Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Happy times at McKinley flood back at closing

When they tear down one of your cherished school buildings, it’s like a death in the family.

That’s the message I got from Managing Editor Laura Kessel in her column a week ago because of the strong feelings she held for Roosevelt Elementary in Euclid. It must have been a pretty good school, because she turned out well.

Now they’re going to apply the headache ball, as former City Editor Ed Bell insisted on calling a wrecking ball, to one of my former schools, and it really does hurt.

McKinley Elementary School, on the north end of Lost Nation Road, walking distance from Lake Shore Boulevard, will soon bite the dust for economic reasons, and a lot of people with fond remembrances of the school showed up for a farewell party the other day.

I couldn’t go because I was booked for the big Fine Arts gala at the same time, but my brother said he got there early and still had to park way up the road because of the huge turnout. He reported the building was opened in 1921.

There was another big party there 20 years ago, and I have the evidence to prove it. I have on my office wall a beautiful walnut plaque with a gold key (it looks like gold) and an inscription that says, “This key to McKinley Elementary School is presented to alumnus Jim Collins, May  28, 1992.”

Stuff like that you hang on to. You never get tired of looking at it.

I attended McKinley for the better part of the eighth grade, but remember so much about it and have so many fond memories that it seems I spent years there.

I started eighth grade at Browning Elementary in Willoughby. After the first week of school in September I was run over by a drunk driver in front of the old Willoby Theater, now the Masonic Temple, and suffered a broken pelvis.

Meanwhile, our family moved to North Willoughby, known at the time as Willobee, and spent about six weeks recovering from the fracture.

My uncle bought me a small radio, and I listened to soap operas all afternoon. Then, it was off to McKinley, where I made a lot of new friends and finished eighth grade before taking the bus up Lost Nation to Willoughby Union High, where I was to spend the next four years.

The principal at McKinley was Minton Blauch, and I think he also taught shop, although I am not sure of that. Dick Stone, one of my classmates, would probably know. He’s good on details.

We had a pretty decent softball team at McKinley with some very good players, including Dick, Dan Alexander, Whitey Christensen, Don Krasovec, Hank Borsic, one of the Hollingshead brothers and others I don’t recall.

During the spring of 1942, three New York Yankees visited us at McKinley. I guess it was a goodwill tour. Our visitors were Red Rolfe, Johnny Murphy and Joe Gordon. I knew of them very well because I was a huge baseball fan.

We played a little softball on the diamond behind the school, and Joe Gordon hit one of Whitey Christensen’s fastballs farther than I had ever seen a softball hit.

I don’t know if it went over the school or not, but at least it went pretty far back on the roof. Joe later starred for the Indians in the 1948 World Series.

We played a lot of football at McKinley too — on the front lawn, which hasn’t seen a blade of grass in years. It was converted into a paved parking lot a long time ago. It’s pretty tough playing football on asphalt, even when there are no cars in the way.

We played the other schools in the district in softball (Browning, Roosevelt, Longfellow and Garfield — I don’t remember playing Lincoln) and we also played Kirtland.

We played the same schools in basketball, with mostly the same guys as softball getting most of the playing time.

Dan Alexander was our best player, and Carl Cornwall and I alternated as the “sixth man” — the first substitute off the bench and a designation made famous by John Havlicek of Ohio State and the Boston Celtics.

Carl and I weren’t quite up to Havlicek’s level. I never cared for basketball because the other guys were bigger than I, and they never passed me the ball.

But those were happy, carefree days at McKinley.

I made spending money by raking leaves for two bits an hour at the home of an insurance man, Noyes Gallup, and by carrying pop cases upstairs at Charlie Gull’s at the corner of Lake Shore and Lost Nation, where the beautiful Sally Osborne worked behind the soda fountain.

And I remember exactly where I was when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor when I was in eighth grade.

Except I wasn’t in school that day. It was a Sunday.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home