do you mean you have no idea what you’re looking at?  OK, Sacajawea, let me orient you.  Our tennis courts would eventually be off to the far left.  That central corridor running left to right would be there, then as now, but you can see it doesn’t go all the way through to the outside.  Our cafeteria would be well off to the right. (If it’s Wednesday, there would be Salisbury Steak.)  About the only thing that is remotely the same is the wood shop.

Ah, the good ol‘ days ... before OSHA.  

It was a bit of Patterson Co-op before its time.

For me, the neatest bit of eye candy is that small roundy thing at the top center ... sorta looks like a pie.  I know, ancient religious symbol from the Templar Knights, right?  You’d think I was equally crazy if I told you it was a spiral staircase, but that’s exactly what it is.  Look closely and you’ll see that it’s coming up out of a boys’ locker room ... a bit odd when you think that there was a girls’ locker room above that spot in our ‘60s.

Things start to make better sense when you see the drawing of the floor directly above.  Here you can see that there was both a boys and girls locker room next to each other and your Victorian sense of morality will be pleased to know that the spiral staircase does, in fact, go into the boy’s area.  But think of it this way ... health class, aka sex ed, would not have required a separate classroom had that not been the case.

So, before the additions of the early ‘50s, the entire gym was only half the size of what we would know later, and I’ll go out on a very safe limb here and say that gym classes were not co-ed.  There’s just no telling what could have happened if boys circa 1940 came face-to-face with an exposed female ankle.  I mean, that would have been our parents’ generation and how ... really, who would ...   Oh, forget I mentioned it. 

As long as we’re talking about those very large additions that gave us our gym, cafeteria and auditorium, as well as the new rooms off to the west along Hillcrest, take a look at this drawing.  While it’s meant to depict some arcane plumbing and heating information that we could care less about, it does show very clearly how those additions matched up with the original structure.  At last, now we can see that what was the original auditorium was no larger than our cafeteria and kitchen, not including the senior room.  That is precious little real estate for auditorium seating and a stage, so it’s no surprise what went to the top of the wish list for expansion.

Too bad there’s no mention of where the money pit or drill hole 10X was.

Not all the changes were so grand and glorious, and no discipline was exempt from making room for improvement.  On this print you can see the before and after of Miss Sharkey’s domain.  It was only one room, but she managed to accommodate so many different media.  Clearly, interest in the arts necessitated doing away with a small locker room to the west as well as several ancillary spaces that were part of the classroom to the east.

Strange, but even I, Mr.-I-don’t-know-art,-but-I-know-what-I-like, remember that tiny set of steps from the classroom up into the storage area.  That could only mean I was lost one day and stumbled in there by mistake.

The same can be said for expansions of the biology room and the library in our part of the ‘60s.  I enjoyed Mr. Vance’s spin on biology my freshman year in the small version of the room and, I seem to recall that might have been one of his last years.  I’m quite sure it had nothing to do with anything I could have done ... like maybe with parts of dissected frogs left over and not disposed of properly before the holiday break.

And while we’re at it, I’d like to go on record as saying it was not my doing that a petri dish of methyl mercaptan was placed near the cold air return in Mr. Nisonger’s Chem II lab.  I may have written a report on how to synthesize it, but I cannot take credit for the demonstration of its effects.  Hey, as far as I knew, it was just another fire drill ... nothing any worse than some of the smells coming from Miss Starr’s home ec room next door.

Miss Fabian’s library also benefitted from L and F’s certainty that larger study and research spaces just had to be better than smaller spaces.  Here, you can see that the library, just like the biology area, absorbed an adjacent classroom.  Do you  suppose that’s why they had to stop offering advanced penmanship?

This report only scratches the surface of the blueprints and architectural studies that used to be kept in archival storage with DPS.  It’s not hard to speculate on their fate, once their brick and mortar versions were no longer.  As far as confirming or denying any evidence that either The Holy Grail or The Ark of the Covenant were once there, I must remain mute, citing global security interests.

But, now that the statute of limitations has expired, I will tell you that Mr. Longnecker was a Mason.  Take that for what it’s worth.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Intelligent Design

Blueprints are wonderful things.  You can’t beat a system that lets you make your mistakes with pencil and paper, first, before moving on to structural steel, concrete, bricks and lumber.

Gone are the days of long and tedious hours at a drafting table, just to render how some seemingly insignificant HVAC blower motor assembly will fit into a larger heat exchange unit.  Now, with AutoCAD on your laptop, you can design how the entire freaking utility system can play nicely with everything else, with a few well-placed clicks and drags.  The programs are so intuitive that they almost anticipate what you want.

