Thursday, June 23, 2016

These Old Walkin' Shoes: Days of Future Passed

I’m calling the second audible of the week today. I was supposed to write about some neighborhood groceries. Instead, my walk on Wednesday morning generated a new idea for this column. Sometimes things like that happen, and I just have to write about them before the previously scheduled program. So, think of this as “Breaking News.” Also, the title this week has nothing to do with the X-Men movie.

Wednesday was "Moving Up Day" for three out of four children. Corliss was leaving behind Roy B. Kelley, while the twins were graduating from 6th grade and moving on to North Park. So it was a goodbye and hello to Emmet Belknap. Unfortunately, the ceremonies were at the same time, so Wendy and I had to split duties. I went to Emmet while she went to Kelley.

Because of the timing, the ceremony would inhibit my chance to take a walk. Instead, I decided to walk to Emmet Belknap for the event and then walk back home. It would suffice as my morning walk. Once I made that decision, it was my idea to also walk the same route that I did back during my time at that school. It was sort of like a walk down memory lane.

The one thing I can tell you is that I walk faster now than I did 30 years ago. This is probably due to the fact that I didn't have Matt or Erik to goof off with. I made it from home to the school in just less than 20 minutes. Back when I was a student, it generally took 35-40 minutes. I even cut through the UAW parking lot like we used to do, although no one yelled at me this time.

The school itself is so much different that I remember. They've added on a whole new wing since I attended. The cafeteria is now on the east side of the building at the rear. Where the kids eat used to be a part of the playing fields behind the school. The old cafeteria on the northwest corner of the building is now a series of classrooms, and the ramp that used to lead down to it has been leveled.

No matter what, when you come up the Hyde Park hill towards the school, there is just a feeling of awe when the tower first comes into view. The whole building looks like the quintessential school from movie after movie after movie. It honestly is picture postcard perfect.

Back in 1986-1989, Emmet Belknap housed half the Lockport 7th-9th grade population. The other half went to North Park. I was a part of the last 9th grade class to go through Emmet. When I graduated from freshman year to attend 10th grade at the high school, the new 9th graders came with us. I will always hold that distinction dear, mostly because it meant that we weren't the low men at the high school. As a small kid back then, I was an easy target for the bigger kids. Adding freshmen to the high school at the same time took some of the attention from us small guys.

My kids ride the bus to Emmet these days. I guess it's actually considered an elementary school, so the distance is problematic for the younger walkers. When I went there, we walked. Every day. Even in the cold, the rain, the snow, and the sleet. In all my time of walking to school (Kindergarten to 9th grade) I can guarantee I got a ride to school a dozen times or less. Those days are long in the past. even when we had a neighborhood school at Washington Hunt a few years ago, people drove their kids there and back. We walked. We walked without parents. It was a different time.

My kids were happy the school year was over, and they were happy to get some awards. The twins each got a Presidential Gold Award. They also each got recognition for their hard work in English. They liked their teacher so much that IdaLena begged to a photo with Mr. Tolli. It's good that they'll have great memories of that great school. I sure did. And now it's time for Corliss to make her own memories at Emmet Belknap. I can't wait to see what adventures she brings.

Craig Bacon is hoping one day to climb the tower at Emmet Belknap. He is sure the view will be wonderful.