Thursday, October 10, 2019

A New Visit to an Old School

Fall seems to be a big time for class reunions and my school was no exception. One of the highlights of the weekend was a tour of the school.

Homeroom!

According to wikipedia (that oh-so-reliable source!), J.W. Sexton High School "is the most important in terms of architectural innovation." Architectural designs began in 1939 and took two years to complete. Construction was halted after the bombing of Pearl Harbor for sometime, but it resumed and the school opened in 1943, with the auditorium being completed in 1949 and the pool in 1956. If the school was built today, it would cost $26 million. Its total capacity could handle more than 2,500 students. (Our graduating class was 460.)

Source: Reunion committee

The exterior of the building is handsome but it is the interior that then -- and now -- continued to amaze me. Designed at the end of the Art Deco period, it includes many features from that era, including an impressive clock tower and rotunda on the exterior.

Source unknown

One enters a spacious foyer with curved walls, paneled in light oak and with a high ceiling. It is flanked on both sides with trophy cases. Another beautiful feature was a collection of mosaics on the floor at various points in the buildings where hallways meet. The floor is made from a material called terrazzo, which resembles granite. This was in the foyer, definitely setting the place!


 By the auditorium we see Punch and Judy.


Others highlight music (in the corridor leading to the band, orchestra and choir rooms...


... and


Different mosaics were inset at various places in the hallway.  We wondered if there might have been water fountains there.


The walls are of tile with decorative tiles set within the terracotta colored tiles. These reflect mythological figures and stories...


...along with scenes from Shakespeare...


 ...and other shapes from nature.


The tiles were created specifically for the school by the interior designed and were made with standard stock with little extra cost to the school district.


As you might guess, my favorite area was the auditorium. It could seat over 1,000 with its large balcony and had red seats in the school colors. I spent a lot of time here during my three years at school -- onstage and off.


It became clear that our tour wasn't going to include the basement where the scene shop and dressing rooms, so my friend Diane and I skipped away from the tour to go downstairs. The scene shop looked much as it did during our years.


I even found my cousin's name painted on the wall near the ceiling. She was there nine years before me.


The dressing rooms looked a little sad and the green room was stuffed with lumber and whatever other junk seemed to be in hiding. It was pretty clear there is no drama department left at Sexton.


But the stairway held memories. Although I didn't recognize any of the names here...


... you can see from this photo of our drama teacher back in 1969 that there are names from my era. They had been overpainted by later generations!


The library was also impressive. I remember when his mural, by a woman named Linda Wright, was created on the library wall. (NOTE: If the blogger named 60 Something -- a no-reply blogger and I couldn't find a site -- is out there, thanks for commenting. You know, when I walked into the library, I said to someone, "Sue Radke did this." But then the name Linda Wright was on the mural and no sign of Sue so I thought I must have been thinking of something else. As you said in your comment, you thought she had something to do with it -- and I did too, so thanks for letting me know. I wish she'd signed her name!)


The bookshelves and circulation desk are made of oak and the room is large. I met up with several old friends there who recalled working in the library and a lot of "shusshing" going on!


There were memories attached to the gymnasium, site of many a basketball game and gym class in those awful navy blue one piece gymsuits girls had to wear.


We learned that the choir room was now for detention but the band room was still there! (In fact, just this past week, the school resurrected the Homecoming Parade for the first time in years.)


From the third floor, we had a great view of the football field! Our drivers ed classes were on the other side of that and on cold winter mornings it felt like a very long walk!


It has been fifty years since we gathered together and collected those diplomas. For some, it was their first step toward higher education. For others, Vietnam or jobs at Oldsmobile, our local factory, called.


Many friendships were made, many lost. And that day...


...many renewed.

45 comments:

Haddock said...

Lovely memories, isn't it. Nothing better to rejuvenate you.

William Kendall said...

Quite a school!

60 Something said...

What a wonderful trip down memory lane. Isn't it interesting how time changes everything. Just for the record, I do believe my locker mate, Sue Radke, had a part in the library mural. So many memories on stage and back stage.

Pamela said...

A walk down your Memory Lane. Looks like a wonderful school. I attended a small rural school - only 53 in my graduating class. I've not been back for a reunion and now that I live on the other side of the world, probably won't ever.

Marilyn Miller said...

