HE ASSIGNED me the story on Tuesday and I started my research on Wednesday, culling through the scans of the old papers to understand the school’s history, looking for reports of board meetings and controversy and what did the people of Clymer and Pine Township think when their high schools were closed, a new one built for both of them?
But there are countless football and basketball scores to skim through and Purchase Line was the arch rival then and every teacher hired, every teacher who resigned, had her name printed there in black ink.
We still do that today, 50 years later.
Going through those old papers, it struck me how little has changed. How little really has changed. Oh, our masthead no longer boasts that we’re “Covering the world from the commercial center of West Central Pennsylvania,” but our icon, Teddy, still gives us bits of trivia and quotes every day. We still run two sections most weekdays.
It was cold on Wednesday, March 16, 1955, with a nighttime low hovering below freezing. National news dominated the front page: votes in congress, threats of weapon use; stock market concerns.
Inside, though, local headlines stretched bold across the top of the page. “Penns Manor Joint Board Eyes New School.” Three years after forming a district out of three independent schools, they were moving ahead. It must have been a big deal, then, but the story just lists the facts: where, when, what the next step will be. There were no quotes, no angst reported, no angry arguments to be repeated and passed on.
I wonder, looking around as today, as districts are again consolidating, merging schools, cutting overhead costs, if it would be better if we didn’t quote them.
The other headlines were about clubs, events, updates on life around Indiana in the 1950s. And running down the center of the page, there’s a smorgasbord column with snippets of news and updates and things-you-need-to-know: written by a much younger man.
He still writes it today, that column, running every Friday on the last page of the first section. He’s oh-so-much older now, his hands shake, and when he speaks to me I can barely hear him.
But for the past 56 years, longer, he’s been writing that column.
How much has changed, from typewriters to computers to internet; and how much is still the same.
I read the stories, and realize that I recognize the names. Folks didn’t go far then, and there was an Oakes on the school board in 1951 and there’s one there today.
I call them, that first class who graduated from the joint school, and they remember the shock: first time to ride a bus; first time to eat in a cafeteria instead of walking home for lunch; chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting; meeting new teachers and new classmates after 11 years with the same friends.
They remember being nervous, and excited, but oh that was 50 years ago! I’m looking for the drama playing out today and it isn’t there, at least not in hindsight.
Schools closed then, new ones were opened, and everyone lived to tell about it. And not just survived – they have found enough good memories to meet again, now so much later.
I want to step into these other districts, hold up the paper, and tell them it’s going to be OK. It’s been done before; it will be done again.
There is nothing new under the sun.