11-11-09 FIELD TRIP

Go Ahead Now, Just Close Your Eyes
by Dan Wolfe, Class of '65

No, really…you’ll see.  Fairview’s still there.  Sure she’s changed, but haven’t we all.  Let’s see how you look when you’re 80!
OK, fine.  As long as you have the permission slip signed by a parent or by another student who had handwriting like someone’s mother, we can go together.
We’ll park in that small upper student lot and walk around outside before we go in.  Just don’t look suspicious.
There’s the football field and track…the scene of all my athletic triumphs.  That would be two if you count both the imaginary ones.  Until the late ‘50s it was also used for girls’ field hockey.  Can’t see the run-off from the cinder track where they did long jump and pole vault any more.  The two goal posts are still there, if somewhat the worse for wear and that Class of 1930 entrance gate that faces Hillcrest Ave is still as majestic as it needs to be to give you a lump in your throat.

Now, let’s head to the west, down toward Philadelphia Dr.  Don’t bother looking for the Mascot.  It’s long gone, now…some sort of small apartment building.  Moment of silence.
Fairview is still drop-dead gorgeous, even with the different windows that only have glass in the bottom half.  It’s those dappled tan-ish brown bricks that make me think of the building even when I see them somewhere else.
Ah, there’s the bump-out that used to be the greenhouse in the Biology classroom.  That would have been Mr. Vance in my day.

I see the brick and masonry benches from the Class of ’67 where the busses stopped…Route #5 and the label atop the bus read Hillcrest.  When it reached Fairview it turned left to Salem and went back downtown.  Or I could be making that up, hoping your memory isn’t all that great.
Wow.  There’s something that fires a few brain cells that haven’t been used for a while…the retaining wall at the very corner of the sidewalk from the Class of 1944.  Do I really remember seeing that way back when?  Maybe that sort of thing is invisible until you’re older.

There’s the bulletin signframe from the Class of ’58.  That was my sister’s class.  Remember how it always fogged up inside when it was the least bit wet and you couldn’t read anything?
What was my class’ gift, anyway…1965?  Maybe a piano?  Maybe our departure?
Hmmm.  Four flagpoles.  I only remember one.
Now head north along Philadelphia.  You remember north…as in moss grows on that side of trees?

There’s the auditorium entrance.  That whole part of the building was an addition in the ‘50s, right?

I’ll give $6.37 to the first person who, without looking, can tell me what the decorative artwork on the outside of the building looked like…just to the left of those stairs.
That’s a safe bet.  There are six reliefs depicting different disciplines one could pursue in school.  From north to south, they are athletics, science, theatre, music, literature and art…all still beautiful with their Art Deco character.

Did you ever go around to the north side of the building?  Me neither.  Still the same collection of dumpsters, emergency exits from hither and yon, and piles of miscellaneous leftover parts and pieces…real picture postcard stuff.  Some windows along the old first floor shop hallway have been bricked-up, but even that is eerily beautiful in its own way.
The parking lot inside the U-shaped building is as you should remember it.  You expected maybe a Japanese garden with those cutsie bonsai trees, streams and a gazebo?  Well that kind of feng shui hasn’t made it there yet.

Smokestack?  Sure.  Do you remember ever seeing smoke come from the top?  Smile pretty for the camera, Mr. Chimney.

Go ahead.  Open the door that’s right there.
No, you do it.
Not me…you do it.  What if there’s an alarm?  I’m not gonna get in trouble and get sent to the office.
Hope we don’t get lost.  Where’s one of those “You Are Here” maps when you need one…yeh…with the red arrow and the big round dot?
OK, there’s the door to where the Language Lab was and believe it or not, that’s still what it says.  Now down the steps to the cafeteria and hang a left.
Hey, where’s the vending machine?  It still owes me a dime.
Now you have to understand something…FHS hadn’t been our FHS since the ‘80s.  Don’t expect to hear the bell telling you to change classes.  She’s a grade school now, so prepare your brain to see all sorts of picturey, postery, decoration thingies all over creation.  You know, like the hideous ones you made and got yelled at for eating the paste.
Ooooo.  Room 101.  You remember Miss Herbst, even if you didn’t take her class.  Absolutely criminal what happened to Eugene O’Neill in that room!  And there’s still the part of the room with all the windows and the PA console where they made announcements.
Alright now.  Slow down.  Take a breather.  Having a panic attack about not completing your homework is only natural.  That’s just part of recurring nightmare #43.

Ooooo, again.  There’s one of those decorative drinking fountains outside the office.  Did they still work back in the ‘60s or were they just for show?

Yellow wall lockers, all along the hallways…that’s a different look.
If you peek into the office, you’ll see those tiny little paneled rooms that the principal, assistant principal and counselors called home.  And take it from me…I know what they looked like.
Third and Main.  Now we’re really home!  By the way, which was Third and which was Main?

Don’t say anything, just soak it in.

There’s still a lot you’ll recognize…the tile floors…the stairwells…the views down the hallways.  And if I don’t see something in the corner of your eyes when you first put your hand on those glazed ceramic brown brick walls, well, you’re just not right.

The Bulldog mascot from the Senior Room in the cafeteria is now dead-center on the floor where the two hallways meet.  That’s the big difference.  I wonder what OSHA thinks about that.
I guess that seems a little strange since the school is now Edison Pre-K to 8 and they call themselves the Edison Eagles.  But don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to see Bruiser.

The room that was the lady teachers’ lounge is still there.  Why, I can almost see Miss Neilsen taking her afternoon nap there on the couch.

Let's go upstairs.

So, tell me you know what the theme of the stained glass window in the landing is.
Give up?  OK, look.