How special to reconnect with friends from high school at your 50th. Sad they don't have drama any longer. So many schools are cutting art programs of all kinds. Amazing you found your cousins name still on the wall. The only reunion I attended was my 35th and I could hardly remember anyone, but then I didn't have many friends in my class. So happy you were able to enjoy yours.

laurie said...

What an amazing school! It’s huge! It must have been a wonderful reunion for you, so much history, Thank you for showing this today,, that’s quite an amazing place to go to school!

David M. Gascoigne, said...

I have never been to a school reunion, but I am sure that they are fun. I wonder how many people are secretly shocked when they see people they haven't seen in fifty years or so!

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

How wonderful it is to be able to revisit the places we grew up in! You graduated from a very large school, Jeanie! The art deco is quite interesting for a high school, very fancy! I love the mosaics. It looks like you and your friends enjoyed yourselves.

My name is Erika. said...

How cool to visit your old high school. It is an impressive looking building. And I love all the tile details, plus the painted stairs. Does high school seem a long time ago? I know for me it was but in some ways, when I think about it, it doesn't seem that long ago. I think childhood memories are just so strong. I would like to go back and visit my old school, but I know it has been renovated. MAybe one day. Thanks for the tour Jeanie. I enjoyed it. Hugs-Erika

krishna said...

So many lovely memories. Thanks lot for sharing with us.

Misadventures of Widowhood said...

I never knew Lansing had such a big high school back in the day and the fact that it still retains a lot of it's original art deco features is amazing. Thanks for taking us on the tour with you.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

You always have fun and the most beautiful smile! How neat to get to go back and spend time with old friends. You went to a much bigger school than I did! I guess everyone did! hahaha! Hugs!

Amy at Ms. Toody Goo Shoes said...

What a wonderful day! It mast be something to go back to your school after all those years! I would love the opportunity to go back to mine. Recently, I was invited back to my elementary school, but I couldn't make it. I wish I'd gone. Glad you were able to renew some friendships!

Evi Erlinda said...

A fabulous school!
The basements is wonderful, remains the same, so even 50 years ago, just like yesterday.

Valerie-Jael said...

What a fabulous school building. Glad you enjoyed your trip down memory lane. We had to wear those one piece gymsuits, too - must have been in back then! Hugs, Valerie

Iris Flavia said...

You so made me laugh with "(that oh-so-reliable source!)" as I had a very "unlikeable" colleague we called "Wiki" due to this!
Oh, an Art Deco school sounds and really looks wonderful!
But the tree going in the foyer... hmmm.

Huuuh... I never was that good in math. We had a math teacher who came from the "Army" (Bundeswehr) and tanks were in his lessons a constant - as the saying "girls can´t do math anyways". In geometry I "failed", despite I (think) I understood it all. My parents, in the "aftermath" should´ve asked to see my work! Bet most was correct.

The scene shop looks great and inviting indeed. And a very big WOW to finding your cousin´s name there!!! And I love the stairs idea, too.

Oh, I hated sports at school. I was the smallest and always behind. And the smell... ewwww!
Detention, yes :-( Sooo often for driving - like all others - on my bike to the holders. That teacher hated and waited for me.

Oh? Is that for football and soccer alike?

Vietnam. So many stupid wars. If only the leaders would talk to each other and fight it out themselves... but they are chicken.

Oh, you look sooo happy :-)


Rustic Pumpkin said...

A delightful trip down Memory Lane through a beautifully built school. Wonderful architecture and detail. Both my junior and Grammar schools were Victorian built, but today only the facades remain intact {although I am sure the toilets and showers are original lol}

Deb in Wales

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

Stunning tiles on the floors and the walls. So much to see and enjoy during a fun reunion. I bet you were glad you went.

Thelma said...

I really enjoyed the tour of this fantastic school. You were fortunate to attend here. Great memories.

Victoria Zigler said...

Sounds like a wonderful building to have been able to go to school in, and so many great memories...

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Thanks for the high school tour, Jeanie, and what a trip down your memory lane. I have never been back to my NJ high school, which I’m not even sure still exists as last I heard it was being used as an elementary school.

Sandra at Maison De Jardin said...

Ah, Jeanie, I so enjoyed your tour. Your high school was quite ahead of its time and is a beautiful building. Reunions are special, especially the 50th. Mine was last year. It is still amazing to me how the time goes. So glad you could attend and thank you for sharing your memories.

La Table De Nana said...

