Originally created 05/21/06

School to soon be just a collection of boxes, memories



"Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us."

- Oscar Wilde

It was the last hour of the last day at Evans Middle School on Friday, and Peggy Stewart was in the guidance office taping up boxes.

"Strip. Rip. Strip. Rip," went the packing tape.

There were a lot of boxes.

The Columbia County school is moving this fall to a site on Hereford Farm Road, and Friday was its last school day after 80 years at the corner of Washington and Belair roads.

Ms. Stewart has seen many of those days.

In 1957, she began first grade in a classroom down the hall. The school was new then, built to replace an older building lost to fire. This was the school from which she graduated in 1969. It was the school her children attended. Over the years, it's been a comprehensive school, a high school and now a middle school.

"Ask about her tiara," whispers a mischievous Michael Johnson, who is also the Evans Middle principal.

I do, and Ms. Stewart modestly admits she was once the school homecoming queen.

I ask her favorite memory and she hesitates.

I ask her favorite teacher and she quickly says, "Ms. Padgett," about the time Sue Padgett walks into the office.

"I had to see it one last time," said Ms. Padgett, who retired but still substitutes. She must come back a lot, because she greets many of the children by name.

The afternoon passes quickly and quietly.

Mr. Johnson confides his principal strategy that kept pranks to a minimum.

"Keep them off balance," he says mysteriously, with a smile.

He is more revealing when he talks about the school move, showing off the color-coded charts and diagrams on his office walls.

All the boxes have a color. Certain colors go to certain wings of the new building. The plan is simple and detailed and organized. He admits they started packing in December.

They will not, however, be moving much from the lunchroom.

"There's not much left," manager Cindy Lee said.

For the record, Friday's last supper was a variety of choices that must be used up - among them hamburgers, hot dogs and fruit.

It is a light last meal that did not slow anyone down. When the final bell chimed, children raced from the doors, happy and hugging and hurrying to summer's prospects.

The buses filled up and filed out. The teachers slipped away.

And custodian Barbara Taylor turned off the lights like she usually does, only this time it was the last time on the last day for school at the corner of Washington and Belair roads.

So many days. So many years.

Now taped up in color-coded boxes.