wide scope
Demolition begins on the old Grand Saline Elementary School building. 8/16/2016

 

Change is never easy. Good-byes are always difficult. We want the things that mean the most to us to remain unchanged from the time of our fondest memories of them. For many of us who grew up in Grand Saline, Texas, one of those things that we have hoped would never change or go away is the old elementary school. Four generations of students attended school in that building, and four generations of students have (mostly) fond memories. There were many people who hoped to salvage it for some purpose after the new school was constructed and it was abandoned. There was talk of an adult learning center, a community center, a fine arts center. . .unfortunately, though, the money to make the necessary renovations to the building is just not there. Demolition on the old elementary school began yesterday, and in short order, the building will only be a memory. As much as I hate to see it go, having been in the building after it was emptied, and having seen many of its flaws which had gone unnoticed by most when it was full of students and teachers, I think this is for the best. I wrote about some of those memories a while back and posted it here on my blog, but I thought I’d share just a couple more today.

Even after I was in high school, I still made my way down the hill from time to time. Each fall the band boosters held the Harvest Festival. We used the auditorium for the queens pageant, the gym and playground for the festival itself, and, the best part for us students. . .turning the cafeteria into a haunted house! We would all meet up at the cafeteria early on the morning of the festival, hang black tarps to make the maze, and then go to work on the ghoulish vignettes laid out to scare the pants off our guests–or, at least make them scream and laugh a little. Then, the next morning we were back at it, cleaning up all of the fake blood, guts, cob webs, cauldrons, and whatever else we found to cram in there. Later in the year, the band would come down and put on a special concert for the fifth graders in an effort to encourage them to take band in middle school. (That’s not always easy in a football town.) For some reason–we all know why–when the concert was over, we wanted to walk those halls and poke our head’s into our old classrooms and say hello to our former teachers. I think we probably made a quick trip over the monkey bars and down the slide as we walked back up to the high school. It was just that special.

The East wing of the old Grand Saline Elementary School is first to go during demolition. 8/16/2016
The East wing of the old Grand Saline Elementary School is first to go during demolition. 8/16/2016

Years later, I would revisit those halls as an uncle, proudly watching his nieces at their Kindergarten Graduations, Christmas programs, awards ceremonies, special lunches, and other events of that nature. By that time, I was well into my thirties and hadn’t been a student there in over 20 years, but I still wanted to walk those halls, look into my old classrooms, and say hello to former teachers. When I went to work for the school in 2010 I had a couple of occasions to head down the hill and take something to Mrs. Sewell in the library, and each time I walked through the doors and down those halls with the creaking hardwood floors, I was reminded of just what a special place that school building was.

The last time I was in the building was in late 2012, after the new elementary school opened, but while the technology office was still in the old building. It was during that time that the nostalgia became tinged with sadness. When the building was full of people it was full of life, and things didn’t appear to be in such bad shape. During that time, though, when it was empty except for our office and the remaining bits and pieces that weren’t carried to the new school, I saw just how bad things really were. Suddenly, as if by magic, cracks appeared in the walls, ceiling tiles sagged, doors became difficult to open and close. I’m sure all these things were there before, but they went unnoticed except by the people who needed to notice them and make the hard decisions about what to do with the building. By then it was over 60 years old. . .something had to be done.

Now, the really hard decision has been made. Despite the optimism of our best hopes, I think that somewhere in the back of our minds we all knew this day would come. We all know that buildings can’t stand empty forever. They become eyesores, or worse, they become dangerously tempting targets for mischievous kids or malicious adults. The cost to renovate and the risk of leaving it alone are just too high, and regrettably, but necessarily, the time has come to say good-bye to this iconic landmark in our hometown.

The East wing of the old Grand Saline Elementary School is first to go during demolition. 8/16/2016
The East wing of the old Grand Saline Elementary School is first to go during demolition. 8/16/2016

But, in all of our tears and heartache, we can take comfort in two things: first, that right up until its last day, that old building still looked the same as we remember it looking on all our first days of school; and, second, that in our memories it will always look the same, and it will always be the same. Long after that lot is empty and grass has covered over the scarred earth, those memories will never change.

Good-bye, old friend. You are already and forever missed.

 

 

 

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The main entrance of the old Grand Saline Elementary School which was closed in 2012 after over 60 years in service. Demolition on the landmark began on August 16, 2016.
The main entrance of the old Grand Saline Elementary School which was closed in 2012 after over 60 years in service. Demolition on the landmark began on August 16, 2016.
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12 thoughts on “My Hometown Series #5 — Good-bye, old friend.

    1. I understand, Laura. When I heard yesterday afternoon that they had begun the demolition process I drove over to Grand Saline because I wanted to see it once more before it came down. There’s a lot of personal family history in that building for me, like there is for you. My great-aunt taught school there for many years–your dad was her principal for the last few before she retired. So, there is great sentimental connection for me, too.

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  1. My mother went there as well as both my children and myself. A few years ago I actually bought a few items from the school that came out of the building. Since we have lived on that street for the past 11 years we have seen the changes and understand the need for the demolition. It is sad to see it go. I do wonder what will become of that area.

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    1. Lesia, it is sad, but as you said, necessary. I’m not sure what the plans are with the land or the other buildings on it.

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  2. This saddens me but I suppose that time goes on.
    Took my girls to see my old red rock building two weekends ago on a whim. They got to see & hear stories about my childhood as well as put a place to the memory. My oldest went to elementary here before we moved 6 years ago.
    Time goes on….

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    1. It saddens me, too. But, time does indeed go on. I’m glad that you got to bring your girls to see it and hear the stories before it was gone. I’m sure that will be a good memory for them!

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  3. It’s so sad to see a piece of my youth disappear with the crashing of the dozens and demolition crews..I had a chance to visit one last time..just as the other elementary school was about to open..it happened upon chance..I was supposed to take some papers up to the school..so being oblivious..due to I had been living in Florida..since I turned 19..I had no clue that..the doors were closed..but as I said..I had the honor to walk down the halls one last time I also had the great pleasure to open the doors to the auditorium..I saw myself upon stage performing in the plays and talent shows..walking down the main hall to the last classroom..to the memories of my youth..seeing Mrs Fisher..oh how I will miss..seeing that beautiful building..I had a big change in my life..at the end of my last year there.so I guess you could say there are still open doors to my childhood,at different I’m still there still learning still growing..So goodbye..I want to say Thank you…And Goodbye!

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  4. My son’s Jamie, Paul, & Dale Iley went to the old elementary school. Lots of memories. One teacher stands out in my mind. My friend Beth Fisher. All the staff & teachers gave them a great start in education. The Queens Pagent , the Harvest Festivals & all the good times they had growing up. Sad to see it go. I will cherish all the memories in my heart

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    1. It was a special place full of special memories. Mrs. Fisher was one of my fist teachers when we moved to GS. She was one of the best!

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  5. Reblogged this on MEtopia and commented:

    I was honored this afternoon to have been asked if I would allow this piece to be placed in print at the Grand Saline Old School Museum along with some artifacts retrieved from the old elementary school. I’m always humbled to know that something I’ve written speaks to readers so profoundly. It goes to show how connected we all really are.

    I thought I would repost it this evening for those of you who might have missed it last year. As always, please feel free to share if you wish.

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