Spied you right away! A local high chool had it's 100th reunon last week..I have never been to one..surprise surprse..Not even sure the French side of my high school ever did one..
The high school I went to was divided at that time into two wings..French Side..English side and rarerly did the two mingle.Except for football.

FenchGardenHouse said...

Jeanie, what a wonderful tour! I love the mosaics and those tiles!! Superb. Your school is in such a well designed beautiful building- thank you for sharing your memories with all of us! Lidy

Sally Wessely said...

Your school was amazing. My granddaughter graduated fro a school also built during this era that is priceless in its Art Deco design. One wonders if the students appreciate it. Loved seeing those places where you spent your formative years. It is sad to the think the arts are neglected in our schools. Think how important those areas were to you and to me. I too spent much time in the drama area and on stage.

Joanne Huffman said...

How nice to have a fun reunion and meet up with old friends.

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Wow, your school was really beautiful. I love the mosaics! I bet it was fun to walk down memory lane. My parents celebrated 50 years in 2016. This past year was my 20th reunion but I did not go. I do not have fond memories of school unfortunately... I went to a very sport-centric school and I was not athletic and was really into academics and the arts (drama, speech, band, choir, etc) so I was a big misfit! There were 28 people in my class, so not very many and there just wasn't much diversity in thought/interests. I actually begged my parents to send me to a boarding school in high school. They wouldn't and now that I am a parent, I understand why. I wouldn't want to have fewer years with my child around either. But it all worked out in the end - I found true friendships in college and thereafter. I wouldn't want to relive those years for all the tea in China, though!!!!!

Mae Travels said...

The high school where we went looks very much like yours -- it was built (mainly) in 1930. I've driven past it but never gone into it since I graduated. You are brave to do that!

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Sakuranko said...

Oh very intersting place
xx

Sakuranko said...

Oh very intersting darling
xx

Prims By The Water said...

I have always loved mosaics. Once we did these in art class and I loved every minute of doing them, Janice

Barb said...

Wow, your high school had a lot of great art work and detail. I haven't been back to mine since the five year! Bob and I graduated class of 1962 back in PA, and we've lost many of our classmates.My favorites are the photos you took of the nether regions.

Little Wandering Wren said...

I have never been back to my old school - it would be a fun thing to do. I still have four friends from my convent days as I like to call them who I see on every visit back to the UK though! Your school reunions look very organised and great fun!
Wren x

roughterrain crane said...

This is a wonderful tour. Full of happy memories.

eileeninmd said...

Hello,

what a neat tour of your old school. Your class size was huge, we probably had less than a 100 girls. It looks like a fun reunion. Happy weekend to you!

Debbie-Dabble Blog and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

Jeanie,
What a great tour and so many amazing things to see!! The 2 elementary schools that I went to have been torn down and there are parks where they once stood, my Junior High and my high school are now Elementary schools. They built a brand new high school but I missed it by a year and was in the last class to graduate from the old high school! Thanks so much for stopping by!!
Hugs,
Deb

Pam said...

Well you probably know what items in this school gets my attention....the art tile work. Amazing. Great pics and how cool to go see all that.

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

It's fun to see kids you grew up with and visit your old school. Love the tiles - Hamlet, etc. As we used to say in the 1960's - Far Out!

Latane Barton said...

Wow, I wish I'd gone to a school like that. None of my 3 schools still stand. It's sad but time marches on.

Lea said...

Great photos!
We had our 50th class reunion last year - Tupelo High 1968! Wish we could have had a tour of our old school. What was the high school back then is now a middle school, and the current high school is in new buildings.
Have a wonderful weekend!

Sami said...

Such a huge and beautiful school Jeanie. Love the tiles and mosaic panels. I've never been to any reunions at my high school, but I've been back to South Africa where I finished high school, since we left about 20 years again. What great memories to treasure :)

Jenny Woolf said...

Amazing that so many of you are left and able to come. It must have been fun. I love the mosaics and decorations. I'm not sure our schools here had such stuff, we had posters on the walls and that was about it, although there would probably have been architectural stuff if we had thought to look for it! A shame that the school seems to have stopped drama and choir, artistic and cultural things can give a lifetime's happiness, can't they?

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, what a beautiful school and so many sweet memories. My hubby celebrated his 50 year high school reunion back in a May. Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos! Have a wonderful week~

Lowcarb team member said...

What a wonderful day you had, lovely photographs.

All the best Jan

Karen said...

Love the mosaics.

Popular Posts