A couple hundred people turned out last week to take one last look at the old Mead Middle School turned Boys and Girls Club before it is torn down to make way for a new sports complex.
Cheryl Paxton Miller graduated from the school in 1962 when it was Mead High School. She said she wanted to say goodbye to the building.
“We were very rural,” she said. “I loved it. We didn’t have any of the problems the kids have nowadays.”
The oldest part of the building was completed in 1926, said Executive Director Ned Wendle. A wing was added in 1952. It switched from a high school to a middle school after the 1970-71 school year and the library wing was added in 1978. A second, smaller gym was added in 1987, the last time the building was remodeled in any way. It closed as a school in 2008 when Mountainside Middle School opened and the Boys and Girls Club moved in in 2009.
Wendle said it doesn’t make financial sense to try to renovate the building, particularly the original 1926 section. “It’s got a lot of asbestos,” he said. “The lockers are painted with lead paint.”
The district received grant money to build the new Highland Middle School, which will open in 2020, that requires them to remove their old middle school from the list of properties approved to be used as a school, Wendle said.
“That takes this building off our inventory,” he said. “We can never use it as a school again.”
People were allowed to take self-guided tours of the building during the farewell open house, but certain areas were closed off. “There are signs on the doors that are closed because the ceiling is falling in,” Wendle said.
People wandered the halls but rarely recognized their old classmates. As they talked about former teachers and old memories, people walking by would stop and tell stories of the same teacher. Names were exchanged, prompting a jolt of recognition and a flood of memories.
That’s the way Jim Durham and Dave Axelson found each other in the hallway. Axelson graduated in 1970 and Durham graduated in 1971. They played basketball together along with Axelson’s twin brother, Don, and told stories about certain shots and games like they happened yesterday.
“Which one of you missed the lay up against West Valley?” said Durham.
Axelson said the basketball team had a good run when he was there. “We took Mead as far as they’d ever been in basketball until Adam Morrison came along,” he said, referring to the former Mead and Gonzaga basketball star.
Axelson looked around, noting the differences since he’d roamed the halls as a student. “I know there’s tile under this rung because my brother fell down and broke his two front teeth,” he said.
Durham went and found his old locker, number 766, but discovered it was locked when he tried to open it. “A lot of memories,” he said. “I remember little events in each place. A girl asked me to the Sadie Hawkins right here – just crazy stuff.”
Dale Preedy, class of 1954, and his brother Ernie Preedy, class of 1949, came to the event but a third brother living on the coast couldn’t make it. “Our class in ’54, we only had 52 kids in our class,” Dale Preedy said.
He returned to the school as an adult to play rec league basketball, so the changes since his school days didn’t surprise him. “There’s been efforts to tear down this school for a decade,” he said. “I guess they’re going to do it this time.”
The Boys and Girls Club is in the midst of moving out and will go to the old Northwood Middle School, which has been renamed the Pittsburgh Learning Center, Wendle said. A new Northwood Middle School opened in January.
The two gyms and the southernmost part of the building will be saved and used for the district’s gymnastics program and possible public use, Wendle said.
Demolition of the building won’t start until October because the district needs to do asbestos abatement over the summer, he said. The sports complex is scheduled to be complete in late 2020.
Wendle, who attended school in the building himself, said he was pleased to see so many members of the community come to say goodbye to the old building.
“It’s a good showing,” he said. “I didn’t expect this many.”
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