December 29, 2012
December 25, 2012. Nine years to the day after the fire that destroyed half the building was put out, we returned to the recently demolished site of J.A.D. McCurdy Public School in my hometown of Huron Park, Ontario. There’s not much left to see, just a bleak little collection of 1940s military housing, much of it now empty, and a flat expanse of gravel and concrete where the school used to stand.
Standing just off the main foyer in the approximate location of the stairs that led to the gym balcony, looking at an angle across where the Principal’s Office was and beyond that, the classrooms for grades 8, 7, and 6 and out towards the now-overgrown path those of us who lived on Columbia Drive used to walk daily.
If there was any easy way to uproot this bicycle rack it would have already been in my backyard long ago. My mom says that’s stealing, but a school board closing down a school knowing it will destroy the town is stealing too. Buying a closed school and letting it crumble until vandals finally set fire to it, and then standing there smirking while it burns, is stealing too. So whatever. Anyway, it’s really in there, you’d need a jackhammer to get it out.
Looking down the sidewalk that ran along in front of the senior wing, towards the little stand of trees that used to be the Huron Hope playground (a separate, fenced playground for the youngest of the developmentally handicapped kids whose school we shared our building with). You can just make out Peter down there, totally bored. Other people’s remember-whens are never fun, and I think he took little consolation in knowing that this would be the last time I would badger him to accompany me to photograph this crumbling ruin. You know, since it’s gone now.
As we were leaving, my brother and I made a stop at this culvert that kids used to climb into. The pipe ran along under a little ridge along the edge of the school property, underneath a street and across another field out to empty into the creek at the edge of town. It was a badge of honour for kids to walk all the way through it. I never did, because the girls in my social group most likely to go with me were also my bullies (such is life in a town of less than 1,000: you take what you can get) and I was never stupid enough to get way deep in there with them.
Walking away from there, my brother and I still deep in conversation about this and other childhood haunts and coming-of-age rituals and Peter and my cousins lagging behind rolling their eyes, Peter saw a group of teenage girls coming up the road towards us. He was about to point at my brother and I and tell the teenagers, “this will be you in ten years”, when one of them suddenly exclaimed, “hey! The school is GONE!”. Hah.
To see what the ruins looked like in 2005, visit this link and this one; to see the beginning of the demolition in October 2012, click here. All of the photos from McCurdy’s decay (2005-2012) can be found in this flickr set.
Posted by jodi on December 29, 2012 at 9.13am
October 14, 2012
Eight and a half years after the Christmas Eve fire that destroyed half the building, my old public school is about to be demolished for good. The company that bought the rest of the town has finally negotiated a sale with the owner of the land and building and they’re planning to build a new rental office there. We made our ritual visit to the site over Thanksgiving weekend to take a few final photographs of the school through a new blue construction barrier.
Here’s the view from the corner of the grade 5 classroom towards the centre of the building. The floors of the senior wing, having sat open to the elements since the fire, have already been torn up.
The kindergarten end. On the corner of the building, where vinyl siding and insulation have come loose, you can just see the old asbestos shingles that covered the school when we were kids.
Looking from the sidewalk just outside the grade 8 room, taken with the Harinezumi digital:
Another Zumi shot, of the Tuesday Library door:
Baseball fence and benches are still there.
I want this bicycle rack for my back yard.
See more images of the last 8 years of McCurdy’s decay in this flickr photoset.
Posted by jodi on October 14, 2012 at 2.19pm
July 29, 2011
*if it wasn’t obvious, this should always be said in Chicken Lady voice
142 Columbia Drive: spring or early summer 1975 to summer 1981
What the house looked like in 2006. Who puts those stupid stars on houses, and why? This trend baffles me. Also I don’t understand what people like about those angled-cut 2×2 railings that make every house look like a trailer. Bitch-bitch-bitch like a crotchety old lady In My Day we didn’t use pressure treated lumber et cetera.
