Cement conjures memories

Published 9:57 am Monday, March 12, 2007

By Staff
Who knew that cement would bring back so many memories? Not just cement, but mortar, bricks, shingles and the smell of chalk.
Last week I had an opportunity to stand on a slab of cement that had once been the floor of Mrs. Overstreet's first-grade classroom at W.S. Neal Elementary School.
I'm not sure if any other teachers occupied that room, but I certainly remember Mrs. Overstreet because she was my teacher when I attended first grade at Neal.
The building was demolished over the last two weeks leaving an empty space on the school's campus in East Brewton.
The memories flooded back as I stood there watching a dozier and dump trucks take away the brick and wood of the dilapidated building.
I fondly remembered my days in the first grade, complete with sleeping mats and my turn cleaning the erasers. I even remember when we had show and tell after Christmas and I took my new electric organ to show off to the kids in my room.
As I stood on the cement, I visualized the classrooms I had studied in as an elementary school student. Just up the hall from Mrs. Overstreet's first-grade classroom was Mrs. Nettie Parker's second-grade room, complete with a head-high world globe and pictures of animals and letters all over the painted walls. I remember Mrs. Parker's story times in the afternoon were always a wonderful time for those of us in her room. Just past the side entrance to the main building was Mrs. Turk's third-grade classroom.
Third grade was certainly a touchy time for kids in our grade. That was the year that somebody up the ladder decided students of various ethnic backgrounds should attend class together. That was the year schools were integrated for the first time. (I guess you'll probably be able to figure out how old I am from that statement.) It was also the same year that administrators decided students should be taught different subjects by different teachers. Funny, I thought Mrs. Turk knew everything. Turns out, she just knew about history. It was Mrs. Maxine Parker who knew all about spelling and English, and Mrs. Powell knew science. For the life of me, I can't remember who knew what about math during my third-grade year.
Just as my classmates and I were ready to head into the fourth grade, class size had grown so much, additional classrooms had to be built and a new building was constructed just across the lawn from the original elementary school building.
I learned a lot about the history of the building last week while talking to some folks. I learned that a septic tank the size of Egypt was dug for the school during the construction of the building way back in 1946. I learned I wasn't the first student to go to school there, and I already knew I wasn't the last one to learn the three Rs there either.
It was a little sad to see the tumbling of the bricks and the chunks of mortar last week. But the memories that came to the surface while standing on that cement will be with me forever.
Progress is good. I'm glad the school grounds will be a safer, more attractive spot to visit. I want my son to go to the same school that I did - one that was friendly, inviting, exciting and taught me a great deal about education and about life. I'll share my memories with him when the time is right. I may be able to tell him that his twelfth-grade math class is right on the same spot that I learned the answer to 2 + 2.
Lisa Tindell is a news writer for The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at 867-4876 or by e-mail at lisa.tindell@brewtonstandard.com.

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