In this day and age, you have to wish we could have the same system for people.  

I’m sorry, did I write that out loud?

Anymore, real blueprints are like the stock certificates you once saw in your parents’ lockbox.  They were a thing of beauty in and of themselves and their level of workmanship and investment of creativity echoed that of the finished product.  

Not long ago, I was wondering where the cafeteria was located in our Fairview, before the additions of the early ‘50s gave us the one we remember, vividly, if not lovingly.  Wouldn’t you think anyone who was there in the ‘30s, ‘40s or early ‘50s would know?  That silly thought helped me come up empty, when I asked more older alumni than I care to mention.  Most kids only had half an hour for lunch, but they would have been there most every day, no?  Was the experience so traumatic that it has been wiped from their hard drives?

I let that fool’s errand lie dormant for several years, only re-visiting it when I would meet  anew someone who went to Fairview at the appropriate time.  Thinking that would remain one of life’s mysteries, along with understanding cold fusion and fathoming the female passion for shopping, I came across a cache of blueprints, while excavating the Cretaceous and Tertiary boundary layer.

The only obvious conclusion I had before this evidence, was that all trace had disappeared when the additions were made, and that alone did not move me to the head of any class.  This image, while not quite the Holy Grail or “X”-marks-the-spot, gave me much more than I had so far.  

Even if you’ve never read one of these diagrams before, you quickly get a sense of what you’re seeing.  It’s not like anyone is trying to keep you from figuring out where the pot of gold is.  No terra incognita or “Here be dragons.”  

There are several nice clues there for the taking.  First, your highly trained eye might suspect those are windows along the top wall of the space.  Secondly, the two entrance/exit doors.  Too bad there isn’t any “north” arrow or labels to indicate what is to the bottom, left or right.  For me, however, the best tell was there in the upper left corner of the drawing, where it appears that the wall continues up, rather than to the left.  Since the early Fairview was shaped like a “U,” it lead me to think it might have been next to the smoke stack, and those doors that came in from the teachers’ parking lot. 

But that room was just dinky little classroom 122.  Trust me, I know.  I spent a lovely junior/senior summer there baking my way through Mrs’ Rowe’s Civics and Social Problems.  It was a special kind of hot, accompanied by a total lack of any breeze, the likes of which I wouldn’t know again until my all expenses paid vacation at Fort Benning, Georgia.  While I do remember that the chalkboard was green and not black, as in the adjacent rooms, it wasn’t like you could still hear the cries of generations of lost souls crying to be released from their torment, nor was there any residue of ketchup stains on the ceiling.  And believe me, in her class, you didn’t have a lot of time to admire architectural detail.

So, yes, interesting clues, one and all, but not quite enough that I’d feel comfortable betting your next Social Security check on it, much less mine.  It wasn’t until a visit to a bazaar specializing in obscure antiquities in Amman, that I came across a scroll containing yet another blueprint with the clues needed to be sure.

And there was all the evidence a blind man would need to see clearly that the kitchen and cafeteria had been in what we remember as rooms 121 and 122.

blow-up of room 122 area from drawing above

You can see that a new wall was added to create the two new class rooms.  There are several references to removal of the various bits and pieces of kitchen infrastructure.  Sure enough, that round thingie above the room is the smoke stack.  The windows and the spaces in between them even match that area on the earlier kitchen drawing.  

If I wanted you to call me a liar, I’d tell you that I remember seeing that the brickwork in the hallway coming in from the parking lot showed evidence that there had once been a doorway there.  You can put that in the same category as looking really hard on the blueprint at room 101 across the hallway to see Miss Herbst preaching one of her Humanities sermons.

So, there you have it, or, as we would have written at the end of a proof for Mrs. Rinehart, Q.E.D.

Now, because my favorite stylistic device in these stories is to use the end of the tale to wrap back around to the beginning, I can’t help but think that maybe there was something of a blueprint in place to help us become who we are.  

But perhaps a more worrisome thought is why that no longer seems to be the case.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Fairview 1.0

Let’s face it.  We’re the last generation for whom the original Fairview, at the northwest corner of Fairview Ave. and Catalpa Dr. will bear any significance, even if ever so tenuous.  Once our lease expires, any shoeboxes of Fairview-stuff handed down from our grandparents to our parents, will find their way from our attics to the landfill or recycler.  Fact of life.

But there is apparently still an attachment.  I’ve attended a number of 50th reunions over the past years, often with Mr. Bruggeman in tow, and there always seemed to be some level of fascination with knowing how our Fairview got to be that way.  It’s in our nature to stay connected to our past.  Imprinting, perhaps.

