Monday, June 25, 2007

Magic Carpet Ride, or Three Old Ladies on a Jungle Gym

The most emotional moment of my reunion weekend in Chattanooga involved a visit to our old elementary school.

Henry L. Barger was a baby-boom school extraordinaire. Built in 1955 or 56. new classrooms had to be added in 1958 to accommodate us all. My first-grade was a make-shift room carved out of the lobby and the teachers' lounge; we didn't have hard walls, just a big divider curtain. By the time we arrived for second grade, there were 10-12 new rooms added to the building. And - bam! - just like that, the education baby boom was off and running.

Anyway, like my old homestead, Barger is in great disrepair. This was clearly evident, as we pulled into the back driveway of the school and decided to have a walk-around. Lots of ugly classroom trailers and junk stacked up against the windows. Ugh! It had been such a lovely example of 1950s modernist school architecture - lots of light and windows.

But there in the distance, back in the farthest reaches of the playground was - could it be? Yes! Our ancient playground equipment! We were lucky enough to have been the tots to break the stuff in, back when it was new, sturdy gun-metal gray - the old slide, the "hand-walkers" - one large, one smaller, and the ever-popular "magic carpet." Well, that's what we called it, anyway. It was a grid of bars in the shape of, well, a magic carpet.

That magic carpet was the scene of many flips and stunts of derring-do. We prided ourselves on the number of blisters we got on our hand. The school nurse had to paint Mercurochrome faces on our little hands to cover those blisters.

The stunts also led to several trips to the emergency room to sew up split lips and head wounds. But it never crossed anyone's mind to sue the school or teachers for negligence. Ah, those were the days.

I did get a bit misty when I touched the bars of the magic carpet for the first time in 45+ years the other afternoon. What joy that funny piece of metal gave us during countless recess periods!

And it's still there. Keeping all the stories of all the children to itself. It may no longer be a clean, sturdy structure, but even under chipped yellow paint, it will always loom large in our childhood history. Our version of The Giving Tree, I suppose. A real, honest-to-goodness magic carpet. (And it didn't collapse under our weight, either.)


Joy Des Jardins said...

Now don't you ladies look WONDERFUL up on those look especially cute Miss Mary. What a great time.

MaryB said...

Ah, joy - you really are seeing us through rose-colored glasses, aren't you? Still, it's good to know I can still climb up on the thing (and climb back down)!

Jim said...

Mary B:
I went to Barger about that same time (a member of the first "graduating class")!
I'm in the process of publishing a newspaper in the Brainerd community, where I still live, and would be delighted to include any Barger stories that you'd like to share. I was in Miss Rushlow's sixth grade class.
Glad I stumbled onto your site!

MaryB said...

OK, Jim - spill the beans! What's your last name (you can just email me without commenting)?

I had Miss Rushlow, too, and several of us girls tracked her down 10-12 years ago. In fact I just spent a couple of days with Marilyn (Rushlow) Maxwell and her husband when I was in California. That's who we did the wine-tasting with!

We have lots of Barger stories, by the way. :-)

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...


I'm enjoying reading your blog. I attended Brainerd Junior High School in '64-'66 and graduated from Brainerd Senior High School in 1969. I was also in Mr. Sylar's music class in the 8th and 9th grade, and that was the only formal music theory education I ever received. My wife and I have just moved back to Ooltewah (she also attended Barger; she was BHS class of '70) and it's nice to still see some of the old places around. The current HOOTERS used to be the Shakey's Pizza Parlor where I played the banjo in '68-'69 on Friday or Saturday night. I drove through Marietta Road NW in Atlanta recently, where I lived when I was a toddler and kindergartener, and everything but the railroad yard is gone. Things like that are the reason why my wife and I got married by the river in the Great Smokies park; so that we could always go back to that spot for the rest of our lives and remember the day we became one in the eyes of God, before an audience of recreational tubers . . . .