In high school I almost failed English (writing in particular) on two separate occasions. The first involved a poem I wrote in grade 10.  After handing out everyone’s graded papers, my teacher, a rather tall man who looked like the product of breeding between Jack Spratt and a praying mantis, asked me to stay after class.  As the bell rang, triggering everyone else to zip up their pencil cases and head for the door, I trudged up to his desk.  Actually I probably just walked but “trudged” sounds more writerish.

The teacher unfolded himself from his chair (also a *totally* writerish thing to say) and glared down at me, my paper in his hands.  Before handing it over he let me know he wasn’t entirely convinced I wrote the poem.  I believe his exact words were “It’s an outstanding poem, really excellent writing, it’s very impressive.  If you really wrote it.”.  Then he tilted his wonky eye in my direction, gave me the stink stare and pushed the assignment across the desk into my shaking hands.  I wasn’t nervous. I was furious.  I got an A+ but only because he couldn’t prove that I didn’t write it.

I can’t remember anything about the poem other than its title; Crystal to Coal.  It was basically about the reverse metamorphosis from good to bad that negative reinforcement can have on a person.  CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?  I’d give just about anything to have saved the poem but I probably went home and threw it in the garbage in the kind of melodramatic gesture only a teenager can manage.  All the while hoping someone is witness to it.

The SECOND writing incident in high school was one year later in drama.  We were given a writing assignment for some reason.  I can’t remember what the assignment was but I do remember being held back by the teacher to be chastised.  This time I was ready for it.  Here we go again.  Another teacher has been so blinded by my superior skills that SHE thinks I plagiarized too.  I felt kind of smug as I wound my way around the class to her desk, shooting finger guns at my other classmates punctuated with a wink.

But this paper didn’t have a big A+ at the top of it.  It had a D.  What followed was a lecture on sentence structure and plotting and how I was getting a D because my writing was too stream of consciousness.  I wrote the way people speak, which apparently is quite jarring to the reader and should always be avoided.

Unless you’re James Joyce, Proust or Virginia Woolf.

I can remember both of those incidents like they happened to me just this morning.  Not just yesterday.  “Just yesterday” would be too cliché which is something else that’s to always be avoided in writing.

I can also vividly remember the torturous dissecting of a fetal pig, the horrifying gym shorts, Mr. Manson scrawling a perfect circle on the chalkboard math class by whipping his arm in a circle, my lock combination,  Jimmy telling me I was pretty but not as pretty as Marsha and every single song played at every high school dance I went to.

I remember most of high school with a kind of technicolour intensity.

As it turns out, that’s not only common, it’s a universal phenomenon. According to Psychology Today our strongest memories are from when we’re between 10 and 30 years old.  The phenomenon is called The Reminiscence Bump.  No matter what you do or what you accomplish, if it happened after or before those 3 decades, the memory will never be as vivid.  The Reminiscence Bump is why you can forever revel in that game winning play or cry at the thought of being bullied by an asshole in the gym class.

High school doesn’t just seem more memorable than the rest of your life, it IS more memorable.  For me those are mostly great memories.  Even reminiscing back on the bland, non-eventful memories of high school stir up a certain nostalgia that make me happy.  Wearing a  new favourite outfit, or walking through the cafeteria to sit down with my friends.


I loved high school.  So when I found out my old high school was being torn down for reasons I still can’t even figure out (nor can anyone else) I almost cried.  I still have dreams about walking through it’s hallways.  My sisters went to Parkside, my nieces and nephew, and pretty much half our small town went there from 1960 until they closed it a couple of years ago.

It was a piece of Mid-Century Modern genius in this town that should have been historically preserved.  The building’s architect, Lloyd Douglas Kyles, used revolutionary methods and materials to create the iconic building.

As soon as I found out Parkside was possibly being shut down I drove over to it with my camera.  I wanted a picture of it.  I wanted to remember it.  I  understand the irony.  I was never going to forget Parkside.  Science has proven that.  It, along with all the memories it produced are etched into my brain deeper than any other experience in my life.

But still.

I wanted a picture.

I sent the best one off to my sister Pink Tool Belt at the end of April, 2013.  Last month she finished painting it.  She wanted to remember it too.

If Parkside was your school and these are your memories, my sister has a limited number of prints for sale (like she did with the Deluxe Restaurant which sold out quickly.)

For a print Email Me.

Pink Tool Belt can do pretty much anything I can do only she can paint as well.  She builds her own furniture, can sew anything, is an interior decorator and has made a homemade meal every night since she got married at 18.

For the record?  She failed home ec.

Have a good weekend!


  1. kelli says:

    Nope not me. I barely remember anything from high school, except that it pretty much sucked. I hated school! What did I learn?