Don’t worry…we drop the lowest quiz.
Nice.  The entrance to the library still looks like it should…right down to the tablets of the Four Freedoms over the doors.  Somehow calling them striking doesn’t do them justice.
Look familiar?

Once you leave the library you just can’t help but look up.  And there they are, all those composite class pictures.  Admit it…this is a big part of why you’re here.  And yes, they are looking back at you.  Everyone of them.

Like being at Hogwarts, huh?
Did you notice how huge the classes in the ‘50s were?  That’s why they finally had to make Colonel White a 4-year high school…so I’m told.
Where’s 1958?  There’s an empty space where it should be.  Those brats probably took it down for their 50th reunion and never brought it back.  Bad, bad, bad.
Now, don’t OD.

Too late.  It’s the second stained glass window in the other original Hillcrest landing.  It was a 1945 tribute to the fifty from Fairview who died in World War II.
Boy, I sure hope we never need any more of those.  Beautiful, but….

Should I expect to see Mr. Bruggeman standing outside Room 209?
Are those the two studyhall rooms at the far end of the hallway?  Sure enough.  And why is it that I remember those rooms as enormous…like looking to the back you’d expect to see the curvature of the earth, or something?

Not so much, huh?
And I think I still see the chair in the rear where I was talking to Diane Parnaby when Coach Bradley came up and smacked me in the back of the head and then sent me down to the attendance office for some more of the same.
Three whacks, as I recall.  Thanks for asking.

On to the Chemistry and Physics rooms.  And those black lab tables are still there despite hundreds of attempts to burn them and dissolve them with acid.
If I squint my ears, I can almost hear Mr. Nisonger, aka Might Mouse, screaming at me not to pick up the metallic sodium with my fingers.

Guess what!  The room that used to be the teachers’ lounge for men is now the Principal’s Office.
I’m sorry, but it still has to smell like cigarettes in there.  Why, it could have been on one of the original EPA Super Fund Site lists for second-hand smoke.

Can’t leave here without admiring the fountain just outside…from 1934 in recognition of Mr. Longnecker and Miss Folger.
Mr. Longnecker’s last year as Principal was 1961…my freshman year.  Coincidence?  You know, he didn’t seem to smile much.  Sort of how I remember Mr. Reston at Fairview Elementary.  You don’t think it was miscreants like me that had that effect on them, do you?

Wait here a sec.  I’ll be right back.

Look at the time, will ya?  Got to keep moving before we turn back into pumpkins and rats.  I know the cafeteria is still there…we went past it on the way in.
What strikes you first are those blue-ish gray terrazzo floors.  They look every bit as good today as they did 50 years ago.  I’m going to punish you and not show you a picture.  You’ll just have to go see them for yourself.
Just kidding.  Don’t have your parents call me.

And there’s the pedestal…in the Senior Room…for the bulldog.

Serving lines still look pretty much the same.

If this is Wednesday, then it must be Salisbury steak.  I know it was brown.  It tasted brown.

There is a door between the Senior Room and the stairs to the auditorium lobby.  What was that?  Closet?  Dungeon?  Entrance to the Underworld?  No…it doesn’t say “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter.”
Hop up the steps and, blammo, right in the face is a reality check that breaks the spell and brings you back, kicking and screaming, to 2009.

I could have gone all day and not seen that.

Fortunately, as soon as we make it into the auditorium, we’ll be better.  Phew!  That was close.
Check it out.  Why, you’d think it was Monday morning all over again and there you were for another mind-expanding round of Basic Concepts.  You remember that, don’t you…those once-monthly assemblies that brought in people from outside to talk about pretty much anything? Kind of like Human Being 101.

Backstage still looks like it should.  No infusion of millennium technology here.

And don’t think I didn’t see you sneaking around touching everything…closing your eyes…smiling.  I’d have been disappointed if you hadn’t.
Know where you are when you go out into the hallway from backstage left?  OK, I’ll give you a minute.  It’s the hallway that leads to the shop area under the gym.

I’ll pretend you knew that and give you an “A” for effort.
Now you’ll see things that are totally different.  Didn’t know there was a third floor, did you?  Well, they converted the gym into two floors of classrooms, none of which are still in use.  In fact, much of that entire wing is now boarded-up and off-limits.
It’s only because we like you that we’ll let you see part of the original gym floor in one of those rooms.

I’m grateful not to see the blood spill from those weeks I took gymnastics.
And here’s one of the old light fixtures from our gym that’s hidden above an acoustic ceiling these days.

So far, so good.  Here’s an extra credit question for the over-achievers.  Where was the entrance to Fairview’s basement?
I’m sorry.  “What basement?” is not a correct answer.

Give up?  This doorway was at the west end of the shop hallway.  Wood on the left and metal on the right…or was it vice versa?
Talk about entering the Underworld!
Somehow, now this infrastructure sort of stuff holds a strange fascination for me.  Too much History and Discovery Channel, I suppose.
There are two huge boilers that still fire the hot water heating system for the school…natural gas now, but maybe coal or fuel oil before.

And you know why I can’t show you any pictures of the central A/C system, right?
All kinds of neat junk down there…the incinerator room under the smokestack and a hallway that leads to who knows where.

Boy, talk about detention.  For all I know there might have been holes in the wall where the shackles were attached.
Well, Sherman, the time’s up on the WABAC Machine and we have to leave now.
But hey, she’s still there, at least for a short while and you really should try to see her one last time.
Touch her.  Thank her.
Let her surround you with that wonderful, essential feeling of nurturing security for which there is no substitute.
Tell her you love her.

Open your eyes
…or not…