Before recycling went curbside in Columbus, I made the trek to the City Garage via State Street, past what once was State Street School. The words above the front door, “District 7 – Primary Department,” announces the building’s original identity, and seeing them turned my ordinary errand into a trip down memory lane.
I don’t think I am alone. Each unique memory is what makes the former school a special place for each of us who has a history there.
For me, the two years in the mid-1950s when I was fresh out of college and taught second grade at State Street was a time of transition. I became self-supporting, paid off a college loan, filed my first tax return and married my college sweetheart. It was the place where I grew up, taking on my first adult responsibilities.
And what responsibilities! I was 21 years old and had a classroom of 39 pupils. Teachers were scarce — most of us already had jobs when we walked across the stage to receive our college diplomas. It was during that first year that I learned about gratification: to see a child think through a lesson and then to see the “light bulb” come on. It is hard to explain that feeling, but any teacher will know what I mean.
Last year my daughter and I took a tour of the former school. We walked up the same steps that I had climbed 60 years ago. The second-grade classrooms were hard to define as they had been partitioned into office space, but I was oriented to my old classroom by its large windows. Seeing them reminded me of a little boy who sat by one of those windows, napping after lunch. September was a warm month, and with no air-conditioning it was hard to stay awake. I’d read no textbook on this subject, so I had to play it by ear. I let him sleep.
I don’t think the girls restroom had changed much. It reminded me of the day I heard a little girl crying in one of the stalls. Both of her slip straps had broken and she didn’t know what to do. Little girls wore dresses to school back then with a slip worn underneath. I didn’t have a textbook answer for that one either.
Finally, we walked past what had been the first-grade rooms and up the few steps to the teachers’ lounge. I could almost see the old percolator coffee pot over there in the corner. Starbucks it wasn’t, but it accompanied some good visiting at break time.
Recently, I drove by the building again. Demolition is to begin soon, and “District 7 – Primary Department” will become history. Structures come and go as time moves on, but our memories are made to last a lifetime.
Maybe there is a lady out there who remembers some broken slip straps or that grown-up boy who can recall an afternoon nap at his desk under a big window. And, just maybe, there is someone who can remember those good coffee breaks in the teachers lounge.
Columbus resident Jane Teeters Vandivier taught second grade at the former State
Street School from 1954-56. The building was most recently used as the Bartholomew County Government Annex and housed several departments and programs.