Hinckley Elementary School--Part II, Downstairs
|This is a photo from the back of the school taken in 1912. |
It is such a beautiful building.
|This is the front entrance of the Millard Academy|
with its first graduating class in 1914
It has been 38 years since I attended Hinckley Elementary School, yet I still frequently find myself within those walls in my dreams. The place seems to hold some kind of spell on my imagination, because I wake up some mornings with the vague feeling of having walked the halls and stairways; performed on the stage of the auditorium; played games in the gym; or studied in a classroom or the library the previous night. Perhaps it has something to do with the many happy childhood hours I spent in that edifice.
Over the seven years I attended HES, there were never enough students to warrant having a teacher for every grade so the second graders were split between the first and third grade classrooms and the fifth graders were split between fourth and sixth. Even with combining the grades this way,18 students was my largest elementary class size. Most teachers now would think it was pure heaven to have that kind of student-to-teacher ratio.
Relying on 38-year-old memories and more-recent sleep images, I invite you to walk with me through Hinckley Elementary: Upon entering the giant, arched front doors of the school, we find ourselves in a large inside lobby. The classrooms are on the outer walls with the windows, so this foyer is a great echoing space with doorways exiting off from it.
The building is completely symmetrical with each side a mirror image of the other. If you turn to the right upon entering the front door, the main office is the first room you encounter. I seriously have no memory of ever being in this office. I guess that means either I never got into trouble or I just never got caught. Beyond the office there are two doorways on adjacent walls at the inside corner, the first door leads to an empty classroom, but the next one is Mrs. Hales' first/second grade classroom. I spent two fun-filled years in that room learning to read and write and singing songs about little white ducks and lily pads. Continuing past Mrs. Hales' room, we come to the wide, green-carpeted stairways--one going up, with the boy's blue-tiled restroom on the landing--and a flight going down to the gymnasium on the lowest level.
Back at the front doors, if we turn left, we will pass the nurses office (right across from the principal's office), then the two doors at the northwest corner that lead into the Kindergarten rooms. The wall between the two rooms was taken out so there was a classroom section and a playroom section in the large space. My memories about this area of the school all revolve around graham crackers and milk, a big toy train, blocks, poster paints, and sleeping mats rolled up and stored on the back counter. One time in 1974 when my mom was PTA president and I was watching my baby brother during an after-school meeting, I took little Mark into the kindergarten room to play and ended up losing the end of my finger to a vicious guinea pig who lived in a cage where the sleeping mats had previously been stored. Now that recollection merges with my actual kindergarten memories.
Past the kindergarten complex was the other set of stairways; going up to the landing, here is the pink-tiled girl's restroom with three stalls, two sinks and a large rack filled with wire baskets for the girls' gym clothes. I remember the gritty soap in the dispensers and the toilet paper holders meting out little folded squares, but mostly I remember the way the room smelled of floor wax, bowl cleaner, and sweaty gym clothes. When I read Harry Potter to my children several years ago, I pictured this restroom when I read about Moaning Myrtle's bathroom.
Taking the stairway down leads us to the gymnasium, just like the stairs on the south side of the building. The gym was a place of wonder and magic. Weekly each class had an appointed time in the gym. We played basketball, dodge ball, ran laps, climbed the rope or did chin-ups on the bars. There was a set of stairs leading to a catwalk that encircled the ceiling of the room. During gym period, the teacher would send a student up there to untie the climbing rope and toss the end down below. I recall the thrill of climbing that massive rope from the floor all the way to the top and putting my hand on the ceiling; I remember throwing a ball so hard, I got boys 'out' while playing dodge ball; and I recollect the powerful feeling of pulling myself up on the chinning bar.
Oh, wait... maybe those last few memories were just dreams…
We will tour the upstairs of Hinckley Elementary next week. Please call or email your memories (and dreams) to Georgia at 801-737-4787 or email@example.com