hen I took some moments to reflect back on my days of growing up in Louisa, I am puzzled about what made those days memorable. It wasn’t solely the buildings that lined those neat little streets, but they were definitely in the background of every event that happened. Saying that, neither was the memories always about a specific occasion. Yes, events were often the reason for many memories, but I think most of all, they are about the people. Whether they were a classmate or a parent of a classmate, the owner of a business, a leader in the community, or even a stranger that crossed life’s path, people were the important element in building special memories that I still cherish today.
Like an unused building our memories are often filled with cobwebs if they are left to themselves. That may be good if we have bad memories, or we are of the type that live in the past instead of dealing with the present, or even planning for the future. I’ve always believed that who we are today is an amalgamation of those things we once experienced and that some of those things are very worth revisiting to remind us of who we were and what makes us who we are today. We really can’t go back nor should we, but those old days can help us refocus on our core values. We might well lament over the mistakes we’ve made, but those happen in all of our lives. It is a wise person who builds on them and takes full advantage of second chances. We can usually choose what we can put behind us or keep to remind us that life goes on.
The three-story edifice pictured here once stood at the Southern end of Main Cross. It was much more than a landmark. At first called Kentucky Normal College, (not college as we understand the term) it was a secondary educational facility. Many professionals attended this school to make good in the world. To me and many of my relatives before me, it was our beloved high school. Class after class sat in those dark halls taking lessons from generations of excellent teachers. The building was the background in many memories that became woven into the sum of many lessons learned, whether speaking of academic or personal growth. The important elements were the teachers, classmates, and all those things that tied us to one another. Frankly, we could not be who we are today if those circumstances had been different.
By the time I graced the halls of Louisa High school as a freshman, World War II had ended. Rationing had stopped and newer international concerns were slight. We were a world power and had little worry. As a youth I was more concerned with peer acceptance and passing a spot quiz than threats in Korea and concerns of a communist takeover. That was going on, for sure because bomb shelters were being built. We experienced training on how to survive a nuclear attack. Skipping on the well-oiled floors of the old building and trying to avoid crowds of students was fun, but it incited mean looks from the infamous no nonsense teacher, Bascom Boyd. He would shout out, ‘No running in the halls!’ To some of us it was sporting to get away with stretching the rule.
I returned for a visit some time ago and discovered that a new school building had been built on the property that once held my wonderful old building so dear to me. Bill Cheek, still the superintendent of schools met me and took me on a personal tour. He was full of pride over the many positive features of the new school. Knowing I was a former band member, he took me to see the new band room. Indeed, it was far better than that old band-room that was on the third floor, situated over the stage on the second floor auditorium. I have a deep respect for heights. The windows in that old room went low, all the way to the floor. I could see the ground far below. I visualized that one day someone might trip and fall through the window. It was scary to me, so I always tried to keep a good distance from those windows.
Mr. Cheek then took me to his office in the new building. It was located near where the old library once stood back in the former school. He pointed out that from his desk he could see down the front of the school and catch anyone sneaking out for a smoke, or trying to cut classes. He had installed a speaker system so he could call out to them. He laughed when he told me how shocked the students were when they got caught in the act.
Friends subsequently have sent me pictures of when the old building was put to the torch. There was no need for those rickety fire escapes on that day. Likely, they were salvaged before lighting the fire, along with the bell that had hung for so long in the belfry. I remember the tin ceiling in the two story auditorium that took up most of the second and third floors of the building. Today that metal would have real salvage value, but I don’t know if that was removed. Mr. Cheek had told me once that there was an attic above the auditorium that contained a number of old seats, books, and maybe globes and charts. It made me wonder and imagine the historical things may have burned with the building.
A few paragraphs back I mentioned Mr. Boyd. To many he is as strong a memory as the building itself. Not only did he watch for misbehaving or renegade students, but he was the school’s official time-keeper. He stationed himself at the front doors next to the button that rang the electrical bell. I doubt he had trouble knowing who would be late to class, but it was his duty to star right through you making you dread getting caught. To many, he was a fearful authority figure in the hallways as well as in the classroom.
Maligned by many, the truth was that he was an educator. I’ve heard many stories to confirm that he was thrilled when a poor-performing student finally asked him for help. He would unselfishly give lessons and encourage them until they caught on and even surpassed the good students in class. A classmate of mine, Delbert Caudill, once wrote and told me that Mr. Boyd was at the same time the most hated, feared, but loved teacher of his day. He gave his charges a kind of tough love before it had a name.
While I’ve written about him in years past, I think it is appropriate to occasionally revisit those vivid memories and look at them perhaps in a new light. I can’t write about the building or the people who occupied it without mentioning this person of preeminence who meant so much to so many. Sadly, some were never successful in getting past the fear, so the model of teacher he represented helped many, but not everyone. So no one is perfect, I guess. It’s good enough that he helped many.
Memories are like that. The perspectives of people are by nature a little different from person to person. Hopefully, the negatives have not overwhelmed the good. I would love to walk through that old building again, but of course that’s not possible. I’ll never play in the band-room, perform in a play or sing in the glee club, but I can remember when I did. In my mind’s eye I can see the faces of many friends, and recall many of the events of that day. Each time that friends tell me of their memories, mine are refreshed. Then my heart stirs just a little and I am glad to remember days gone by.