BITTER SWEET

I am going to a homecoming today (Saturday). Normally I avoid affairs like homecomings but this one will be both too sweet and too bitter-sweet to avoid…a lot like a funeral. It is Tamassee-Salem’s last homecoming. Unless there is divine intervention they will close at the end of the 2016 school year. I had already decided that if I had won the “Billion Dollar” lottery I would donate enough to keep them open. Sorry I didn’t win? Me to.

Is it natural to think of every school where you have taught as special? Not one school I served leaves a nasty taste in my mouth…yeah, even that one doesn’t. There are a couple that might, I SAY MIGHT, be just a little sweeter and more special. Tamassee-Salem is one of those. There was a déjà vu feeling when I first walked into the school that never quite left me. I am sure I will have it again when I walk through the entrance this afternoon. I most certainly did.

When it comes down to it, a school is just a building. It’s denizens that make it special; the students, teachers and support staff of a school. They and the memories created by them are what keep it alive. Because of my belief, I would guess Tamassee-Salem will continue to play a prominent role in the lives of the denizens that once prowled her hallways. My high school no longer exists but my memories are as real as when they were made.

I saw many former players, parents, teachers and students. I wasn’t surprised at the number of alumni that crowded into the small cafeteria and gymnasium. Somewhere closer to two hundred than ten thousand, it is after all a small school. There did not seem to be the sorrow one would expect, but a happiness just to be among old and new friends sharing collective memories. I made a point to speak to Mr. Rogers, a 1952 graduate of the old Salem School. He had graduated but had never left or had come back to enjoy his retirement. Eighty-two years young, he was a fitness walker who would always pause and compliment me on the field as he strolled by. Mr. Rogers also watched many a practice or game from his front porch. He was one of many that made my stay so rewarding.

When I caught up with some of my former teaching peers there was sorrow in their voices and a fear of the unknown. No one seems to know what their fate will be. They know they will teach somewhere; they just don’t know where. There is a sense of the inevitable…and the unenviable. I hope the powers that be will do right by them and their new schools will be accepting. Unless you have taught at Tamassee-Salem you cannot understand the price they have paid…and the joys they have experienced.

Somehow the second verse of the Alma Mater seems very appropriate…

Hail to thee our Alma Mater, Tamassee-Salem High
May we ever praise and love thee as the years go by
We are proud of our school, her name we will always bless
Hail to thee our Alma Mater, Tamassee-Salem High!

Yes, Tamassee-Salem, you are and will continue to be a blessing to all who wandered down your halls. I do miss you.

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