Monday, August 6, 2018

St. John the Baptist School, a Loss of a Historic Jordan Building

On August 6th, they will begin demolishing the old St. John’s School building.  It will be difficult to drive past to see an empty space where the red brick school used to loom large.  

Given the options the church has, unfortunately, tearing the school down is the right thing to do.  Nevertheless, I'm sure it was a difficult decision to tear down the 110 year old building. 

My affection to the building, which is no different than many who attended, or worked there, is tied to the memories made and the uniqueness of a 110 year old structure.  Earlier this summer, a group of parishioners were working to salvage some of the wooden banisters, doors, coat hooks, and more.  I asked if there was a way I could walk through the building one last time.  After signing a waiver, they let me enter the building.

As I walked into the old school, with the smell of old wood and hearing the familiar creak of the staircase, I was no longer a 42 year married man with children, I transformed into my 11 year old self and I was a student again.  I’m wearing the St. John’s uniform of a white cotton polo shirt, navy blue dress pants with creases down the middle of each leg, and white Reebok high top sneakers. I have a full head of hair again.  The year is 1987, I’m in 5th grade, where my parents are in charge of my well being, the Twins just won the World Series and worries of adulthood are gone.  My teacher was Ms. Smith and I had a crush on the cute girl who sat in front of me.

Each room I go into replays a slideshow of memorable moments.  In kindergarten, Mrs. Langsweirdt is reading books to us while sitting in a rocking chair.   In the 2nd grade classroom, where my mom is the teacher, I wait for her to correct papers after school before we go home. 

Upstairs in Louie Hall, memories come flooding in from all the Christmas programs, science fairs, phy. ed. classes, and school assemblies.  Perhaps the most memorable moment occurred while the entire school practiced for the upcoming Christmas program.  During that rehearsal a bat flew in and swooped down multiple times towards all of us, which sparked ear piercing screams from the girls (and some teachers) and we all ran downstairs to our classrooms.

I pause in the Louie Hall Auditorium, with it’s high ceilings and wood floors, and stand silently, reflecting on my time here.   When you are experiencing something for the last time, it’s best to linger as long as you can to soak it in. Unlike the rest of the school with mold, and decaying walls, the auditorium has held up remarkably well – besides the layers of dust, it has been frozen in time.   But now, just like all things, the end has come.  It’s time to move on and I must say good-bye.  I will no longer be able to physically visit this building again, which has the ability to trigger nostalgia and old memories– that will be reserved for old pictures, class reunions, and the people who were around me during the formative years of grade school. 

Earlier in the week, I ventured to the new St. John’s school building with my three year old son.  We played on the same playground his older siblings used to play on.  My older kids have graduated from St. John’s and have moved onto the next stage in life and I relished the ability to re-live this moment again with my youngest and to make new memories.    We won’t be able to make new memories in the old building across the street, which brings me to my final reflection.

I have been lucky that my past has been filled with many good memories.  I am lucky to be a part of the history of the old St. John’s School.  It is good for us to reflect on the past and use those insights for the future.  We cannot stay in the past, for it is gone.  Although I will mourn the loss of the building, I hang onto the hope of the future.  Jordan’s future is very bright.  I look forward to the progress and the great things that are happening.  New parks, splash pads, new businesses, and excellent schools.  I reflect on the past, but place my focus on moving forward.  Looking forward with anticipation brings positivity, but remaining in the past keeps us stagnant.  Once the building is leveled, I hope for something positive to take its place in the future.  Something that benefits the school, church, and the town of Jordan.  This is my challenge to the church, the city, and the community.  Let’s work together to utilize this prime piece of property for the benefit of all.  To do anything less is a waste of a historic building.          
Window looking out to the church, photo taken from auditorium floor

4th grade classroom chalkboard - still lessons on the board from 14 years ago.

2nd grade classroom with a bathtub that was used for kids to read in.  It was too heavy to move so it remained in the building.

Main entrance

I invite you to find out more about the history of this building by reading David Melin's Blog, "The Life of a Father of Five" - which you can access by clicking HERE


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