Editor’s Notebook column
By Rick Palsgrove
This summer the wrecking ball will take down the more than 50-year-old Groveport Madison High School as the district moves into the new high school located behind it.
It’s a strange thing to outlive your high school, but that is what many of us alumni are experiencing now ((I’m from the class of 1974).
On May 19 from 2-4 p.m., the school’s doors will open for alumni and other interested parties to walk through the halls and peek in the classrooms, gym, auditorium and elsewhere for the last time.
The school, located on South Hamilton Road, was never a beautiful building with its beige brick and utilitarian, blocky, architectural style and windows that look back at you blankly. (The rectangular windows also sort of look like the holes in old computer punch cards.) It was a building without ornamentation, without flourishes. Though it was a kind of ugly duckling, it was our ugly duckling.
It took decades for the trees in the barren looking front lawn of its early years to grow into the wonderful leafy shade givers they were before they had to be cut down for new construction.
Likewise, it took years for the grass to take root and thicken on the playing fields behind the building.
The building was brand new when my classmates and I in our youth went to school there. It seemed like the building was always under construction in some form while we were there. The school always had its quirks. Even when the building was new the clocks throughout the school often did not synch up, when they worked at all. Leaks squirted through the flat roof from the start. The parallel, two “main” hallways in the sprawling building were really long. The gym was smaller than the massive gym in the previous high school on Groveport’s Main Street. The auditorium would not be finished until well into the 1970s. But despite these quirks, academics, the arts, and athletics flourished there.
When the school is torn down this summer it will be the first school the district has demolished since 1923 when it razed the high school built in 1884 that once sat on College Street.
With demolition looming, the high school will be an empty, shadowy shell of itself, as echoes of the past fade away in the face of its impending doom.
Once the physical school is gone and replaced by a parking lot and athletic fields, it will be a ghost that only appears in our personal and collective memories.
Photos taken now of the building as an emptied hull with its demise so near will not do it justice. The photos that matter are the ones that appear in school yearbooks dating back throughout the school’s more than 50 year history to when it was new – full of life and educational promise.
Those yearbook photos portray the energy, experiences, and changes that took place there over the decades. The joys, the sadness, and even the boredom are all visible in these yearbook photos. Moments matter and the moments shared there among classmates remain imbedded in memory.
Along with its sister school next door – Eastland Career Center – Groveport Madison High School was originally bordered by farm fields, but later, as development arose, the school sat surrounded by an industrial park. The school’s appearance and location made it clear that this was a no nonsense place to work and learn.
The high school was built on what is known as Section 16 land. This is land that the state set aside in the center of townships for schools in 1803. Many school districts sold off their Section 16 land, but Groveport Madison always held onto theirs and it was rented out as farm land. Then in the mid-1960s the district chose that site to build the high school. The school became a place where intellects bloomed instead of the corn, beans, and wheat that once grew there.
The school in its first few years, while it was being constructed, served as a junior high school. It became the high school in the 1970-71 school year and had been so ever since.
School buildings and alumni age together. Though the school will be gone, its alumni live on and continue to make their impact on the world.
In the end, a school is just a place. But it is a place that provides the common shared experience and bonds upon which we build our lives and community.
Rick Palsgrove is editor of the Southeast Messenger.