Another brutal truth in this little morality play is that there isn’t a single person alive today who went to that high school, that was, in it’s time, properly referred to as North Harrison Township High School.  It is, however, remotely possible that there’s a ninety-something out there who would have been in the building when it was also a grade school until 1925.  

High school, back around the turn of that century, was a completely different kettle of fish in a world that bore little semblance to the one we call home.  The hyperbolic curve of technology versus time was hitting its stride.  I wouldn’t want to say that attending a high school was elitist, but it just wasn’t viewed as being a real-world necessity.  In a mostly agrarian society, pragmatism ruled the day and that meant knowing just enough to help your family work the farm.  It took parents who had the luxury of strategic, far-sighted vision, to make the decision to incur the expense and inconvenience of sending their children to high school.

By and large, what you needed to know and any socialization that time allowed, remained the province of the home.  So it can be little surprise that the class that graduated in 1903 had three students, and the one surviving alumnus who was interviewed in 1960 said he did not know a single other child in the neighborhood where he grew up who went to school as he did.  The times were much much closer to an episode of Gunsmoke than anything near and dear to our hearts. 

That first school building, while it had eight rooms, was mostly an elementary school, as the needs of the community and society dictated.  Grades nine through twelve were relegated to one large room on the second floor.  The staff, as legend goes, consisted of one man ... Daniel W. Klepinger, earning $100 per month ... so I’m thinking he was not the member of any collective bargaining unit.  It was two years before circumstances allowed for any addition to the ranks.

While modern for its day, the new building did have electric lighting and central coal heat, but plumbing was, shall we say, a bit more remote ... two outhouses and one pump atop an outside well.   I’ll avoid the cheap shot here.  Winter had to be a real treat, as students would either walk or ride on horseback to get there from distances up to seven miles away.  I have no information as to whether it was, as our parents would tell their story, in the dark, in waist-deep snow, uphill both ways. 

The precious few photographs of the building we have, seem to convey something from The Addams Family to us, but I have no doubt it was a thing of rare and wondrous beauty to those lucky enough to attend.  It would have had its own special majesty sitting there on the corner, surrounded as it was by large trees, houses and farms.  "Bucolic" is the word I’m looking for.

Look very very closely and you won’t see a single sign announcing the facility as a drug and weapon-free area.

But in its own way, progress was inexorable.   It wasn’t long before a traction line would come up Fairview Ave from Main Street, on its way out to Greenville providing a mechanized link to civilization.  During the pre-war years -- that’s WWI, for those of you who like to count them -- growth at the high school was measured, but steady, as staff and curriculum continued to increase in size, commensurate with the expectations of the community.  

But the concept of high school and its place in our cultural ethos remained essentially the same.  Take a look at the accompanying photo from the class of 1913 and let me know how many smiling faces you see.  Education was still a privilege for the committed few and the suitable-for-framing photogenicity we now embrace did not exist.  The largest graduating class prior to the war still numbered well south of twenty.

In 1912, the school was almost closed, as the thinking was that the few students could just as easily find their way to either Steele or Stivers.  It took an intense lobbying campaign on the part of the students and the community to defeat that effort.  Had that not happened, you wouldn’t be reading this now.

But as it is want to do, the war changed the face of society, and how it felt about secondary education for the masses was part of that dynamic.  And as you would expect, that was accompanied by a marked demographic shift from most nearby families working in farming or allied interests to a majority living in the city and working jobs in the manufacturing sector.

I have no doubt that the returning veterans had expectations quite different from their parents or even older siblings.  Education became something more of a birthright and there was a nascent understanding that doing well in the world was increasingly dependent on having the skills to get the good, new jobs.  Granted, this was still a strongly agricultural and manufacturing society, but it was clear that formal education was needed to run those businesses that would ultimately drive the economy.  Graduating classes quickly ballooned to about sixty students.

From all accounts, our Mr. Don Longnecker and Miss Theresa Folger were the right people at the right time to read that writing on the wall when they signed-on in the early ‘20s.  Both were fresh out of college and seemed to have a sense that a comprehensive academic and developmental program could turn young adolescents into world-ready young adults.  (I seem to recall a banner with words to that effect at Third & Main in our version of Fairview)  Up to this time, the school had a new principal every year or two, so it was hard for any strategic vision to get traction and as it was still a township school, consistency was hard to come by.  A forty year tenure would be their validation.

What was day-to-day life like in the school?  I wish I knew.  The courses offered would be familiar to us today ... Latin, algebra, geometry, history, home ec, social science, english, chemistry, french, economics, biology.  Sports and extra-curricular activities became more prevalent with time.  The bond between teachers and students was something as strong and lasting as what we would recognize in our time. 