    You had to be pretty, popular, or a jock (or really smart, which didn’t make you popular, but made mom and dad happy, until you became a gazillonaire later on as a tech geek). I wasn’t all that smart or all that pretty but I became a cheerleader because I wanted to be popular.

    Well, I became more popular, but hated everyone else on the squad. None were my real friends, and they were all a bunch of stuck ups who more or less ignored me cos I wasn’t really “one of them” to begin with.

    After HS at a local bar once, a couple guys chatted me up like they were my BFFs, and I remember thinking: “you didn’t even look at me in HS, go away, you putz!” Nope, my best years, and best memories, were during my early 20s during the early 80s. What a time to be alive! The country was booming, the music was fabulous, Reagan was Prez, MTV ruled, and everything seemed to be amazing, including the fashion, which was…unique. 👘👗

    I met a real BFF at work, someone who, quite literally, made me what I am today (or maybe until I hit 40). She was world-traveled, had an ultra cool bi-level haircut, knew lots of cool people, and I adored her. We were joined at the hip for a good 2-3 years, most of it spent clubbing and, with our friends, being ‘so hip it hurt’ in downtown Milwaukee…until we both had to find ‘real’ jobs, so we were separated by many miles.

    I ended up moving to a new state and started a new life, but nothing, and I mean NOTHING since, has ever come close to the memories created during that time. I ache for those days sometimes, even if I now realize I was just a poor, ballsy 22-year-old still living at home, who thought she knew everything there was about being cool…especially when it came to wearing shoulder pads, smoking cigarettes and naming obscure new wave bands. 😁

  2. Tracy N Egan says:

    And while I do adore your style of writing, I absolutely hated highschool (see what I did there). I have almost zero memories of it, other than paying $20 to leave it all behind. (THANK YOU GED)

  3. Patti H says:

    Alas, a McDonald’s now stands where my elementary school was. The junior high was torn down several years ago. The high school still stands. I wonder if my name is still “carved” in the asbestos ceiling where my then boyfriend wrote it with the tip of my umbrella.

  4. Safetydog says:

    A friend of mine laughs that every school she ever attended no longer exists. Her lower level schools have all been torn down, and her university was shut down and programs merged with a larger university. So she feels like her entire educational history has been wiped out. Note to self: if this friend signs up for continuing education somewhere, don’t plan on getting a degree from that school – it won’t be around much longer. ;)

  5. Ellen says:

    keep in mind that there are those of us who HATED high school & couldn’t wait to get out. ( I have politely omitted all the curses.) We don’t remember all that much. We didn’t have many friends or good times to remember. I do remember teachers who were kind to me, or who were particularly good or bad.

  6. Milton says:

    Great post Karen

  7. Mary W says:

    I’m 71 in three days and my high school was demolished, also. The asbestos in the ceiling, the electric that worked wonderfully for several ceiling lights (no H/AC in FL, and the numerous windows that allowed tons of bugs & spiders in, were all too much to overcome. The new school will be filled with memories again and luckily, they can’t demolish our brains and the wonderful memories we all hold inside. But, stop and think about it, we usually only think about those old memories if we drive by our old home/school or look at ancient pictures. I think the fact that we are that old is more irritating that the building being demolished. When I moved into a new home, I was thrilled to have AC/H and tons of electrical outlets, and no plumbing issues nor spiders! So I concentrated on those but I certainly cried many tears leaving that old home with it’s memories. Funny thing, the ancient rose bush out front (that lasted without one tiny bit of care) died the same week we moved out. Weird but somehow comforting. Your article today sure brought back many memories for many readers! Thanks, Karen

    • Elaine says:

      Gee, I’m getting teary-eyed over your rose bush! This was a wonderful post of Karen’s.

      • Mary W says:

        My husband brought it back to me, from a deserted/falling down farmhouse that he had been working on. It was so old we never thought it would live. But it survived and grew like a weed for almost 30 years without any care from me, blooming like crazy and smelling so nice. Must have been the right spot. Anyway, my husband died at 48 and I moved from our 10 acres into town into a new home but it was HARD to say goodbye. After moving everything out and sweeping it out, I came back for one last tearful goodbye and saw the the huge rose bush was almost dead. It was brown and dry when a week earlier, it had been lush and green. It has always been a part of the best memories of that old place. Somehow it dying the week I moved out was symbolic of my love for that place and I’m so touched that you responded the same way. Thank you. Don’t you just love to read the comments on Karen’s blog. She has the best readers!

      • Ann Brookens says:

        I got teary, too! Karen and her readers are all the best people!