No socks got shoved down the heat registers in this house, and no fires started. There was, however, a 15cm diameter hole in my bedroom wall, kicked there during a fight with a babysitter who wouldn’t let me stay up late to watch scary movies. The dislodged piece of wall didn’t fall out completely, but hung there from a hinge of plaster and old painted-over wallpaper, swinging like a little door to let in and out the small monsters and demons that I was certain lived there. Things did disappear into the hole from time to time: pencils; hair baubles; doll shoes; super secret notes; at least one sewing needle; and yes, a few socks. I would lie on my right side in bed, back to the hole, spine tingling with what I just KNEW was the fingers of the wall-dwellers tickling my skin, too terrified to peek over my shoulder lest I catch sight of one. The only time I’d ever turn onto my left, facing the terrifying portal head on, is when my dad would play a certain record that frightened me because it sounded like monsters. He’d only play it after I was in bed, unaware that I was lying awake upstairs panicking while the monsters danced behind my quivering back. Years later, as a teenager, I figured out that the “monsters” record that frightened me so much was Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma. Of which I now own two copies and can listen to it at night or alone or whatever, without incident.
Here is what the front of the house looked like in 1978, when it still had the wartime concrete slab porch and fat pipe railings, corrugated aluminum window wells, and wooden screen doors (how I’d love to find plain wooden screen doors like this for my house!):
A couple of years later those doors got painted red:
One more from around 1976: I don’t even know what pleases me so much about these plain slab porches. Growing up in military housing gave me a love for utilitarian blandness. Also, brutalism.
Those bars were perfectly spaced so that if you were sitting with your knees wrapped over the bottom bar and holding onto the top bar, and you accidentally lost hold on the top bar, you’d swing backwards and crack your skull on the side of the concrete slab. It happened to all of us, all the time.
Here is the car we drove when we lived in this house: a 1976 Volvo station wagon.
Bikes in the snow!
Posted by jodi on July 29, 2011 at 12.38pm
July 10, 2011
These photos of every house I’ve lived in have been sitting on my hard drive for a couple of years now, waiting to be made into a page on this site called “every house I’ve lived in”. Which page is clearly never going to get itself made. So, here begins a new level of navel gazing at jodi’s weblog. Enjoy!
166 Columbia Drive, Huron Park, Ontario: December 1971 to spring (or early summer) 1975. I was an only child in this two bedroom 1.5 storey house, from which we moved for more spacious digs when my mom was pregnant with my little brother. Above is how the house looked in 2006 with an ugly new wood porch and beige vinyl siding. When I was a baby the house had light blue slate siding and the wartime housing standard issue concrete block porch with fat iron railings, painted black, as seen in this photo from 1973:
Fun fact about this house: maybe four or five years after we had moved to a larger house up the street, when I was about six or seven, there was a late night fire in the upstairs bedroom where I had slept as a toddler. I’m going to guess it happened around Easter because my memory of the fire is all tangled up with that of some chocolate bunnies that were so tall my parents had to move a shelf up in the fridge just to get them in. Anyway. My mom woke me in the night and said she had something to show me, and she took me down to the back porch and pointed across the back field where we could see the sloped roof of my former bedroom engulfed in flames. Then she told me that the fire might have started because of all the socks I used to shove down the heating registers when I was little, and “so you shouldn’t do that here, because we want to live in this house for a long time”.
I didn’t find out until I was around twelve that the fire was actually started by grow lights in a weed closet.
In my mom’s defense, she was very, very young, probably about 24, and she has no memory of saying anything like that to me, and I have a vivid imagination and also some other memories from around the same time of walking up a tree-lined lane on what looks like an old-timey Southern plantation, hand in hand with two women in long dresses and big floppy hats, sweating through my pyjamas from the heat. And I’m fairly certain that never happened.
Here’s what we drove when we lived at 166 Columbia. This was after the white VW bus had bitten the dust, and before the green Austin Mini. My parents always had the cool tastes in imported motorcars.
Posted by jodi on July 10, 2011 at 9.22am