Almost certainly the wood and plaster interior had its own bits and pieces of endearing charm.  As students went up and down the curved stairwell and through the halls, there would have been creaks and groans that you could count on hearing every time.  And, too, there would have been small knotholes or splits in the wood railing that your hand would have subconsciously sought out in its quest for reassurance and comfort.  In their own way, those idiosyncrasies contributed to the character that became part of what that Fairview meant to those in attendance.

One great tradition seemed to involve the graduating class making its way up a ladder into the bell tower and carving their names and year into the wood up there.   A bit of good-natured hazing involved sophomores using the local well pump to douse incoming freshmen.   No doubt zero-tolerance would put an end to both those in the light of today’s inability not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. 

Cafeteria, not so much.  The gym and auditorium didn’t come along until 1925, when it was becoming evident that bigger and better needed to be part of the game plan.  The school colors were changed to blue and gold when then, as now, no one could come up with a word rhyming with orange.

1925 addition of gym and auditorium
A new Fairview, our Fairview, happened in the late ‘20s and all too soon, the old Fairview was razed to make way for the iconic Tudor fire station we remember.  But you have to ask yourself ... will we think of the library being built on the site of our Fairview the same way as students of that first Fairview thought of the fire station?  

My hope?  On one fine Saturday evening in the late summer of 2052, when the Fairview High School class of 1982 celebrates its seventieth reunion, one person will stand and tell this tale one final time before it’s allowed to fade to black and gently join the oblivion left over from the creation.

Once Upon a Time Capsule

By all accounts, 1928 must have been a pretty good year.  The ‘20s would have still been roarin’.  If you would have said we were but a year away from the start of the greatest economic downturn of the century, you’d have been laughed out of your speak-easy.  The incalculable losses WWI would have seemed a bit less grievous after ten years of time-heals-all-wounds.  And I’m sure there would have been no shortage of people to tell you that everything of consequence had already been invented.
For the generation of our grandparents, it might have been our parents’ 1958 or our anything-before-9/11.  Pass the rose-tinted glasses when you’re done with them.
With that idyllic preface, the occasion on November 1st of that year of our Lord, would have been near perfect for a ceremony in dedication of the laying of a cornerstone at what couldn’t help but be a wonderful new high school.  Break out the ice cream, strike up the band and let the politicians and official takers-of-credit-for-good-things-happening line up to shake babies and kiss hands. Glory be … now every Tom, Dick and Henrietta would get a first-rate education.
For every bit of the preceding year, Mr. Longnecker and Miss Folger would have been huddled with the architects, finalizing the hundreds of details that needed to be nailed down before this day.  Even seeing the door pulls, railings and gratuitous brick styling cues during the final walk-through in 2011, leaves little doubt in your mind that nothing was left to chance.  Flat-tip only … no Phillips head yet.   No whatever the big box has in stock; no if it doesn’t fit, force it; no close enough is good enough.  There was a purity of purpose that everything was part of something organic, and as such, made its important contribution to crafting a whole so much greater than the sum of its parts.  Why I’ll go so far as to bet there were meetings with parents to talk about the little tweaks that might help it be even better.  Just don’t call them focus groups.  And back then, they might have even waited until after those meetings to actually make their decisions.  Imagine that.
Just a whole lot less nudge, nudge, wink, wink. 
Item #347 on that list had to do with the time capsule that would be placed behind the limestone, 1929-engraved slab.  It was just the sort of thing good civic-minded folk did back then.  Acknowledge the past and the present, as a message in a bottle for the future.  And I don’t have a bad thing to say about that.

Doubtful they just looked in the yellow pages under “time capsules,” and went with the low bid.  A local artisan put together a copper box, nothing fancy, approximately 8”x10”x16” because that was the size of the cavity already created for the purpose.  And I’ll guess that “measure twice, cut once” applied as well then as now.
Likely one of the more senior teachers would have jotted down a list of obligatory treasures thought to be appropriate as content.  And again, then as now, tradition was the guide for such things.  Propriety said there should be a newspaper, a U.S. flag, and of course, of course, a bible.  In the precious little space left, there would be a program for the day’s agenda, a roster of all the teachers and the signatures of all 500 or so students. 

