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