Saturday, March 3, 2012

When a place is no more

What's it like to drive past a place you knew for many yearsand then discover it's gone
Perhaps I shouldn't say place. Perhaps building, or what used to stand at that place. The site, the location, is still there. It's not going anywhere. Its appearance, though...

Well, shoot. This is probably all a matter of semantics. And you probably understand what I'm talking about, anyway.

In my family, our longtime Labor Day weekend tradition is to spend a day at the Powers' Crossroads Festival. I pick up my Mom at her house in the cool hours of the morning, and we drive the 26 miles to the Festival grounds on the Heard-Coweta County border. To get there, we take Georgia Highway 34 through Franklin. This route intersects Bevis Road, which in turn winds past my old elementary school.

We take the same route every year. Nothing differentwell, until 2010.

The old Heard Elementary on Bevis Road, early to mid-1980s
(courtesy of Heard County Elementary School)

The hand-lettered sign at the intersection caught my eye. "Salvage sale at Heard Elementary this weekend?! What the—"

"Wonder what's going on?" Mom said.

I whipped the truck onto Bevis and stepped on the gas. "Maybe they finally remodeled Mr. Smith's old science classroom. I'd loooove to get those old soapstone counters for my kitchen."

What used to be the back of the lunchroom/auditorium and kindergarten wing

Looking north along the front drive, where buses lined up every morning and afternoon

Good thing we happened by during a long holiday weekend. Had Mom and I pulled up to take pictures on a weekday, the demolition workers might have taken us for trespassers and called the law. But there were no "No Trespassing" signs to be seen, and the gates at each end of Alford Drive stood wide open.

We drove up and down Alford several times, trying to soak it all in. Later, we figured out that we had misread the auction sign, and that the actual school equipment sale was in Carrollton.


Discarded chairs and desks

My sister and I probably sat in a few of these chairs. They were nearly-new when I began first grade in the fall of 1980.

Seeing them all piled up in front of the school—sorry, the remnants of the school—was surreal. I knew the county had built a brand-new elementary school on Pearidge Road; there hadn't been classes here for several years. Just the same, the old Heard Elementary building stood in my mind as immovable and immutable as the Appalachians. It had always been there, and would always be there.

But as I learned in Mr. Smith's fifth-grade science class, even mountains go away. Occasionally, a mountain blows up all at once and completely destroys itself. Most of the time, though, mountains gradually erode and crumble, turning into boulders, then rocks, then pebbles, and then the finest sand.

No slides, no swings, no softball

It's hard to believe my classmates and I once ran and played on this field. The playground equipment is completely gonenot even a concrete anchor remains. And how did grass ever overtake the hard, sandy soil of the softball field? Given enough time, sun, and water, plants will return nearly anywhere they once grew.

I thought about running down the steep bank beyond the dirt of the front drive, just to relive a memory. But I didn't. There's no going home again, as the old cliché says. It's a lot more vivid, and bittersweet, where it is in my mind.

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