Williams column: Good memories of Granite Quarry School
By Mack Williams
For the Salisbury Post
Some places, single in theme, consist of several components. On the whole, I attended Granite Quarry School in the late 1950s to mid 1960s, but in the immediacy of our passing school days, I encountered separate and different aspects of that whole.
I began my school career there in a low-slung, relatively modern-looking building, then later progressed to a seemingly older, two-story brick structure, with the last grades being spent in a construction whose exterior consisted of stone originating from that place for which both the town and school were named.
In earlier grades, the more modern squares of tile on the hallway floor gave a light, tapping sound to the childrens’ footfalls, while the worn, wooden floors of the older buildings gave more resonance to slighty older, slightly weightier feet. That resonant wood, being much more sonorous than tile, made those feet sound much more grown than they were.
Along with its well-marked diamond, the baseball field had its covered, wooden semi-circular stadium, particularly designed for the observation of that sport. The grass of the football field was in fine shape from having been used for the home games of the former Granite Quarry High School, and there were bleachers (consisting of boards of wood with metal support), the positioning of which said that those who once sat there had also been the spectators of football games. I remember a couple of those games, but more of the halftime, since my brother Joe played percussion in the Granite Quarry High School band.
The lower grades’ playground, out back, was pretty bare, all of its grass having been worn away over time by multitudes of active children. Only our teachers and we attended the games played there. In the mind of the sports-attending public, no games of competitive importance were played on that spot, only those meeting the definition of “exercise.”
After the grass had been worn away by the children of years before, the soil of red clay had been packed down by similarly occupied little shoes and appeared to be bleached orange by the sun. One time, we believed that treasure was buried beneath a large old tree there, so we laboriously dug through that dried, hardened, orange soil, excavating one massive root before our teacher put a stop to any further uprooting.
I recall a telephone pole at the edge of the lower grades’ playground being used as a softball base. On hotter days, the sun-heated, wood-preserving creosote of the pole would produce something which had the smell and look of tar dripping down its exterior. When I became similarly “heated” by the sun, and our play, I experienced the mixed smells of tar and sweat while standing at that game’s base.
On clear winter days, I would sometimes look straight up to the sky’s zenith from that lower-grades’ playground. The shade of blue directly above me was much deeper than at the lesser angles of my looking, seemingly colored by the blackness beyond, giving me the feeling that I was looking into space on a sunlit day.
Some years ago, the old two-story, brick classroom building was demolished, but the adjacent one, with granite exterior, toward the auditorium, still stands, sort of proving that, like diamonds, “granite is forever.” Nowadays, aggregate cinderblock is more favored in school construction than granite. Cinderblock is man-made, put together in furnaces above the ground, rather than in those natural furnaces below (furnaces much hotter than the fire breathed by a dragon, the Granite Quarry school mascot). Those eons-old, subterranean, “infernal” furnaces fused quartz, mica and feldspar into something which makes for much longer-lasting buildings, as well as even longer-lasting markers for graves.
One day, this much-senior “dragon” may visit Granite Quarry School to walk its halls and grounds in reminiscence. Perhaps I will encounter the ghost of my old principal, Mr. C. L. Barnhardt, who will look as he looked then. Upon noticing me, he will probably also see me as I appeared in those years (ghosts are notoriously known for being “stuck” in the past). He will tell me that he had always been of the opinion that I was a good little boy, but that this mischievous behavior of leaving the classroom on my own has left him surprised and somewhat disappointed! After having admonished me for my wandering the halls and grounds of Granite Quarry School by myself, Mr. Barnhardt will then firmly insist that I accompany him back to class.