Before we leave the Schoolhouse behind: I wonder how many of you remember what the lower level of the Schoolhouse looked like as it was originally built, in the days before the Ferguson Building came along.
I mention Ferguson specifically because for the ten years prior to 1967, the library was in the basement of the Schoolhouse. Located under the study hall, it occupied the space now used by the IT office and the new physics classroom, i.e. the whole right-hand side of the corridor. If you look closely at the photo, you’ll see some furniture that hung around for many years after the library moved—not to mention the bust of Albert Pillsbury, which has had at least ten homes over my time at LA.
Across the hall from the library, where the new physics lab is now, was a single long room known as the Audio-Visual Room, mostly, I imagine, because everyone had to have one in the 1950s. The entire inventory of audio-visual equipment consisted of one 16mm movie projector and a CinemaScope screen that covered the end wall facing the bathroom. Francis Head showed a movie every Saturday night (200 kids crammed in that room on those blue steel folding chairs!), pausing between reels to sell candy from the window of the bookstore, which was located next to the bathroom. (It, too, is now part of the IT department.)
Manly John Wayne films were the rule. Deviations from the norm weren’t warmly welcomed, as Francis found out one night when he screened a movie about the über-manly Royal Canadian Mounted Police—starring Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, who spent most of the film singing to each other on horseback. Francis’ puzzlement at selling out his stock of Good and Plenty candies at the break didn’t last long: Nelson and Jeanette were soundly pelted with them when the second reel started!
Evening faculty meetings were sometimes held down in the library. Those were the days when, at the end of a marking period, lazy or recalcitrant boys were escorted out of evening study hall to face excoriation before their stern-faced teachers. It often seemed to me, a newcomer, that the main point of the exercise was to see how long it took to make the kid cry. After various faculty took their pot shots, Mr. Ferguson took over. Fergie’s routine went like this:
“Do you know why you’re here, Johnny?”
“Because I got a 63 in English.” [*snif*]
“Johnny, your teachers can guide, they can direct. But the real work has to come from [anticipatory pause]...who, Johnny?”
“Me, sir.” [*snif*]
“That’s right, Johnny, from you. You need to study every night until you have a headache.”
“Now go on back to study hall, Johnny.”
“Thank you, sir.” [*SNIF*]
His sins expiated, Johnny would then return to study hall, eyes glistening with newfound inspiration, to work on his headache.
Had he walked back up the ramp and continued straight ahead past the furnace room on the left (which, of course, would have earned him demerits for missing study hall), Johnny would have passed an open area that served as a coat room for the day students, who were few in number in those days; beyond that, where the bookstore is now, were a couple of classrooms, one of which, according to Dick Jeffers, was originally a smoking room. (That had moved to the basement of Spaulding by the time I arrived.) The three science labs were on the other side of the hall, pretty much as they are today; they comprised the whole department, as the classrooms behind them were added only in the mid-1970s.
Finally, of course, there was the elevator, which generations of new kids were sent to search for, always to no avail. And, briefly, there was The Room, also the object of futile new-kid searches; equipped only with a stool and a bare light bulb, it was used for interrogations in “serious disciplinary cases.” That story proved a little harder to keep alive than the elevator, so it faded away. But the elevator still pops up from time to time—and why shouldn’t it? The Schoolhouse is now the only building on campus without one, but new kids don’t know that. Let them find out the old-fashioned way.
Thursday April, 12, 2012 at 11:24AM