Vacant expanse conjures wonderful memories of beloved school
Every time I travel across Broadway in Rockland and come to Gay Street West, I glance at the empty, but precious expanse of land which has created a hole in the heart of my childhood, as that spot once housed an important building in my young life.
Some of my most cherished childhood memories were created on that tract of land and in the building that once stood in the area.
That vacant landscape, once the home of North School, later named MacDougal School for the principal who led the facility during my time at the building, conjures such wonderful memories of special people and times.
Now that I'm in my 50s, I find more time to reflect on a rich and wonderful life, an important part of which began in and around North School, which I attended from first to fifth grades.
If I close my eyes, I can still smells the smells, hear the sounds and recreate the images from the wonderful times I experienced on that small piece of now vacant earth.
I enjoyed attending school in the building. I remember my frequent trips to the small library to find books about adventurers. I loved reading about adventure and the people who accomplished important things.
I remember strolling the long hallway of the building and each day walking home for lunch. My house was only about 200 yards from the school on lower Rankin Street. It made me wonder: Do children even walk home for lunch anymore?
I remember all of my wonderful teachers and I even remember Doris MacDougal, the principal for whom the school later was named after, who once slapped my hand with a ruler because of something I did (and I can add that I probably deserved the punishment).
I remember looking forward to lunch in the cafeteria and watching educational films in that multi-purpose space. But, the things I remember most took place on the school's playground, its ballfield and around the entire outside of the building.
I remember in fourth or fifth grade enjoying sitting outside in the bright sunshine in a little wooden chair with all the other students during flag day, looking up at the fluttering American flag and feeling proud, even though I did not know that is what I felt at the time.
I remember every day after school and every day during the summer vacation walking to North School to play baseball with my brother, Scott, and the neighborhood children. Sometimes we played on the actual field (with a backstop) behind the school and I can remember if we hit a ball in the air into the tall grass in the outfield, it was a home run. I did that often and I felt like the next Babe Ruth or Ted Williams, because that tall grass seemed so far away, even though now I could easily throw a ball from the spot of the old home plate and have it land in the tall grass.
We also played baseball in the front of the school and sometimes even hit the ball in the street as cars drove by on Broadway (the ball sometimes landed on the tar and bounced between the moving vehicles). Probably not the smartest things we did as children, but we were oblivious because playing ball was our most important daily activity.
I can remember riding my motorized mini bike around the paved walkways of the school and sitting under the overhang of one of the school's doors listening to my cassette player with my best friend, Ron Belyea.
I even remember one day when a bunch of us climbed onto the roof of the school to play football. The roof was flat and the building was long and was perfect to play on. The only problem is someone notified the police and me and my brother were caught trying to escape (all the other children got away). We earned a ride home in a police car which, at least at the beginning, seemed like a lot of fun — until we got home and felt the wrath of my mother.
So, each time I gaze over to the spot where the school once stood, I think of all the good times and important learning lessons I experienced on that cherished site.
To this day, I find it fascinating how we, as humans, are so tied to the people, places and things that helped shape our childhoods — even when those things are no longer visible to the naked eye.
But, as we all know, those important elements remain alive — and well — in our hearts and our cherished memories.
594-4401, extension 114
Ken Waltz has been member of the media 30 years and has received hundreds of Maine Press Association and New England Press Association awards for his writing, photography and page design. He studied journalism at the University of Maine in Orono. He lives in South Thomaston with his wife, Sarah. The couple has an adult son, Brandon.
Recent Stories by Ken Waltz
Dec 10, 2013
Dec 09, 2013
Dec 08, 2013
Dec 07, 2013
Dec 01, 2013