I have no doubt there would have been a grounded, somehow almost primal feeling when touching it … a fundamental sense of connection with a greater good … something they would have understood, as would have their parents ... the sort of thing inner smiles are made of.
Rumors of any less-than-proper photos, letters lamenting unrequited love or mysterious pre-Columbian treasure maps remain exactly that.  And unless inserted just as the lid was soldered in place, the bundle of student notes intercepted while being passed during study hall and the one knit mitten from lost and found both missed their shot at immortality, as well.  I, for one, would have been delighted had the smallest bit of the first Fairview made the cut … a drawer handle, a piece of tile, a knowing glance, but perhaps it would have been too painful just then to think the end could be near for any Fairview.
Then, as now.     
And while it’s rare fun to imagine having been a fly on the wall, listening to a somewhat younger Don D. and Theresa G. laying out their visions for the future, our past, it’s also every bit a joy ride to imagine what the area looked like, those four score and seven years ago.
Did the electric trollies make the loop yet in front of the school, turning south at the Philadelphia corner?  Route #5?  Hard to think the Miami Valley Country Club was there already.  Good Samaritan Hospital, barely more than a twinkle in the eyes of the Sisters of Charity, would soon appear with its terra cotta roof tiles and brown brick exterior walls, embracing a curved driveway in front, punctuated with meticulously tended floral plots.  What businesses were on Salem Ave. in those days?  Where was the nearest farm field?  The nearest pristine stream?  
If you know someone, ask them.  But whatever you do, don’t pick up your smart phone.  So not right.
We’ll have to be content with not knowing so many things about that new Fairview that would become our Fairview.  What did the first auditorium look like, before disappearing in the ‘50s?  Where was the cafeteria serving up those five-star plate lunches?  Were there special rooms for chemistry or home ec … potions and the dark arts?  What was it like to see the thick black coal spire coming out of the giant smokestack?  When did Miss Herbst lay claim to Room 101?  When did the library go from one room to two?  Who wielded the paddle then?  What changes came with the Depression? 
Best friends?  Cutest couple?  Funniest jokes?  Biggest feet?  Best dancers?
Was the cornerstone from the first Fairview saved? 
Was ours?
Did seeing that school come down hurt in the same way still so heart-felt to us?
What would you have put in a time capsule back in 1965?
What would anyone put in a time capsule for the new library going up where we once knew a Fairview?  I mean beside the crayons and the Bob Evans placemat.
I think we both know no one will bother.  It won’t be in the budget.
I wasn’t there on that autumn day in 2011 when demolition got to the corner of the building where 1929 lived.  Would they have even known to hope for any such thing?  Would their first thought have been that it might be yet another nice chunk of copper for the recycler?
There’s only the slightest chance that the young finders-keepers would have known why they felt that inner smile.
Just realize that we have to be the time capsules, now.  It’s up to us, the older generation, to remind posterity of the immeasurable good yet to be gleaned from what began on an autumn day so long ago. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Great Mural Mystery

It all started one fine day with a drive to Huber Heights in 2010 to visit the lady you should remember as Mary Marts, nee Secrist, an FHS graduate, Class of 1949.  As school secretary extraordinaire, Mary was an integral part of the inner circle of power that allowed her, along with Mr. Longnecker and Miss Folger, to function as the well-oiled machine we knew. 
I’ll leave it to the bio already posted elsewhere to tell her story, but suffice it to say that Mary, having just turned 39 for the 40th time and in the midst of a bad post-second-husband-loss funk, was more than happy to tell me all about her part in the play.  That fascination aside, Mary seemed genuinely relieved to see her treasures of those days find their way to someone like me, with an interest in helping those stories live another life.  And that would explain how I came away from the visit with, among other goodies, twenty-some Fairview yearbooks – one for each year she did her secretary thing, starting in the mid-‘50s.
I scored her Rolodex, too, so if you ever want to know the Social Security number for anyone who ever taught us, just call me.

