Saturday, January 28, 2017

What's Wrong With These Pictures?

Fun stuff ... those line-drawn-picture-page-games in the each new issue of Highlights.  

Sure, now that you’re all grown up, pretend you don’t remember those innocuous scenes of barnyards, living rooms, forests and city streets that had a dozen or so altered bits of imagery, each somehow not quite right ... numbers out-of-order on a clock face, a space ship on a busy highway, a fish on a leash and so on and so on.  They were a few moments of distraction in the dentist’s office or until your mother yelled at you to go outside and play.

Fast forward to early November, 2015 and a visit to Fairview PreK to 8 at Fairview Commons ... at the corner of Elsmere and Hillcrest, just a stone’s throw down the road from another school you might remember. 

Since I’ve been assured that time heals all wounds, I thought I might stop in and see how the items “rescued” from FHS were getting along, in their new lobby home.  You may recall that our two Metcalf stained glass windows, the Four Freedoms reliefs from above the library doors, and Bruiser, the bulldog, each found its way there as either an act of charitable legacy-keeping or outright self-serving piracy in the name of preservation, depending on your political persuasion.  But I’m not here to make that particular judgment.  

Nooooo, not me.
It was a glorious, crystal clear, mid-autumn day ... the kind you need these days to make this part of Dayton View look decent, without the help of Norman Rockwell.  Such days allow everything to look its best ... the colors pop and even the dull and dirty seem to get time off for good behavior.  To put that euphoria to the test, I drove by the site of our Fairview, aka “the scene of the crime,” and managed not to fill my thought balloon with bitter invective  So, perhaps Zoloft does work.

To facilitate the visit, I had taken the precaution of e-mailing ahead to get permission.  I had no reason to believe the long-standing promise that our treasured bits of history would always be available for viewing.  And did I say I remembered to print off a copy of the principal’s positive reply? 

Ever-mindful of protocol with such things, I checked in at the office just off the parking lot.  The outer doors were unlocked, but the inner set were not.  At this point you are obliged to state your business through a sliding glass window, before entering the inner sanctum.  And while my pre-arrangement was acknowledged by the administrative assistant, that only allowed me to pass “Go” and move to the next increment of scrutiny.  I relinquished a driver’s license to confirm my alleged identity, whereupon several moments of computer input ensued.  No doubt I was checked against myriad databases of known felons and doers of no-good.

To the best of my knowledge, no one in my neighborhood has ever received any of those special postcards, serving notice of my proximity.

In the fullness of time, the printer spit out a lovely peel-and-stick badge, to be worn at all times, while on the premises.  I’ll treasure it always and it’s so nice to have yet another ID number to add to my collection.  And what kind of tour guide would I be if I didn’t share it with you at this juncture? 

That right of passage was accompanied by the heart-warming sound of an electronic lock opening the inside door … right, the same harsh metallic buzz you hear all the time in those prison movies … and I was allowed access to the common space.
But not to trust to that one initial screening process, my entire visit was monitored by those little black hemispherical surveillance camera fixtures mounted on the walls and ceiling.  You can sleep better now knowing that any miscreant behavior on my part can be fully documented at my trial.

However, to the matter at hand, the good news is that the aforementioned stained glass windows, Four Freedoms reliefs and bulldog are there and not in imminent threat of peril ... exposure to hundreds of grade schoolers notwithstanding.  

Exhibit A: our mascot, the bulldog.  If I remember the ancient lore correctly, Bruiser arrived at FHS when the new cafeteria was added in the ‘50s and proof that he wasn’t an afterthought was evident in the fact that his pedestal in the senior room of the cafeteria was part of that construction.  And there he sat for upwards of fifty years until he was moved to the floor at the intersection of the two first floor hallways ... Third and Main.  It’s my guess that happened because he no longer got much exposure in a cafeteria that no longer functioned as a cafeteria.  We’re not sure hot many kids tripped over him there before he was removed by the loving hands of DPS’ “Antiquities Re-purposing Committee” just prior to the demolition.

Over those years, any student in our high school, or the middle school or elementary school that followed, could become just the slightest bit happier and connected by touching him as they passed by.  But now in his new-and-improved residence he is protected by plexiglas, stanchions and rope.  No lasers were visible. 

Is it just me or does he seem to look a bit sad now? 

OK, if you’re still wearing the audio-headphones you rented when the tour began, you’ll note that we’re moving on to see the Metcalf stained glass windows.  In case you forgot to refill your memory-restoration prescription, they were in the two original landings at FHS along the Hillcrest side.  There, facing the sun always to their south, they communicated a message as only stained glass can do.  They were made for the space where they were and you saw them every day.  That message has been the subject of much recent prose of notable merit, but suffice it to say, that even if you were oblivious to them for four years then, their significance is imprinted into what makes you, you.

Now, those windows are hung like so many Walmart-framed pictures.  You don’t really like them, but since your parents gave them to you, you have to put them up or they’ll think you don’t like them.  I mean, really.  1) They’re up high in a out-of-the way corner of a chartreuse cinderblock wall.  2) They’re not on an outside wall.  3) The closest light they see is from fluorescent fixtures along their edges.  4) They compete with so much visual clutter as to be invisible.  Got the message? 

Fortunately, smarter people than you and I decided this was a far superior venue for their display than the Carillon Historical Park where untold tens of thousands from all generations and walks of life could have enjoyed them every year.

Why if I were a cynical, borderline misanthropic Mr Glass-Half-Empty, I might have said, “Why bother?”
Now, class, there’s the awkward matter of the Four Freedoms reliefs mentioned back when you were still paying attention.  As the accompanying clipping tells us, they were created by a student during the WWII era in testament not as much to the importance of the inalienable privileges enumerated, but rather to those in service to protect them.  Like the stained glass, part of why they worked so well in another Fairview was that they were painfully timely and relevant to their audience, not to mention appropriately placed ... above the library doors and backgrounded by that wonderful honey-brown brickwork. 

So, other than their presence here being so much sweetness wasted on the desert breeze, what possible problem could I have with them in their current iteration?  After all, they are above the doors to the Media Center, so there should be points awarded for continuity.  Could it have something to do with the fact that the tablets are not in the same order that they were for nigh on to seventy years in another place and time? 

That’s right.  In the ‘40s they were installed in the following order: Fear, Speech, Want and Religion.  Don’t believe me; squint through your high-end, acrylic multi-focal glasses and see for yourself.  Now take a look at how they ended up at good ol’ FPK8/FC.  Looks like Speech, Religion, Fear and Want to me!  Well, shoot me now and call me old-fashioned, but what do these current keepers of the flame know now that the artist did not, way back when?  Does that fall under artistic license?  If so, would you mind if I made some casual alterations to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address?

Apparently I’m just a cranky old man.  Somehow I’m not even managing to be grateful that they got the tablets right-side up.  If they ever find the original Ten Commandments, do not let these same people handle them.  

But enough excitement for one day.  Hopefully the bus will be here soon to take me back to the home.

So, what’s wrong with this picture?  

If you still can’t find all the things that aren’t quite right and you’re ready to give up, go ahead and look at the answers.  They’re at the bottom of page 65, written upside down in small print.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your assessment and wish things could have been different. Those kids walking the halls will glide past these memories of ours never knowing or ever waiting to know their histories. What of the teachers, do they even care as well? I doubt it. I guess the only saving grace is that they did not destroy them. Maybe someday someone with a better outlook on history will move them to a better location where more and more can enjoy a look into the past and reflect on what is wrong with the present.