Sunday, August 21, 2011

Grand Old Lady

So many children entered through these doors

The sign is blank.  The steps are mostly buried, a railing rises from the earth.  A gibbet of sorts protrudes from the front.

 It's obvious that just about everything needs help.  Roof, siding, windows, foundation.  The "Grand Old Lady" of St. Vincent, that housed so many young souls on their journey of learning, deserves better.

At one time, the school had basketball, football, hockey, baseball &
hockey teams. Where did they play basketball?  My guess:  Reid Hall
The St. Vincent School, once the heart of the town, has become forgotten by most. Only the few living alumni or older area residents know its former glory.

I am one of those alumni, and I am here to bear testimony to this once proud building.

I grew up four blocks north of the school.  In winter, it was sometimes a challenge despite being bundled up, to get down to the school before the penetrating cold invaded fingers, toes, cheeks, and ears. Eyes stung from the cold and wind, some mornings so bright I looked down as I walked the whole way.

1928 St. Vincent Men's Basketball Team
[That's my Uncle John Fitzpatrick in back, far left]

When I was older, and began taking the bus to Humboldt, I'd wait for it at the St. Vincent School.  Once to the school, I'd wait with a few others in the big open area on the main floor with it's high ceilings, wood floors, and radiators.  The radiators were particularly comforting on the cold days of mid-winter, often drying and warming my mittens while we waited.  I remember a big black wall phone on the east wall above the radiator that was only to be used to call home in emergencies.  Immediately to the right of the phone, radiator, and the large window to its south were the steps down into the basement.  That was where the kitchen and lunchroom were, and during my time at the school, Simonne Cameron was the cook.  Scootie Wilkie was the janitor. And Peanuts (a nearby town resident's pet dog) was the mascot.

St. Vincent School classroom portrait - Miss Evelyn Russell, teacher
[Circa 1916 - Courtesy Marjorie DeFrance - who is in this photo!]
The Author, Grade 3

It was when I "went upstairs" to attend third and fourth grade, that I encountered the old-style school desks.  See the picture above?  I'm pretty sure it was those exact desks that were still there 50 years later in 1966.  They were made of hardwood and cast iron, polished now from little hands opening and closing lids over the years.  Ink wells were still present but empty now, due to the technological advancements of the modern pen.  Names of past students and messages from the past were carved inside lids; I wish I could remember those names now, but the folly of youth is often poor attention!

Playground - Notice the boys hogging the merry-go-round 
 (then again,  maybe the girls are hogging the slide!) 
My sister Betty is in line for the slide - Can you recognize anyone?
[Circa 1960 - Courtesy Humboldt Centennial Photo Collection]
Still an imposing building, it's character has been tarnished with 
strange renovations and so-called 'improvements' over the years
[August 2011 - Courtesy Megan Sugden]
Late Day shot of the school as it is today - the twilight of a school, 
the twilight of a town, the twilight of a day.  Bittersweet.
[August 2011 - Courtesy Jamie Rustad Meagher]
My grandparents, my mother and her siblings, and my sisters and I (and even in a way, my daughter Eva, who attended school in Humboldt one year but caught the bus down at the school) all attended this school. My Grandpa Fitzpatrick even worked at the school for a time as the custodian in the early 1900's.  It feels surreal to see something that seems so permanent, fading away.  A sober reminder to us all...