  8. Elsa says:

    It’s so maddening, it makes me sad everytime I drive by. It is all so political, the building could have been put to much better use. It’s so weird that I can’t remember what I did last week, but I can remember my high schoold days so clearly.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Really enjoyed this post. :) My elementary school that I went to from kindergarten to fifth grade was torn down a couple years ago to make way for a new housing development. EVERY time I drive by it, I sing, “this used to be my playground” by Madonna. I do it for a joke but also to cover my sadness! lol! I miss the smell of the school – like chocolate milk and erasers. Sigh.

  10. Him Again says:

    High school memories?
    Similar to the old Mad TV sketch about the hillbillies and their pics of Jesus or Bigfoot, “All blurry.”
    As for stream of consciousness writing, only the normies can’t keep up.(normies being a pc term for inexpressibly dull people we prefer to elect into office)

  11. Katie C. says:

    OMG! I had a high school math teacher, Mr. Harris, who could do the perfect circle thing too! He was like a legend and everyone who was in one of his classes was always waiting for the day he would do it.

    I remember him drawing the perfect circle in our class. In fact, I was just thinking about it yesterday.

    It’s sad they’re demolishing your school, but I’m glad you and your sister was able to memorialize it so beautifully.

  12. Barb says:

    Love it! Who says portraits need to be of people?! It gives me great pleasure when I paint a ‘building portrait’ for some one, knowing that they have that much love for the place.

    Buildings have a soul and a good painting will show that… ❣️✍🏽❣️

  13. Gayle M says:

    Celebrating my 50th Aug 4. Wasn’t looking forward to it, till now. Thanks, Karen!

  14. Teddee Grace says:

    Interesting how different people have such different experiences and memories of high school. I absolutely hated it. I was very involved in band and ended up being salutatorian of our small high school graduating class, but was socially inept, felt I went around in a fog and couldn’t wait to get out of the little podunk town near which I was reared on a farm. I think I didn’t come alive until I graduated from university and moved to live in Chicago. Now that’s the place I still pine for! For all those late bloomers out there…hang in! Your time will come!

  15. Leslie Zuroski says:

    I loved my high school building too, it has these ramps that go from one level to another and we loved sliding down them in our 1970s flats that showed toe cleavage. They probably had to change that by now because I think they would be too steep to meet the ADA standards. I also almost failed Home Ec, particularly sewing, yet managed to sew my kids lots of Halloween costumes, dance recital outfits, etc. Perhaps whatever you almost fail makes you stronger!

  16. Beth says:

    Mine was the last graduating class (1983 – GO WARRIORS!) from the high school I attended. It is the now the middle school and the two high schools in our district have since been consolidated. Our junior high was turned into an Italian cultural center and a couple of the grade schools are no more. I wouldn’t say I loved high school, but I have a great fondness for some friends, teachers and the building itself. We had an awesome swimming pool, an auditorium and a freaking PLANETARIUM! For the record, some teachers are complete morons!

  17. Sabina says:

    What a great love story, thanks Karen :)

  18. Susan Claire says:

    No nostalgia here-hated high school, every single minute of it.

  19. Laurie Alexander says:

    The older I get the more I realize the only constant is change. My brother told me that all of the elementary, middle and high schools from our era are no longer being used. Sigh. Time marches on, waits for no one.

    from Turkeyfoot Elementary, Erwine Jr. High or Coventry High in south of Akron Ohio in the Portage Lakes region, all the other elementary schools closed also.

    March on.

    • Ev Wilcox says:

      My husband and I both grew up in Cuyahoga Falls and attended CFO High. I guess I just assumed it’s still there. Now I never want to go down that street because it may be gone! And I lived on sixth st, on the back side of the school, and prob will not go down that street either! Lots of memories in that town.

  20. marilyn meagher says:

    Pink tool belts pretty amazing as a person too…already ordered mine..xo

  21. Jennifer Ramirez says:

    Im pretty envious, your school was totally kick-ass mid century modern.
    I’d describe mine as Greek revival. Only because it sounds better than saying colonial. My grandfather, father,my 3 sisters and I all attended school in this beautiful building.
    Thank you for sharing your best memories with us 😊

  22. Andy Fairfax says:

    Lovely article. Bought back a lot of good memories. Thank you

  23. Carolyn says:

    The entry way is beautiful. What a shame it was torn down.
    In a neighboring town they tore down a Frank Lloyd Wright theater to build a bus station.

  24. Andy Fairfax says:

    Lovely article. brings back a lot of good memories. thank you :)

  25. TucsonPatty says:

    There is just something about our school not being as honored as we think it should! My mother graduated from the same school that all eleven of her children attended. The oldest six got to graduate from it, also, but it sadly closed down after my junior year. The building is still there, being used as storage by a local farmer, and the “new” (1968) gymnasium/cafeteria/shop building still hosts community events. Awesome memories. That is one awesome Mid-Century Modern school building!

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