The time-capsule romp through those yearbooks was fun, but it was the image just inside 1957 that truly caught my attention.  It was the very first thing you saw when opening the cover, but with absolutely no accompanying text to offer an explanation of its meaning, context or significance.
And so started my grail quest.
With the absence of any written clues, asterisks or footnotes, I settled in to look long and hard at the artwork, to see if it had anything to say for itself.  No Waldo, no hidden pirate sword, no upside-down pineapple.  OK, it’s a freaking mural, already.  The photograph is black and white, but almost certainly the original was in color.  Just a thought here, but since we’re not in Kansas anymore, color felt right.  
After a minute or two of viewing, a connection starts to develop … something déjà vu-ish, for lack of a more articulate or expensive description.  The background hit home first, as those buildings were eerily familiar.  Not so much in-your-face, yet somehow almost palpable.  Was I wrong or were the Dayton Art Institute, the NCR Auditorium, assorted what-passes-for local skyscrapers and the YMCA Building just there for the seeing?  Fine … that’s a start.  So we’re looking at Dayton.  I get that.
Once you see that, you’re more willing to think that could be the Miami River running across the center.   Have it your way ... The Great Miami River.
Keep on keepin’ on.  What are those buildings closest to the front?  Stare long enough and you’ll be convinced you’re seeing Fairview’s main entrance off Philadelphia to the left of the central what’s-her-name and thanks to several hundred trips downtown on the trolley to take piano lessons out on East Fifth, I found myself seeing the courthouse, at Third and Main, to the right.         
Well, dummy, if you’ve ever read the Dell Classic Comic version of Dayton’s history, you’d know that what was to become our Fairview, started out in the basement of the courthouse in 1900, before moving out to Fairview Ave. and Catalpa Dr.
At this point, you’ve guessed most of the consonants and it’s time to buy a vowel.  This is something of a morality tale put to paint and canvas.  Now let’s all agree at this time that the lady in the middle is so not any sort of idealized Miss Folger.  Just give that up right now.  I’m thinking she can only be some stylized personification of knowledge, wisdom, virtue, learning, blah, blah, blah … all that good stuff.  And since this seems to be a Fairview thing, she’s sharing those gifts with the younger girl and boy on either side.
See, Miss Herbst, I was paying attention.
But trust me … I have no idea what the marijuana plants on either side are all about.  Honest.
The icing on the cake that this mural was, at the very least, about Fairview, lies with the calligraphy script running above the width of the work.  Education is the Foundation for Progress.  Wow, if that’s not high-minded enough, you need legacy injections.
What else does the work tell us?  I suppose that depends on how susceptible you are to the power of suggestion.  First, the style seems to be stiflingly WPA, so we could do worse than to think this piece dates to the mid-‘30s, oooor someone is having a laugh at our expense making us think it is.  Then, too, there’s that hauntingly familiar brickwork arch above it all.  Didn’t our Fairview have those architectural cues at every turn?   Why, yes she did, and thanks for asking.
So, if you’ve fallen for all this, hook, line and sinker, was this mural actually something that once hung on Fairview’s walls?    
I don’t remember it, but unlike some, I was only there for four years.  But that said, I know plenty of former students who never saw those fantastic Metcalf stained glass windows on the central and east landings and they were definitely there in our time and barely escaped the landfill in 2011.  Seriously, using all 12% of my brain that still works, I can say the mural was not there in the ‘60s.  But then as now, you only see what you want to see, what you expect to see.  
After a pause for dramatic effect, we have to remind ourselves again that it’s there, smack dab in the front of the 1957 yearbook.  It had to be somewhere in the collective psyches of those seventeen and eighteen year-olds to warrant such prominent placement.  
Here’s as good a place as any to say that around this same time, I contacted as many older former students as I could locate, restraining orders aside, to ask them these very questions … do you remember it and where was it?  And for my trouble, I came away without the first nibble, much less any bites.  I must have chatted up a baker’s dozen FHS alumni from classes in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, as well as 1957.  Now, believe me, I get the whole diminished memory thing.  Oh, do I!  But wouldn’t you think it would ring at least one bell … resonate with one deeply embedded, fond recollection ... assuming the Home Shopping Channel left the brain space?
Not so much.
So what happened in the mid-‘50s that could help Miss Marple figure out yet another murder in Cabot Cove?  Didn’t the additions of the new cafeteria and auditorium to the north and the science labs, home ec space and study halls on the east wing come on-line about then?  
As a matter of fact, yes.
Then my spin here is that the Class of ’57 would have been the last one to have walked the halls of the school as it was built in 1929, perhaps in 1954, before it got all new-and-improved, and dollars to doughnuts says this mural was there for the seeing, if only fleetingly.
Just nod your head and let the nice man keep going with his banter.  It’s best that way.
So, if that’s one down and one to go, just where did this mural grace the walls of their Fairview?  Unless you have access to Abby and the rest of the forensic lab, you’ll want to apply that dreadful scientific method we tried to sleep through back in that Basic Concepts assembly.  I know ... insert ugh and sigh here.
Following that yellow brick road, it’s a given that it had to be someplace appropriate to its weighty statement.  A certain assistant principal would have seen to that.  But realizing that it was every bit of five or six years after the building opened for business, the best of the best spots would have already been taken.  Plenty of ruffles and flourishes were built right into the stone, since The Great Depression hadn’t happened quite yet.  Not a one of us can say for sure what the original auditorium looked like, where we knew only our spiffy modern cafeteria.  Probably no gargoyles and parapets, but if there was space for something profound, it would have been there already.  
And keep in mind, or wherever you store such things, that brickwork arch above the mural as we see it in the photograph.  While we agree there was no shortage of such embellishment, many arches were part of vaulted ceilings and hallway intersections, with no solid, blank wall space behind them, as would be necessary for this application.  That certainly narrows the field.  
I know what you’re thinking.  It was above the doors to the library.  Wrong-o.  There’s no arch there, but I like the way you think.  It would have made sense there.  So it had to be somewhere that didn’t offend Mother Theresa’s noble sensibilities.  To my way of thinking, that leaves three possibilities.
How about the space just above the cafeteria doors?  Way back when, that would have been an entrance into the auditorium.  Maybe a contender, but from what I see in tintypes from our days, the curvature of all the first-floor arches is not the same.  How about the floor just above that, where back in antiquity, you could either go north to the auditorium balcony or east to the gym balcony?  Also maybe, but somehow it just doesn’t speak to me … not quite the high-rent space for something so grandiose.  
What does that leave us?  There is that stairway area at the east end of the Hillcrest side.  Now again, keep in mind that was a dead end back then … no addition yet, but a very glorious open space nonetheless, where students and their minders would have entered when they walked to the school from the south and east.  Not the formal “official” entrance, but a very busy one for sure.  And somehow I think this bit of real estate was special for TGF.  About the same time, the Fine Arts Association commissioned and installed the Longnecker-Folger tribute, Rookwood ceramic fountain there on the first floor … just outside that den of iniquity where all the teachers smoked their three-minute cigarettes.
Riddle me this … could it have been on the second floor, directly above that, as you came up that staircase from the landing, with the sunlight of the south-facing, long vertical window to illuminate and warm the void?  I like where this is heading.
The curvature of the arch is right; the scale seems appropriate; it might even have seemed to pass Miss Folger’s muster, but we still need a smoking gun to seal the deal.  
You rang?
The next time you have your magnifying glass out to read the instructions on your prescription bottle, take a look at the bricks in the mural photo and any of several shots from more recent times of the same area and you’ll have all the proof you need.  The bricks that had to be cut with the correctly-angled slivers, the disparate mortar gaps and even the piece de resistance, a chipped brick right where it should be.  This is where the applause light comes on.
After that, the rest, while denouement, is still fun to ponder.  Why wasn’t it there in our time at Fairview and where did it end up?
Spoiler alert!  There are no perfect answers.
Maybe the WPA style just seemed dated.  Maybe it no longer looked right once the hallway to the east opened up into the shiny new rooms to the east.  Who knows, it just could have been something as simple as a terrible accident one day when the construction crew for the addition misjudged how a stepladder might round the corner in going from one job to another.  Then too, maybe the work just no longer spoke to folks after a very good twenty-year run.  Your guess is as good as mine.
And where is it now?  Don’t know.  But what I do know, even without consulting a spiritual advisor, is that it didn’t just get pitched.  Regardless of any happenstance you can imagine about it coming down for the last time, there’s just no way the staff and teachers on Fairview’s roster at the time, would have allowed for any summary disposal of the work.  No way.  No how.  You would have heard the hue and cry.
My theory?  Once it was all too clear it would never again see the light of day at Fairview, it made its way, rolled ever so nicely and handled with the utmost tender, loving care, into a 1956 Pontiac and then to the attic of a nice frame house down on Radcliff Rd., just off Salem.
I’d like that.
Well, there’s the bell.   I won’t keep you.  Just let me tell you that I plan on watching Antiques Roadshow for a long time to come.

