From the back of the multi-story building you can see across much of Parkesburg-Main Street, First Avenue, West Second, and glimpses into neighboring backyards. It is an engaging view that goes unnoticed except to the seniors who live in apartments there. Maybe there are even residents who came through that building the first time as children and remember the days of many smiling frosty faces coming in from recess or the generations who climbed the 102 concrete steps at the rise of each new day.A number of us make the trip there every spring and fail to exercise one of our most prized American freedoms: to be able to make a well-informed and thought-out decision in the voter's booth. Though on that day it has been transformed into an extension of our political process, those who first experienced school there can still hear the voices and see the faces from the file of childhood.
When Miss Sweet opened the door to kindergarten it was the portal to a new life called school. Every day she greeted us with a smile and pleated skirts and new things to do and learn. I met my first best friend Lori Constein there, whose hair fell in braids against a handmade, cornflower blue dress. We cut out colorful construction paper shapes and pasted them into pictures and collected lacy plants from the playground to tint with food dye. Miss Sweet also had a kid-sized fully-stocked kitchen where we liked to pretend. Lori lived at the bottom of Second Avenue on West Street and for years we did almost everything together.
Lori and I walked to Parkesburg Elementary most days. Sometimes our friend Dara Shelton, who lived on the next block of West Second, would go with us. At noontime the three of us would often walk home together too. At the bottom of the tower of school steps there was Dee, the friendly crossing guard. After Wilde's Funeral Home, we would try to pass under the bridge when no trains were passing over, rumbling as loud as an earthquake. When it was raining the bridge was another adventure for us. The brown boulder rocks were changed into a rainforest with water crashing down. One of our moms would usually meet us on the corner of First Avenue at the old bank building to help us across the street and up the hill toward home. They may have told us about not talking to strangers but there was no such word as child predator.
In second grade we met teachers Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Campbell and Mrs. Beaton, who read terrific stories to us on her oversized couch. And in third grade our lives were touched by Mr. Brown, with his smile and military haircut, and Mrs. McCann's enthusiastic energy.
On Field Day that year, Ronnie Toole's parents and brother, who like many families lived in walking distance of school, brought treats for our class. And one field trip that same year involved Mr. Brown's class walking to First Avenue for a special 'grown-up' lunch at Carmen's Restaurant. Even more exciting was the trek from there across Minch Park to classmate Kandi Durborow's house where a swimming pool was being built. We were all excited by the two frogs we saw jumping around the spacious cavern of concrete.
It was a different world then; all around us and inside us. The families of our community came together for many years and partnered with the teachers and support staff to create that world. It is good to know this building is still full of life and still about celebrating the value of people, carrying on the mission started here long ago.