While I had no original plans to write anything about this very personal issue, a few events took place that changed my mind.
I went to a little high school in the coal region of Pennsylvania named Cardinal Brennan Jr/Sr High School. It was a strange place. Catholic education echoed through the hallways, along with the shenanigans and teenage laughter of generations forced to wear school uniforms and defy authority in whatever responsible means necessary.
I graduated in 1999—the last class of the century partied hard and hardly worried about the collective future. The future came fast. As did a new period of time where high school became nothing more than memories and fuzzy images of the aspirations of adolescence. For anyone living through adulthood, you know the trials and tribulations. For those not there yet, hold on to 16 as long as you can because ‘changes come round real soon to make you women and men.’
In 2007, my little high school shut down. The Allentown Diocese made the decision. The beautiful grounds of the school, one filled with decades of history and even a relic of the past—an all girls’ boarding school—was vacated of people. No more bells ringing, no more after school practices… no more long talks with the vice principal on a warm autumn afternoon outside his office.
I have a few distinct memories that will forever stay with me. One of the most amazing, one that still sticks in my mind to this day, was on the eve of Thanksgiving during my freshmen year. I missed my bus ride home and was waiting for a parental figure to pick me up. I recall being alone in a darkened hallway, with mostly all of the teachers and faculty gone for the weekend. There seemed to be spirits surrounding me, at least it felt it. The noise outside was equally as mysterious. Large pine trees looming over the school made that whistling and whizzing sound as wind sailed through them. The sky was dark and foreboding… It was amazing and still stands in my mind as one of the most formative moments of my teenage years.
The reason I bring all of this up: The school, closed down, has been purchased by North Schuylkill Jr/Sr High School. The district is planning on doing something either with the building or just the property … before that, however, they opened the school to the public this past Sunday afternoon. I did not make it because of a pre-set family getaway to Baltimore, but I did get some amazing photos from friends and also swiped a few from fellow alumni who posted them on Facebook.
The scene is sad. Decrepit images of cobwebs plastered on top of pencil sharpeners, desks sitting vacant in rooms that have plaster coming off of them. There were scenes of classrooms that were. Chalkboards that were.. science labs that were..a school that was.
Also a bell tower, deluged with signatures of classes gone by. This was the location where a typical senior would sneak to sign a name, ensuring that future generations would see the legacy. Now that legacy is not seen by anyone except ghosts.. and perhaps soon the legacy will be gone, either painted over or torn down, depending on what the school district decides.
Nothing is forever. There was never any indication that it was. When you’re a kid you may not realize what the lack of ‘forever’ means.. as you age, and especially as your watch your own child grow, you realize what changes actually equate to in the real world.
The changes in my life have been many.. Centralia PA, the town I lived in first, is gone. Every grade school and high school I attended has been shut down. That is a changing world, on a very small level. But a microcosm of changes afoot in the larger world.
Cardinal Brennan was the little school that often could. Sometimes it could not. In the end, it was not meant to be.
Simply a dream now.. or a nightmare, depending on one’s experiences within the halls of the campus.