What Are the Chances?

Close your eyes and think of walking down the hallway toward Third & Main.  And, by the way, I don’t know which was Third and which was Main … and neither do you.
If your vision isn’t one of cocooning, sunset-colored brick walls and archways, warmth and nurture, and a words-fail-me sort of got-your-back presence, then something is wrong with the calibration on your sense of what-used-to-be.  Maybe you don’t use enough hyphens.  Or, maybe, you’re just not right.  
The bricks that were the essential part and parcel of that sense of all’s–well-with-the-world were probably nothing special to the masons who had to lift then up onto the scaffolding, day after day, and then apply the mortar and place them to the exacting tolerances of plumb and level.  With the proficiency that comes with doing any task a million times, the bricks saw themselves transformed from stacks of building material into our walls, archways, vaults and cues of architectural fantasy.  It’s one of those choreographed motions that, when you watch a master craftsman do it, looks so simple, so fluid.  But, well, hmmm ... have you ever tried to spackle an 8’ drywall joint and have it look perfect the first time?  Enough said.
You have to wonder how much Mr. Longnecker and Miss Folger had to say about the brickage.  Could they extrapolate what a million bricks sitting on pallets, given the right amount of bibbity, bobbity, boo, would end up looking like?  Was it something they saw in the first Fairview that worked so well, it was unimaginable not to use it again?   Maybe a recent edition of Better Schools & Gardens?  Add that to the list of things we’ll never know.
The school’s three main stairwells were brick from top to bottom, and a coat or two of amber shellac, after everything had cured, transformed them into the warm and fuzzy we remember.  I know it was shellac because, either 1) I know everything there is to know about period masonry finishes, or 2) I saw a large container of shellac in the school’s paint locker when I snuck my way into the basement boiler room.  In any case, shellac was ideal to cover a multitude of sins.  It sealed the raw, rough brick surface and made it easy to clean.  It allowed for 80 years of student class officer vote-for-me signs and pep-rally tomorrow-after-sixth-period posters being attached with masking tape, with no worry about gobs of adhesive residue nastiness.  
Most importantly, however, the shellac imparted a permanence, a sense of mass, and that deep, rich, honey-flavored glow of much of what your mind’s eye sees when you remember Fairview.  But then, that does still depend on whether your eyes are still shut from when I told you to, back in the first paragraph.  Pity there are some people who just don’t get it.
You have to believe it wasn’t an accident.

