Spring Valley, N.Y. -- If, after 55 years, you remember where the bathroom is at your former elementary school, old age isn’t here yet. Not only was I blessed in finding that but I managed to get to my eighth-grade science classroom, conducted so very well by Mrs. Keesler.
My return to what once was the North Main Street School, which both my father and I attended, was for a Rockland County Arts Council session on grant applications. The science classroom where I spent seventh and eight grades was on the third floor, southwest corner, and is now divided into an office and a meeting room. But the hallways are still in the glossy tile of the Craftsman age when the building was put up for children north of Main Street, with, yes, the South Main Street School for the other half. In my time I went to both.
So much changes in life, especially your perspective. North Main seemed much smaller in 2011 than in June 1956, but I was smaller then, too. Some of my teachers -- Mrs. Keesler, Mr. Gram, Miss Margulies, Mrs. Churchill, Mr. Carroll, Mr. Fazio, Mrs. Badami, Mr. Duggan, Coach Thompson -- also saw to my father and were already legends of a sort. They had quirks, like we all do, and we kids sure exaggerated them, but if I were on the last bus to anywhere, I’d want them with me. Perspectives change, and I did not know then how very well these teachers taught their subjects and better ways of living. I reference them constantly.
I arrived early in Spring Valley so that I could park my car in nearby Hillcrest and walk to North Main, as I did for three years, but that hamlet is now so developed that “No Parking” signs are everywhere and I could not leave the car. So I parked at the school, walked to Hillcrest and back. It took just minutes compared to memory’s half hour, but in those 1956 days there might be pals to jawbone with or a stop at Roth’s store across the street or at Mager’s in Hillcrest. Most of the old sights, such as the great Burn’s estate, are now gone and there is way too much growth and subsequent neglect in their place, but in every step I could recall events, friends, girlfriends, good report cards and not, quick walks home for the holidays, quicker runs when I was late. I could see my parents, then my grandparents driving to our Hillcrest home. I could see myself in my first car.
At my meeting, I was the only one with a connection to the building. None of the panelists had even grown up in Rockland, let alone Spring Valley. Deliberating on serious matters for the Arts Council gave me enough time to day dream back to 1953-1956, when I also day dreamed in Mrs. K.’s class. I even managed to sit in the same area where my desk was.
I was the only one with pedigree that day, in the old North Main Street School. And I was most proud.