Sunday, January 10, 2010

Surviving public school


The Town and the school were built on the side of a mountain.
This is a picture of the "company" office. If you keep going down the stairs it will bring you right to the "memorial hall". The building had a gym, cafeteria, bowling alley in the basement, auditorium, music rooms, movie theatre, and a wicked scary fire escape, a couple of minarets, and various nooks and crannies.

The grade school is the building beside the "memorial" hall. A bunch of classrooms, teacher's room, Home Ec. in the basement and Wood and Metal shop classrooms. a couple of disgusting bathrooms. The High school was old, but well maintained. To get to the gym, you had to go into the basement of the building, after you got to the basement, the gym was another level down but a separate wing separated by stairs.
the basement was an ugly place. It was just a long corridor with... nothing except toilets, furnace room, locker rooms, and big air vents to the classrooms above.

The mines were behind the school. The landscaping was gray dirt from the mines. The schools sat on a plateau. You had your outside gym classes on a pile of dirt. If you lost a ball over the bank it was high adventure to retrieve it. some softballs were lost forever. It was a lot different than most schools. Its uniqueness had its charm. Pictures: The office, grade school and memorial hall, the high school.

I received my education from at a small rural mining town school in upstate New York. In my town there were three public high schools, and two Catholic schools that went as far as 8th grade. The town's total population was about 7,500 people. The schools were actually very good schools. We could take courses that very few schools offer now. Four years of Latin, four years of French, Advance Math courses, Advance Science courses, Industrial arts (Woodworking, Advance Woodworking, metalworking).

My favorite classes were Physical Education and study hall. The education was good but the athletics were unbelievable. There were numerous great athletes in our town. One guy from my school became a major league pitcher and a World Series MVP. Another guy played for the Harlem Globetrotters. These two guys stick out in my mind, but there were numerous others who were great at sports in our town.

My school wasn't pretty. It was downright ugly. If you looked at it from the front it wasn't too bad. The back part was hideous. The school was built on a mesa of gray dirt (tailings) from the mines. below the mesa was the mines. The sounds coming from down the mesa to our classroom was the sound of ore cars being filled. The sound of
ore hoists coming out of the mines filled with ore, the sound of dynamite explosions at
2:20 pm every day. The miner's were getting more ore prepared for the next shift. It wasn't a quiet environment for education.

The teacher in our high school were a rough bunch. They would teach you or they would beat the crap out of you. Which ever you preferred. They would have beastly nicknames of vicious animals. Some names like Badger, Pegleg, Bull, Crazy Frank, Frizzy, and "Bloody" Blair, to name a few.

"Bloody" was a pilot in Army Air Force during WWII. He spent a lot of time in Australia. He married a cute Aussie girl and came back to teach school. He couldn't get Australia out of his system. It was bloody this, bloody that, and he couldn't pronounce the word perhaps any more. It was "pr'aps the bloody war affected me more than I thought." I think he ended up going back to Australia.

"Crazy Frank" was the hot tempered football coach and teacher. He was brutal at football practice. He would coin wonderful expressions like, " Wojahowski!!! Are you going to get your finger out of your ass and start blocking?" He would often accuse some poor polish kid of having their finger in some body orifice when they should have been blocking or tackling. But he would give tremendous pregame and half time speeches. The team would come out at half time ready to kill. Nasty football.

A little true story: After a big pile up after a play, one player we will call Ralph (which is good..because it's his real name) went back to the huddle and was smiling. Bob (which is his real name)asked Ralph why he was smiling. Ralph said, " I just bit some guy in the leg in that pile." Bob answered, " That was me you bit, You SOB!!!" really happened!!

"Bull" was a great teacher. He was also the most intimidating. I never saw him smile in my life. He was a really big guy. If you wanted to physically challenge him, he would take you up on it. There are legendary stories of him wrestling a student in the school stairwell in his younger days. You didn't mess with "Bull".

"Mobby" was the English and Latin teacher. I believe that Latin was her first language.
She would often say Latin phrases in English class, like it kinda slipped out. She was intimidating also. Her brilliance was sometimes overwhelming. I think she taught Julius Caesar. I know she spent time in Europe and was educated at the "Sorbonne" in Paris.
Hmmm! She must have known a tad of French also.
We had a teacher with the nickname "Fossil", he was obviously a science teacher.
"Twitch" was one of my teacher, "Pegleg" I just missed by one year.
I believe that some of my female elementary school teachers were actually guards at some Nazi prison camp during WWII. These women had Irish names but I would sometimes hear a little Teutonic tinge in their stentorian command.
Maybe it was just me.

Those were the days when a teacher was not allowed to kill you but everything else was ok. I had been manhandled and paddled by numerous teacher at the school. I did not run home and tell Mama and dada. Their theory was: You must have done something wrong, so you're going to get it again. No one got killed. I only heard one person beg for mercy before being paddled. He had a boil on his ass. No mercy was given. He got it anyway.
If the faculty and student did today what we did back then, a bunch of people would have been "incarcerated in the penitentiary" , as they say on the street now days. I couldn't even spell those words when I was in school.
It was an educational experience. It was also fun. I enjoyed school.


  1. I just love the pictures and the history!

  2. You don't have teachers like "Pegleg" and "crazy Frank" when you go to an all-girls' catholic school. At least I don't think so!


  3. We had 2 Catholic schools in our town. I heard about some of the nuns.
    Some of my friends were taught by sister Mary Margaret De Sade and
    Mother superior Elana Rasputin and Monsignor Fondler.

  4. Those are great photos. I went to a Catholic high school in Brazil, and I swear, it could be that school. Was there only one floor plan for old Catholic schools?!?