Now that the scene is set, the props in place and the last stagehand out of the way, as you walk up the stairs from the first floor intersection of Third & Main, before you get to the landing, you’ll be good enough to notice the word “DOWN” with an arrow built in to it, pointing to the lower left, stenciled on the brick wall to your left.  I believe the font was “Old School.”  Now, unless this “DOWN” was part of a subtle marketing campaign for high-end Canadian comforters, I have to think it’s a directional graphic.

The scary thing is that I do remember it being there in the ‘60s and having absolutely no idea what it was about.  And no, I’m not going to tell you whether I actually obeyed it, but at the risk of embarrassing myself even more, I will tell you that each time I transited those steps, I made it a point to reach up and try to touch it for good luck.  You’d think after the first fifty times, I’d have realized it didn’t work.

So, help me out here.  I was honor roll as often as not and I’m clueless.  Let’s take a leap of faith and say that someone wanted you to use those stairs only to go down.  I know, I know.  Usually you only get that kind of revelation from post-doctoral studies.  Now, don’t get ahead of me here, but wouldn’t you think that somewhere there’d be at least one correspondingly inexplicable “UP” stencil, complete with an arrow just to insult your intelligence?  Well, I’m here to tell you, there isn’t one, or even two.  Trust me, I looked high and low, and neither is there isn’t any evidence that there once was and it got erased out of existence.  The only other stencil I know of was the word “balcony” on the second floor, in the landing above the entrance to the cafeteria, telling us where to head for the permanent gym seating.  They must have used up all the makes-sense-to-me on that one.
I suppose we’ll all be left to ponder just what happened to precipitate the “DOWN.”  Was there a time when Miss Folger and her posse were trying to get back to the office from the library to get an important phone call, just as the bell rang for changing classes?   That would not have been pretty … like salmon trying to swim up-stream through the electric power turbines.  So what, the next day the sign went up so history could never repeat itself?  Far fetched, sure, but I’m still waiting for your better idea.

Hang on a minute.  It all gets a whole lot weirder.

I said my good-byes to Fairview in the fine company of Baileys Irish Cream and certainly had no interest in driving seventy-five miles to see heavy power equipment do what it does.  Some part of me thought the best Fairview bricks might get recycled and sold as elite used brick for fancy new digs in Oakwood, Centerville, Tipp City or anyplace where property taxes only know how to go up.  Then too, I suppose there was a time when I wondered if there was a hierarchy of debris in the landfill.  Certainly the Fairview material would rise to the top, above anything from Colonel White or Meadowdale.
I didn’t even think about getting a “souvenir” brick when offered.  Some reminders are just too brutal, too confrontational.  But when one day my daughter drove over to Dayton to pick out a couple bricks for me as a surprise, I decided I could pretend to appreciate the gesture.  
The first brick out of the grocery bag was nondescript and offered no hint as to its past life.  The second one might as well have screamed at me from a mile away.  On turning it over, I first noticed a coat of shellac was perfectly intact on one surface and then parts of stenciled black letters seemed visible … W ... N, unless my letter recognition program was faulty.  And there aren’t enough upper case numbers to express my disbelief at what I was seeing. 

I could only think it was like the wand picking the wizard.  Was I supposed to give it a good home until it was time to rebuild the school?  And when our sun blows up, takes our world with it and our scattered atoms become parts of other worlds, perhaps some force of All Things Fairview in a parallel universe will orchestrate a grand gathering and re-assemble all the necessary parts as a monument for all things good.

What are the chances?

I guess it depends on whether you believe in Brick.