Last month my sister and I journeyed from our homes in Atlanta, Georgia to Fort Wayne, Indiana to say farewell to our old high school, Elmhurst High. Several months ago we heard through Facebook that the old school was being torn down. It had been empty for 7 years prior and recently purchased. The new owner had no need for its hallways, classrooms, lunchroom and gymnasium which was all still intact. Long/short a couple of the alumni got together with the new owner who agreed to let all of Elmhurst High’s former students to come through for one last hurrah before demolition. What started as a final farewell ended up being an epic ALL class reunion that I will never forget.
I hadn’t been back to visit my old high school in more than 30 years and never attended any of my class reunions. I was eager to get there and see who would show up to also say goodbye. Many were surprised that we would travel from Georgia to Indiana for this event but I just had to. High School was a special place for me. I enjoyed it immensely. High School was my escape from poverty, abuse and an absent father. Yep, I could go to school and forget about the fact that our lights were disconnected. It was a place that I could pretend that I actually had a father that was not a crackhead who was abusive to my mother. It was the one place that I could be whoever I wanted to be and thrive.
I chose to be a cheerleader and just a dope ass chick in general. I had friends from all “clicks”, of all races and genders and I had a plan. My plan was to finish high school, go to college, marry my boyfriend and move to Atlanta to live happily ever after. Of course none of that worked out the way I planned it but those were my goals at the time. High School was the vehicle that I used to bring action to that plan. I breezed through my four years there with only that plan in mind and it was what it was. I did graduate. I did attend college. I didnt marry my high school sweetheart but I had his baby, kept it moving and I am now living in Atlanta. You can see my excitement in my quick Periscope broadcast that I did!!
— The SistahChick (@TheSistahChick) November 11, 2017
I didn’t realize then that Elmhurst High School was a safe place that protected me from the real world. It was a bubble that kept the real world from touching me. I could go there stay all day and even come back at night if I wanted to so that’s what I did. If you were ever looking for me from 1982 – 1986 you could find me up at the high school planning for this event or that game, or this rally or that match. I was in the Afro American Club, DECA, French Club , Red Coats in addition to Cheerleading. Staying involved meant staying at school… ALL the time. Being there allowed me to dream. It allowed me to see beyond my circumstances.
Elmhurst High School gave me safe passage to adulthood. The building and its inhabitants kept me fed, safe and warm for 4 years. I was so sad when I had to leave and head off the college, but I got over it quickly at IU! I remember my favorite teachers and administrators fondly. Ms Adair and Mr Harris my guidance counselors. Mr Stubbs Dean of Boys. Ms. Gentile Dean of Girls. Mrs. Sherbondy in the front office, Madame Banks our Black French teacher and I can never forget my favorite teacher Mr. Tricolas taught English Lit. I loved his class and all of his stories and hearing about his adventures and world travels. Crazy that his room was the room that was open for us to step into.
We enjoyed a quick tour through these old empty halls for one last time. This is the last time this clock ticked and tocked.
Stepping into this gym after all these years brought tears to my eyes.
And did I mention the old neighborhood where we grew up at. School desegregation was a big thing in Fort Wayne, so instead of walking to Southside High School that was just a few miles away we were bussed 20 minutes to Elmhurst. These kids right here grew up in the old neighborhood it was a pleasure to see everyone.
Seeing all of these guys again looking good was worth everything.
It was a perfect ending in the last chapter of a perfect book with more than 2700 people showing up for this event. I even landed myself on the local evening news. Click Here to See My Video Interview
The tour ended in the gym. Still intact. Everything still in its place to the Trojan symbols on the wall. 80’s music playing in the background. There were so many hugs and kisses and yes some tears too as we all stepped back in time for a minute.
Farewell to Elmhurst High School. I said that once before back in the 80’s when I graduated and Im saying it again today 31 years later with one of my grown sons and my sister at my side. It was truly bittersweet.
Shout out to all of the old homeys that I ran into while I was there: Theresa Borchelt-Dorais, Nancy Johnson, Tony Coakley, Mary Phifer, Amy Freygang, Dave Nelson, Charles Whitfield, Renee Linnemeier, Shirley Scott, Angie Scott, Lawanda Bowen, Robbin Church-Jordan, Matt and Nate Claus, Danny Thomas, Brian Walker, Lesia Benjamin, Twila Fowler, Ken Jones, Kelly Mix, Londa Walker, Joy and Shona Weemes, Ted Hall, Dorothy Moore… If I saw you and didn’t list you here just tell me in the comments and I will add you. Oh and charge it to my head and not my heart.