We'll Always Have The Memories

By Sandra Sylvester | Jun 01, 2012
Photo by: Rockland History Facebook Page

Knox County — As the new Oceanside High School seniors prepare to be the first class to graduate from the new school, our thoughts turn to the old Rockland High School, now the soon to be closed Lincoln Center on Lincoln Street.

The saga of the 144-year-old building has been of concern to residents this past month. The Lincoln Street Center, a non-profit organization, took over the building in 1998, buying the property in 2002. They recently announced, however, that they will leave the building at the end of this month. They have insurmountable debts totaling around $69,000.

According to board member John Bird, who attended the school in the 50s, keeping the old place going has been a “Herculean” task, despite generous support from donors. Efforts to find ways to pay for much needed repairs proved to be too daunting.

Closing of the Lincoln Center means that about 50 artists will need to find new studios; the Watershed School will need to find new quarters; and our beloved heritage room which displays memorabilia from the 144 years of history of both Rockland High School and Rockland District High School is in jeopardy. Board member Ben Perry overseas the room, which is sponsored by the alumni association. The association cannot afford to rent a space for the articles which contain old sports jerseys, yearbooks, and the like. The room itself has also been preserved as the way it was when we were attending classes there. What will happen to these treasures now?

Enter Joseph Steinberger, a Rockland lawyer and former city councilor. The next part of this saga concerns the establishment, by Steinberger, of a non-profit organization called “The Old School.” He called for a public meeting in the old auditorium at the school for May 15 to try to figure out ways to save the old place.

Before that meeting took place, an inspection of the building was made and it was determined that “yes” it could be saved.

However, by the time the meeting took place that position had been changed. It might have had something to do with the fact that the furnace is 25 years old and has only one zone for the entire building. There are also about 100 windows that need to be replaced because they are not thermal and many are opaque, which evidently were that way to keep the students from gazing out the windows and daydreaming. Cost: a whopping $120,000. Where is a non-profit supposed to get that kind of money in this economy?

Therefore the meeting turned out just to be an announcement that “no” sorry, we can’t do what we said we could.

In a Courier Gazette survey around this time, four out of five people asked about the future of the building wanted it renovated so that it could continue to be an arts center for the community. OK, people. Do you have the deep pockets needed to do this? Is your name Farnsworth, Wyeth, or Rockefeller?

Here’s my take on the whole dilemma.

The building has seen more than one revival in its 144 years. It may be time to demolish it in the manner of the old post office. How many times can you use a chewing gum approach and pray that it sticks?

A new smaller, more efficient building may be the answer. Where the money is coming from I haven’t figured out yet. Perhaps a fund-raiser needs to be hired, and the city could help a little couldn’t they?

As for the heritage room of the Rockland High School Alumni…perhaps a time capsule could be buried somewhere on the property after said razing. In it could be a picture of the room and a sample of all the articles now displayed there. The historical society could perhaps take possession of some of it, or they could share those duties with the Rockland Public Library. What do you think?


Something that can’t be destroyed is our memories. Those of us who attended the old Rockland High School have many of the same memories. No one can take them away from us whether the building is there or not.

How many of you have these memories:

I remember the old bike rack which stood on one side of the building by the sidewalk. Before I got my license and was therefore embarrassed to ride my bike to school from the South End, I used that bike rack. I had no lock on my bike, nor did the rack provide any. How many bikes do you think were stolen from that rack in the 50s?

I remember all the hot rods and souped up cars which some of the boys owned parked up and down Lincoln Street and Grove Street.

I remember some of the boys who between classes tried to take the down staircase “up” instead, taking them two at a time before someone caught them.

I remember playing basketball with the girls’ team on the old gym floor where the sign on the wall read, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you played the game.” At least it goes something like that.

I remember the canteen on that same gym floor and the Kippy Karnival games that took place there every year.

Kippy Karnival time was of course the highlight of our year. It was a lot of fun to do things for the school as a class.

I can see Mrs. Viik, (sorry forgot how to spell her name), reprimanding our senior class, which she led as the teacher representative, as we sat in the auditorium practicing for our graduation walk at the Community Building.

“Now everyone please stop signing yearbooks and pay attention. I swear you all have senioritis,” she said.

I have so many more memories I can’t name them all here. Some of them can be found in another log, “Scrapbook Memories,” in the archives for May 2011.

Say Farewell and Walk Through Your Memories

Today, June 1, the Lincoln Center is giving you the opportunity to revisit your old school. Come and walk the halls, check out the heritage room, sit in the old auditorium and go down to see the old gym one more time.

You may visit from 6:30-9:30pm. Potluck snacks will be provided in the second-floor art gallery.

To celebrate the event and the spirit of our artistic community, artist Alexis Iammarino will install an art installation that will stretch from Main Street to the Lincoln Center..

The installation will consist of long-sleeved shirts sewn together at the cuff and creating a continuous line in honor of the first Friday art walk and the farewell party at the center’s gym at 9:30pm.

The shirts will be held up by long stakes, symbolizing the importance of having stakeholders in the community to uphold the importance of the arts in our society.

Come and reminisce, enjoy the night with your friends, maybe even some old classmates. Sneak up the down staircase if you dare. Celebrate and say good bye. There will be more memories to be made later on in a new place. Trust me.

Thanks for listening.

Comments (4)
Posted by: Sandra Sylvester | Jun 04, 2012 15:05

Thank you for your corrections, Mary. I took my information from other news stories which goes to prove you can't always believe what you read, right?


Posted by: Ben C. Perry | Jun 04, 2012 12:45

A few corrections...  The windows in the building were not put in to keep students from gazing out the windows and daydreaming.  They were put in because they were unbreakable!  There had been serious problems with vandalism and there were many broken windows. Also,  they were not opaque when they were installed.  That happened over time and was a major problem for everyone using the building.

The Alumni Heritage Room is not sponsored by the Alumni Association. The Alumni Association disolved several years ago. There is no sponsor for the room. The entire contents of the Alumni Heritage Room were collected and displayed by Ben Perry, Class of 1954.

Posted by: Phil Edwards | Jun 02, 2012 16:42

Just to clarify: I am speaking of the windows on the end of the building, to the right of the tree.

Posted by: Phil Edwards | Jun 02, 2012 16:41

When I was going thru SAD#5, the junior high was in that building. The first floor windows to the right were my 6th grade home room. Carl Hurd was my home room teacher. The second floor right over MrHurd was  Henry Martin, my 8th grade home room. 



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