I attended a lovely old elementary school, Forest Hill. “Forest” was associated with most of Ohio; when only native people lived here, I’ve read, a squirrel could travel from Pennsylvania to Indiana from tree top to tree top. Cleveland, less than thirty miles north, is known as the Forest City. The school was at the top of a small hill. The first half of the trip was downhill, then back up hill, so I did walk uphill both ways. The school grounds occupied an entire city block, from cross street to cross street each direction. The school sat on the front of the grounds, the playground equipment was in the middle and there were several trees on the back grounds. And a huge boulder, taller than any child in the school. Many hours were devoted to attempting to scale that monster, or chipping “gold” flakes from its flinty side into a tin can.
About five years ago a new elementary school was constructed where the trees and boulders once stood, and when completed the school I went to was torn down to become the play area. It’s a nice school, brick, one storey. I’m sure it will provide the proper memories for the current crop of students.
There are some things they won’t have from the old art deco school I attended. Black iron railings along the sidewalks. Thousands of skin the cats were performed on those railings. A motif of a Native American portaging a canoe greeted us from over the door each morning. Just down the hill, in the valley, there currently is a statue of a Native American commencing the portage between the Cuyahoga River and the Tuscarawas River. The road is called Portage Trail.
I’ve not been in the new school, but I’m sure the floors are not oak. I know there is no wide oak stairway to a second floor. Maybe there is still a basement, with windows above ground level. We went downstairs for gym, which doubled as the lunch room (although I went home for lunch), and for our art class. The art room smelled wonderfully. Like clay, paint, wax, paper and imagination. We sat on high stools at long, wooden topped tables. I can still draw a tree like the sixth grade art teacher put on the board for us.
My mother was called to come to the school principal’s office because of that art class. I was past kindergarten, which was self contained, right down to the bathroom and the crock of clay just outside the bathroom door. I’m sure I was in first grade when someone took me to the principal’s office and I found my mother there, as well as the principal.
The principal began talking, but I didn’t understand what she was saying. She held up some pictures I had made in art class and asked me questions I didn’t understand. Finally my mother cut in and said the principal wanted to know why I was drawing my pictures with a black crayon.
“It’s the only crayon left when the box is passed to me.”