Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Castle On The Hill

Have you ever felt like you belonged to a building or that it belonged to you? It sounds strange maybe. I have two such buildings.

The first is the house my family built. We built it from the first to the last bit. We chose colors and decorated the inside. We put something of ourselves into it. It instilled something of itself into us. I still drive by once in a while just to look and make sure everything is good with it.

My second building is a castle. Actually it is my high school. The Castle On The Hill.

Long before I was dreamed of (even before my parents were dreamed of) the city recognized the need for a new and larger school. Plans were drawn up and construction began.

The very best materials available were used. Marble floors and stairways. The finest of sandstone for the outside. Classrooms were extremely large. There would be no crowding. Students would have enough room to work in comfort.

The Castle was furnished with the most up-to-date features. Thermostatically controlled heating meant no more feeding a wood stove or coal stove by the boys who were students. Electrical bells to mark the beginning of school, the beginning and end of classes, and the end of the school day.

It was built to look like a castle. It was beautiful. But as the city grew so did the number of students. The school was too small.

At great cost an addition was built. The reason for the cost was that they wanted it to blend with the original building. You cannot tell where the original was as opposed to the addition. Still the number of students grew. A fourth floor was added and blended to keep the look of a castle.

The picture above is the way the building looks today. It is so majestic, so royal looking. Just looking at it brings so many feelings. I feel pride, honor, love, and belonging just to name a few.

The basement of the building was the original gymnasium. It was called (naturally) The Dungeon. By the time I attended The Castle it was considered too dangerous to hold sporting events there. An annex was built across the parking lot.

The annex contained several gyms, the swimming pool, band and choir rooms, auto shop facilities, and a few odd classrooms. Besides crossing the parking lot there was a tunnel we could walk through so we would not have to wear coats in the winter. It helped to stay warm after swimming classes too.

The annex is a modern looking building and does not look like it belongs to The Castle at all. But it was useful to handle all the athletic features needed. Gymnastics classes could be held at the same time as basketball practice, volleyball, modern dance, swimming, and other gym classes. There were enough gyms to handle them all.

The year I was a senior they reopened The Dungeon to allow us to have a place to relax after we ate lunch. There was even a jukebox for dancing. Of course there was no touching allowed and all music had to be deemed acceptable.

We were not required to stay at school for lunch and often went a block away for fast food. But the cafeteria served delicious food. There were choices. You could have a salad, hot or cold sandwiches, soups, stews, hot meals of your choice from the meals offered that day, choice of desserts. Each item had its price and you simply paid the cashier when you had made your selections.

There was a giant auditorium. We gathered there for Christmas programs, student council meetings, and other things that the entire school was expected to attend. Occasionally there would be speakers who would give inspirational talks. We had some really big names. For instance Dear Abby and Ann Landers were alumni of the school. They spoke often to the assembly.

There were some outstanding teachers there as well. Math teachers strictly taught math classes and nothing else. I remember two quite well. The geometry teacher taught what I thought was a totally useless subject but he taught it very well. Second-year algebra was taught by an older woman who needed to retire. I am afraid that what little we learned from her I forgot until college.

The chemistry teacher was from Greece. I loved to hear him talk. With his accent he said kostyens instead of questions. It was cute and he looked good too... for an old guy.

My homeroom teacher was the biology instructor. Homeroom was where we reported at the beginning of the day. Attendance was taken and any announcements were dispersed. Then the bell would ring and we were off to classes.

Anyway the biology instructor was brilliant. He really knew his subject. He also expected a lot from his students and it was a difficult class. I feel better (and smarter) for having taken it.

Besides giving us the opportunity for an excellent education we had our sports teams as well. Our teams were the Little Maroons. Our colors were maroon and white (I have to add FIGHT, FIGHT)We had good seasons and not so good seasons but we cheered them on just the same.

As students at the castle we were expected to act with the honor and dignity befitting us. We were after all the Knights and Ladies of the school.

Each graduating class made a gift to the school. During World War II The Castle donated two cannons to the war effort. My graduating class replaced them. After more than 20 years the cannons were back to protect The Castle.

Eventually as the city grew so did the student population. Talk began of building a new school. The Castle On The Hill was old. The beautiful stairs were worn and shiny with age. Some were deemed so dangerous that we were not allowed to use them.

The city decided that three new high schools would be erected to take the place of The Castle. The Castle would be closed and probably eventually demolished.

Luckily The Castle On The Hill is now a National Historic Site. It cannot be demolished. It has not been a school for almost 50 years. It has gone through a lot of changes as far as what goes on inside. There have been Indian Affairs offices and various business concerns. The mural that graced the wall across from the principal's office has been restored.

There is a small area set aside for a gift shop selling items that commemorate the school. And now the school provides apartments for low-income housing.

I must admit that I have mixed feelings about that. I miss seeing the hustle and bustle of students at the school. That is why it was built. The Castle On The Hill was meant to have students learning and enjoying being young. If I am honest I can say I am jealous.

At the same time the apartments mean that the building does not just sit there deteriorating. People who might otherwise have trouble finding a place to live can live in this magnificent castle.

The annex has been sold. It was not the school to me anyway. Soon the apartments they have built in it will be opened to new tenants.

So I feel that pull of belonging every time I drive by The Castle On The Hill. It sounds strange to love a building but I love that building. And I show it to anyone I can hold hostage long enough to drive by. I do it with pride.


  1. It sounds like a fabulous school. When I was 7 I went to a boarding school in Bristol UK. It was a very old home converted and called the Collegiate. I was the youngest pupil and I loved it there. Sadly at the end of the first year I was very ill and had to leave to be closer to home and hospitals. Keep well Diane

  2. The schools I attended, all three, were built in the 20's, or earlier.Well thought out schools, like yours. Wonderful windows. Art deco decorations in the walls. They were demolished and reconstructed. Just not the same.

    1. I find newer schools to be so institutional. Perhaps that is one of the reasons students do not want to go.

  3. You were so fortunate to had so amenities at your school. The schools that I went to offered little besides the classrooms, a gym and a small library. It was a girls school. The boys’s school had so much more.

    1. It is sad that the boys school was better equipped than the girls school. I was not allowed to take calculus in high school because I was a girl. Hopefully things will change someday.

  4. That The Castle is being preserved, made a Nat'l Historic Site, is awesome! too many of our splendid old buildings are mowed down, replaced with steel and glass.

    What a place this must have been for students like you.

    1. I drove by there today. It is still so beautiful and majestic.

  5. Oh this is beautiful and touching post dear Emma!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    i so loved this majestic castle like school :)

    i can totally relate to your feelings about the building because whenever i visit to my native town i feel so compelled to go to my school and recall the glorious days of student hood :)

    thank you for sharing the image specially my friend!

  6. The Castle on the Hill looks and sounded so regal in this post, Emma, and your obviously have such fond memories of your school days there. It is good that as a National Historic site it has been protected from demolition and now has been re-purposed. We live in a former textile mill that also has the same designation and which has also been converted into apartment residences. So all is good in the end.

    1. I am sure there is some psychological reason that I do not like people living there. It did not bother me at all when there were business offices there. Maybe I am jealous that I do not live there.