In the recent Daily Oklahoman article, I learned some things about the abandoned school that I had never heard before. Most notable is that Duke Ellington actually performed on that beautiful stage. If only I had known such when I stood in the wings as I wandered the school. I might have been inclined to listen for some ghostly jazz riffs emitting from the floor boards. I might have taken a seat in the auditorium to imagine Ellington's orchestra warming up to play one of his original compositions. Who knew the impact of Ellington better than a black high school student in the inner city in the 1960s! I can only imagine the influence such a powerful entertainer might have had in the community.
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Not only that, but Ralph Ellison and Russell Perry also left a bit of themselves at Page-Woodson. Ellison wrote a book called The Invisible Man (not to be confused with the H. G. Wells science fiction novel). His book was an editorial about the feelings of a black man living in a "white world". Apparently the book struck a chord with many at the time of its writing, perhaps even encouraging some to do something about their "invisibility". Russell Perry went on to publish his own black newspaper, again giving voice to a minority people.
Since reading the article in the Daily Oklahoman, I have been contacted by a young lady who lives in central Texas. Coincidentally, this lady attended the fifth grade at Page-Woodson just four years prior to my arrival on the scene.
The young lady confessed that "Until the 6th grade, I was never in the same school for two consecutive years." In fact, a few years earlier, she had attended the second school at which I taught - Buchanan Elementary - in the very classroom I would call my own for four of the five years I was there. As one might predict, our correspondence since her initial message to me has been rife with "small world" references. Even connecting with a stranger about common ground has been interesting: even though we all know that buildings are not living entities, we can all still recognize that certain buildings exude certain personalities and quirky traits to the people who dwell inside their walls.
I remember what my classroom looked like, the way the hallways and staircases looked, the radiators, being in the auditorium and the gymnasium, seeing the pool, etc. I remember the school seeming so big back then! I remember that it seemed really old, but it also seemed clean to me back then. Of course, I was just a 5th grade kid....ha!
I didn't live near the school back then. I was bused quite a ways to get there...