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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

RIP, Washington Elementary?

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It's where I learned about longhand.   It's where girls went from "having cooties" to actually being more than kinda neat.
It's where I tried to throw a curve, and where my dad taught me how to bunt.  
I could see it from my bedroom window--each morning as I woke up and again at night as I tried to go to sleep which wasn't easy to do the day before I'd have to take a huge test inside it's walls.
It's Washington Elementary School in Sheboygan, and they might be knocking it down.
A committee spent eight months discussing its fate--Washington turns 100 this year--and members are to give their recommendation to the board of education Monday night.
The options are simple: rebuilt, renovate or close.
Washington needs a new heating system and other costly repairs.  Space is tight.  The gym is too small.
Growing up on Sheboygan's north side, Washington was the center of our universe.   It's where mom and dad voted--I remember vividly standing on the corner of 13th and Geele at the end of one election night to see if a poll worker would, as my dad promised, come outside and ring a bell to announce that "the polls are now closed!"    It's where we played fast-pitch in the summer, between the building's two wings.   One wall was home, the other the outfield fence.  I fouled off a young fortune in foam rubber balls that ended up on one of Washington's roofs.  The city would flood the playground each winter, and the ice rink was the place we'd refine our crack-the-whip skills, and the warm-up shed is where we'd make our first feeble. clumsy attempts at courtship of the opposite sex.
Inside is where the learning happened, from the likes of Mrs. Enders, Miss Cook, Miss Drndak and Mrs. Spindler.  And about that gym.   It's where I proved to any one who could bear sad witness that I had absolutely NO upper body strength,   There were ropes that dropped from the ceiling that we were ordered to climb.  Me?  I dangled at the end like a dead trout on a fishing line, unable to pull myself off the knot at the very bottom.   As if that weren't enough, there were varnished poles that hung from the same ceiling, offering the same challenge, with me serving up the same miserable result.   If they do  take Washington down, I'm going back to have one more crack at climbing both.   Then, I want to bring one of each home with me so they can be burned in my fire place.
Washington was a huge part of my life for the four grades I went to school there, and for the years we lived in its shadow.   I still drive by when I'm back in Sheboygan--it's a touchstone in a neighborhood that used to be home but that I no longer am a  part of.  I hope Washington stays, but I understand if it has to go.  
We all do, at some point, don't we?

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