Sunday, April 3, 2016

REMINISCING: I Went to Washington Hunt, Part 2.

Last week I began looking back at my time at Washington Hunt. I think I left off with a teaser about field trips, climbing ropes, and a little thespian interaction in the cafetorium. I forgot to add that I should talk about my time on Safety Patrol. So, stay tuned and we’ll get to all the good stuff. Because I went to Washington Hunt, and that itself is some pretty good stuff.
Washington Hunt cafeteria

Safety Patrol was the cool thing that the older kids in the school got to do. They stood at the crosswalks and driveway and made sure none of the students walked into the path of a car. It was the apex of power for a grade schooler, and I wanted to be a part of it. We got this cool, orange belt. It even came with a badge. What more could ask for? You could yell, “stop!” and they had to listen. Another perk? You got to leave class early so you could be on assignment when the bell rang and your fellow students burst from the building.

I think you could start being on the Safety Patrol in fourth grade. I know I did it for two years, but I think I quit for my sixth grade year. By that point, we were the big kids on campus and didn’t need to have a badge to be cool. By virtue of being sixth-graders on the verse of going to junior high(!), we on the top of the mountain.

Speaking of mountains, does anyone remember the huge pile of snow that used to be piled up on Harrison Avenue at the corner of Bud’s Liquor’s parking lot? That pile was monstrous, and on the walk home there would be a group of us who played “King of the Hill.” We’d climb the hill and hope to be at the top. Meanwhile, everyone else tried to pull you down from the peak as you protected your position. As a smaller kid, I went tumbling down the mountain quite a few times -- sometimes into the roadway of Harrison Avenue. Luckily, no one ever got hurt. Today you couldn’t pay me to roll around in the snow, but in those days, it was a daily requirement in the winter.

The great, old gym. The ropes are gone now.
For some reason, the gym had a series of climbing ropes tied up near the ceiling. On very rare occasions, those ropes would be let down for gym class. I was kind of afraid of those things and never got very high, but some of my friends would scurry up those ropes all the way to the ceiling. I had other favorites from that old gym.

Capture the Flag was my favorite game that we played during gym class. There was a strategy to keep away from the bigger, faster kids. Sometimes we were sent as a diversion so our star player could swoop in and grab the flag. Of course, if you were lucky, you could make it to some of the prisoners, hold hands, and get them safely back to your side of the center court. A plus was if you “saved” the cute girl. Yes, even in elementary school, I was interested in girls.

In sixth grade I caught the acting bug for a very short time. Back before the district remodeled the building, the cafeteria had a fully functioning stage. Later, the stage was closed off to increase classroom space. I had the honor of acting on that stage in a performance of “King Arthur.” I was Merlin, and my magical robe was a robe that I borrowed from the Porth/Stuckey clan from across the street. I memorized most of my lines, but used my spellbook to hide some of the dialogue that I couldn’t remember. We definitely had some fun with that, and I did pretty well, along with my fellow actors and actresses. The performance was during the school day so we just had some parents sitting in the lunchroom part of the cafetorium.

I acted on this stage before it was closed off
The cafetorium was also where we met for Cub Scouts. My dad was Den Mother for one year and we put on a performance on that stage once, too. This time, I was intimidated and did not have a very good performance. From that point forward, I decided that acting was not for me. Still, the school hosted various Cub Scout events, including the Blue and Gold Banquet, Pinewood Derby, Raingutter Regatta, and the Arrow of Light Ceremony. I spent far more than just my school day at grand, old Washington Hunt.

During my time at Washington Hunt, we went on several field trips around the area. We went to the Buffalo Zoo, the Buffalo Museum of Science, and Old Fort Niagara. During the Old Fort Niagara trip, we were eating lunch after our tour of the fort out on the soccer fields. There was a big ditch that ran along the field where we were eating and running. Someone dared me to jump the ditch. It looked like it was empty and fairly easy to jump. What I didn’t know is that the lawn had recently been mowed and a thick layer of grass was covering some stagnant water. Needless to say, I didn’t make it across and ended up thigh deep in the murky water. No one wanted to sit next to me on the ride home.

My family in what was my 2nd grade classroom with
Mrs. Xapsos, and the twins' kindergarten classroom
with Mrs. Mattina.
I had a lot of great times during my time at Washington Hunt. I still have great friends that I met there. When we decided to buy a house in Lockport, one of the biggest considerations was being able to send our children to a neighborhood school like Washington Hunt. As fate would have it, Wendy and I moved into the same neighborhood in which I grew up, which meant that our kids would attend Washington Hunt.

Three out of four of my kids were able to attend Washington Hunt. The twins went there kindergarten through third grade, while Corliss went there for kindergarten and first grade. When they closed Washington Hunt, we were all pretty sad. Since 1930, the brick house on Rogers Avenue taught several generations of Lockport’s children. My kids were a second generation there. Some families have had three and even four generations attend Washington Hunt. We were all family. We still are.

Leaving Washington Hunt for
the last time.
When Ultimate Physique held an open house for all of us to tour the school before they began their renovations, I took my wife and kids over to walk through one last time. The rooms were empty. It was hard to see that old school devoid of students, teachers and parents. I got to tour parts of the building that I had never seen before. I took lots of pictures, some of which I have included in this week’s and last week’s columns.

I miss Washington Hunt. It was a great school. I’m sure many of you have great memories and great stories from their days there. Last week, several people commented on some of their memories. I hope that some more of you read this column and think about some of those great times. Please don’t be shy about commenting. I enjoy reading about your experiences just as much as I enjoy reminiscing about those good, old days.
I leave you with this message left behind by parents, students, and former students of Washington Hunt. It echoes my sentiments exactly:

Next Week: My first job!!

Craig Bacon loves writing these columns. He hopes you like reading them as much as he does.