I don’t know what made me think of this, but back when I was 11 and in the 6th grade I was Guardian of the Flag at my elementary school. It seemed like a big deal back then, but I guess that schools no longer carry on this tradition. It was supposed to be an honor and a sign of academic achievement for the student, and it was a way for everyone in attendance at assemblies to honor our country and its flag.
All assemblies were opened by the Guardian of the Flag and the Standard Bearer. The Standard Bearer was always a boy, and he carried the flag out onto the stage where everyone could stand and salute it. The Guardian of the Flag was always a girl. My job was to tell everyone to, “Stand!” When they were standing, I said, “Salute!” We all put our hands over our hearts, and I lead everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance. When we were done, I’d say, “Please be seated!” and everyone would sit, and we’d leave the stage.
It was a big deal for an extremely shy kid. Not only was I up on stage every assembly, but I had a speaking part! After I had done a few assemblies, it was pretty much routine. It always felt like it was important and necessary, though. My son Alex tells me they still say the Pledge every morning at his school, and they do stand up and put their hands over their hearts. They are lead by someone in the main office reciting the pledge over the speaker system.
In thinking about my grammar school, I am painfully reminded that it is no longer a school. George Clinton Latta School (#38) was located at 370 Latta Road. I looked Mr. Latta up online. George Clinton Latta (1795-1891) is listed as a “merchant at the Port of Charlotte”. He was an entrepreneur who “influenced the social, political, and economic affairs of his community, Charlotte”. Today, very few people would know who he was. Just as few would remember the elementary school named in his honor.
The school was converted to condominiums several years ago. When they put them up for sale to the public, I wanted to walk through and see what they had done to the old place, but I thought it would be too sad. I wasn’t even able to locate any images of the old school online. I had to settle for what I could find on Google Maps. It’s the same building, and the same driveway. The bus loop at the back where the busses turned around is even still there. They just gutted the building and made it into condos and apartments. I wonder how long it took to get rid of that “school” smell – paste, chalkboards, ditto machine ink (I’m dating myself), gymnasium sweat and cafeteria odors.
My brother and I both attended #38 School. We had some of the same teachers (Mr. Pivnick for 6th grade comes to mind). It was a nice, little school. I also worked there in my very first job. I was a co-op clerk typist in the main office. During my senior year of High School, I went to Charlotte High School for classes in the morning and then walked the half a mile to “work” at #38 School. When I was done at work, I walked home from there (another half a mile).
Charlotte High School has also seen some very tough times. It is still a school – although it is closed for renovations this school year. It was a little rough around the edges when I attended, but it really went downhill after I was there. At one point it became a Middle School, and then they changed it back to a High School. In 2005-2006, it made the “persistently dangerous” list. The renovations it is getting are upgrades (mostly windows, fencing and parking lot resurfacing). A return to what it was like in its heyday (the stage or period of greatest vigor, strength, success, etc.; prime) would be preferable, but that’s likely just me being nostalgic and unrealistic.
“There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain”
The BEATLES (Lennon-McCartney). In My Life. Parlophone, 1965, EMI Studios, London.