A step back in time

Jimmie Batchelor

Guest Columnist

I was recently told the old Stockbridge High building, which became Patrick Henry, will be coming down. They are planning a reunion of students who attended the old high school for a last goodbye. Attend if you can.

I graduated from Chamblee High School in 1966. Back in the 1990’s I attended a reunion of former students. They had planned to update and rebuild the high school, so that reunion was my goodbye to what had been.

Recently, two friends, Bonnie and Lynda, met me at Chamblee High School to see how it had changed. A retired teacher was giving tours 9 a.m. on Thursdays. We put it off for several weeks due to rain. Finally, we just said the heck with the rain; we’re going on that tour. It was a good thing we did, as this tour was next to the last. Tours were provided for former and future students of Chamblee High.

It took me one and a half hours to arrive at my destination. ‘Unbelievable’ was my thought as I turned onto Chamblee Dunwoody and saw the structure that was not my Chamblee High. I couldn’t even tell where to go! I parked around the back where I saw two wings and a breezeway connecting them. Four stories each, the first floor only showed across the backs of the buildings. I glanced around and finally saw in the distance the old North DeKalb stadium. The ONLY structure surviving from our day. Oh, the football halftimes we performed in that stadium. Bonnie and I had been members of the drill team and Lynda, a cheerleader.

I had 2-3 sets of cement steps to run up, and then decide which door to enter. Luckily, I chose the right door. Slightly out of breath, I made it just in time.

The sights around us were hard to digest, but when our tour began and we learned of all the futuristic changes, our surroundings became awesome! Classes were no longer called what we knew in the ‘60’s. Shop was engineering, they had a wing of media, which included a fully furnished broadcast set, lights, cameras and the desk that once belonged to Monica Kaufman, who kindly donated it to the school when she retired. All classrooms had a lab. There was a full size theater and an Olympic pool which they shared with Dunwoody. I would have thought I’d died and gone to Heaven if I’d had their photography class and lab in my day. Our art teacher taught photography back then, with a small closet for developing film.

I cannot do the school justice; I wish I had recorded the guide’s dissertation. We ended in the seniors’ hall of lockers. Bright royal blue, no drab gray or brown for those lucky kids. The seniors had posted their acceptance to college letters on their lockers, some as many as 5.

Our tour took more than an hour to cover what we saw. I am jealous. I’ve never wanted to go back in time or relive my high school years, but I just might be convinced if I had a chance to attend such a school. Everyone in that district can attend Chamblee; however, there are levels of Charter and Magnum and out of district students can be tested and for some, there is a lottery to win admittance. I will tell you that our tour guide was continually telling us the students we were seeing were high achievers.

We did see a wall of pictures, the “Wall of Honor.” Several pictures were of our former teachers and fellow students. That was fun to discover. We did not see what we expected, we saw much more. My hope is that those students know what they have.

Back home, a few days after our tour, I read a quote by Tim Gunn, a well-known TV fashion guru, “Speaking of education, we (the teachers) need to encourage experimentation and support our students in whatever it is that they want to do, even if it’s not what we would do ourselves.” Our guide had spoken to a young future student of Chamblee and explained to him that programs were set up to help students explore different avenues and by the time they graduated, they should know what career path to follow. That sounds fantastic; sometimes I feel I am still trying to discover my path!

Bravo, Chamblee High School and all the teachers out there not afraid of diving into the future.

Jimmie recently retired from Henry Co. Senior Services in Stockbridge, where she managed Hidden Valley Senior Center and resided for 38 years. She plans to use her new found time writing (for The Times) and enjoying life!