East Penn Press

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

letter to the editor

Thursday, July 19, 2018 by The Press in Opinion

In memory of the ‘Little Red School’

To the Editor:

Is it age or sentimentality that resists change? Do we yearn for the past and the things of our youth? Do we idealize the days of yesteryear? Yes, perhaps memory is somewhat blurred by the passing years, but somehow what we choose to remember is poignant and reminds us of an easier, gentler time.

In a lifetime, we experience the removal or demolition of a stately mansion or rundown old farmhouse and crumbling barn, the blasting away of a one-time landmark tavern or hotel, the cutting down of beautiful old stately trees, and we feel such a sense of loss and nostalgia.

In the past few days another landmark has passed into oblivion and in a generation or two will not even be remembered.

The red brick Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School on Pennsylvania Avenue, Emmaus met its sad demise as the wrecking ball brought down its storied walls and with it the memory of school days gone by... Blackboards, chalk dust, recess, penmanship, old wall maps, the old cloak rooms and open unlocked doors and windows.

The school building was erected in 1930 and was named for Thaddeus Stevens who many today would have no indication as to his prominence in the mid- 1800s and his personal crusade for public education for everyone as in his day only the children of the very rich received an education at a high personal cost to the parent. He advocated for universal education for all children through taxes providing fair advantage to all levels of income.

As the walls came tumbling down and the dust brought tears to the onlookers’ eyes, perhaps there was a feeling of personal loss for something from the past was slipping away.

Remembering the yesteryear of their school days, the onlookers could almost hear the screeching of chalk upon the blackboard, picture the script letters of the alphabet above the board, the smell of the oiled wooden floors, remember spelling bees, parent-teacher conferences, tag and red light green light games at recess. But mostly, perhaps they could imagine the children’s laughter and optimism and that there was never any fear of violence or hurt. Within those red brick walls the children were held in safe community, were taught respect and love of country, excellence and responsibility.

Of course old ways and old crumbling buildings make way for that which is new, but at times one feels such a nostalgia for the days of simpler times, of generosity and respect and patriotism ... saying the Pledge of Allegiance with hand on heart, Bible reading and the Lord’s Prayer.

Can we reflect that when we see something old no longer being valued and left in ashes that we personally may feel that someday we may not be valued and are expendable?

A quote from Thaddeus Stevens in regard to his view of education was not so much the need for opulent edifices of learning but that which was taught within. “Build not yourself monuments of brass or marble, but make them of everlasting mind!”

Yes, it must be admitted that “all things pass away” but truth, honesty and virtue remain and best of all ... the memory of things past!

Char Unser