Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fair Avenue School

The Columbus Dispatch just announced the closing of nine schools in our public school system. They were well below capacity in number, and most had been rated D by whatever standards they use to judge accomplishment. Children left behind. For all the extra effort of the administration, creative and innovative thinking, the schools are fighting a losing battle. It is sad. Fair Avenue elementary is one of those schools. I believe the news release reported that it was built in 1890.

When I was six years old, I went off to Fair Avenue school-- on foot, holding hands with my six year old best friend, Lois. She lived across the street from me, and she was my cousin, to boot.

 I cannot believe our parents allowed us to walk that far, but this was 1925, and it was completely safe. We walked east two blocks to Morrison, turned to head north to Franklin Park South, and then it was only two blocks east that we arrived at school, no other street to cross. We were scared and thrilled.

As I thought and thought about our journey, I had to turn to Mapquest to be positive that I would not be setting you on a wild goose chase, looking for  two little girls, one with blue eyes, one with brown. But that is exactly where we were for five, wonderful years.

Our principal's name was Miss Hammond, and she always wore purple. To be summoned to her office was the scariest thing in the world. It was in second grade that I made my one and only appearance.  I had gone to the boys' side of the playground during recess.  And I had good reason to go: I wanted to talk to Edward Underwood, a handsome swain whose father was Superintendent of Parks for the City of Columbus and he lived in a house IN the park. He was my very first Prince Charming.

Diversity was never an issue. We were all white, all middle class. But there was one little African-American girl, Annie Ransom. How sad for her,  one-of-a-kind, her dark, pretty little face in a sea of white. She had an autograph book and I wrote. "Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and so are you." And then I went back to stalking Ed Underwood.

In second grade, I also walked across in front of the desks with a pencil in my mouth, lead point first and embarrassed myself, bleeding down my chin.

By fifth grade, our classroom was upstairs. Walking down the wide, wooden stairs, two by two, at days' end, felt, to me, as exalting as changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace.Too much A.A. Milne on my reading list, I guess. And our fifth grade teacher, Miss Schroll, had a broken arm. I wanted one so badly, just to walk down those steps with my arm in a sling.

 At that point, Lois and I moved to Columbus School for Girls.

And CSG was the most phenomenal educational experience I ever had anywhere.

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