It’s Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday – 5* Pix

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(With apologies to Boyz to Men) Over the weekend, I visited the city where I grew up (in fairness, I can’t call it ‘home’ because Chicago has been my home since its vibrant energy touched my soul over two decades ago). While there, my sister and I rode around to see some of our old haunts – the neighborhoods, the schools and spots we had favored.

The town changed so much that it was almost unrecognizable as the one where we spent our formative years, until we respectively moved away for college and careers. Where it was once a thriving mid-sized affluent town of 125,000, and part of the automotive industrial complex that was Michigan, today it is a shell of its former self –   complete with burned out and crumbling homes and businesses, open fields where homes used to be, tons of dollar stores (WHO knew there were five different chains of dollar stores and all could be in ONE small city?) – literally churches on every corner, and  a population less than 100,000.

There was so much I wanted to show, but the prospect of focusing only on the negative saddened me tremendously.  I thought images of a current and former school could tell the bittersweet story of this visit for me. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane and these 5* selections: 20150501-Oldflint_6369

  • Garfield Community School – Built in 1928, this school was named after a former president, and was once the heart of the local community on Flint’s McClellan Street, attracting children by day, and adults by night for its educational and civic events and programming. It shut its doors in 2009, with the beleaguered city’s promise to shutter the building and keep up the land from vandals and ne’er-do-wells.  This was not one of the schools I actually attended as a child — those were already torn down.


  • Adorning Mosaics – When this school was built, even school buildings had special adornment, such as the open book surrounded by flowers, fruit, and colorful geometric tiles built into the school’s brick walls, the colorful palette of mosaic tiles above the arch, or the stylized GS in the center of the arch shown in the image below.


  • Towering Façade – The school’s tower, stands imposingly against the blue sky.


  • Handwriting on the Wall – Six years after its close, these class instructions, written so clearly in in white chalk, tells its own story. Even then, this classroom was NOT electronically enabled – these instructions are totally “old school.”


  • Through the Doorway – the starkness of this dilapidated building, with the sunlight coming thru windows as you gaze down the cluttered hallway.  So much for the district’s promise to shutter the building and protect the structure.


  • Humpty Dumpty Had a Great Fall – These remnant doors featuring nursery rhyme characters sadly remind us of better days, the learning exercises that took place within the classroom, and all the nursery rhymes we learned as children.


  • Still Open – When Northwestern High School opened in 1966, it was a flagship school for the city. My sister and I walked around the building refreshing our memories of layout (this was a school we both attended), the football and track field (meticulously cared for) and the now closed driving range (open, but NOT as well taken care of), we could see it was no longer the flagship institution it once was. It had changed hands – city run, privately operated, now a school-within-a-school structure with middle- and high-school students. Sobering.


  • Home of the Champions – Back in the day, Northwestern was known for its men’s sports programs, especially basketball – Coach Grover Kirkland was the winningest basketball coach in Flint’ history, and we were there during some of those years. Never fear, Northwestern is still producing champions – Claressa Fields, NW c/o 2012, won a gold medal in boxing in the 2012 Olympic Games!

Going back to Flint, and walking some of the paths I used to roam was sobering. How do we say goodbye to what we had?  By reflecting good times that made us laugh, and treasuring the the fragments that stay with us. Garfield may now be in ruins –  these 5* images show the beauty of the past and the hope of the future.

2 thoughts on “It’s Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday – 5* Pix

  1. Ivy, this was incredibly powerful to read. You have captured poetically with your images what is happening across the country to public institutions.

    • Beth, thank you for your comments. I know that it was painful to see the shuttered schools, and the open fields where schools once stood — all signs of the community’s decline and the diminishing education opportunity. Thank you for letting me know that I captured that.

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