Recently I caught some Internet conversation surrounding the notice of an open house for the Anderson Marching Highlanders. Yeah, that band, which took fourth at the State Fair.
This begins the third year since the consolidation of Anderson’s two remaining public high schools. I’m told very few problems involving the students themselves have been reported. School athletic teams proudly wear the Red and Green. And yes, the band struts its stuff in elegant tartan kilts and Scottish plaid.
Some of the online comments, however, remind us that old loyalties die as hard as a Delco battery. Highland grads decry their displacement as eagerly as old Madison Heights loyalists lament the loss of their school to a transplanted crosstown rival. Many have repeated vows never to acknowledge an Anderson High School band in kilts nor accept Indian motif throughout the building at 4610 Madison Ave.
Highland is now a middle school. Madison Heights is gone, almost unrecognizable amid the complete interior reconstruction and exterior refacing emblematic of a brand-new high school. What remains is a monument (none dare call it a tombstone) to the school that was.
It is probably neither unexpected nor surprising that the memories and loyalties accrued in four years of classes and extracurriculars at one’s alma mater invoke deep and lasting emotions neither easily forgotten nor forgiven. Change is a constant in an educational process determined to keep up with the times, but it cannot erase the experiences of one’s growing-up years.
That experience is not limited to Madison Heights and Highland. The Pendleton-Markleville consolidation some four decades ago was comparably painful. Northside came and went in Muncie, as did Haworth in Kokomo, which was occupied by rival colors some years before MHHS faded into history. Or ask alumni of Summitville, Fairmount, Royerton, Sweetser, Swayzee, Hartford City, Hancock Central, Fortville, Michigan City Elston and Rogers, East Chicago Washington and Roosevelt, and on and on.
The saving grace is that time marches on. These days you won’t find Gerstmeyer loyalists boycotting basketball games in Terre Haute. Nor former Middletown Cossacks who won’t darken the doors of Shenandoah. And people in Hartford City fully support the activities of Blackford County High School.
When I entered the doors of Anderson High School (THE Anderson High School at 14th and Lincoln) for the first time, there was no other public school in town. Last week a third generation of my family matriculated at AHS, where she expects to wear a red-and-green swimsuit this winter and sing in one of the high school choirs. It matters not that she lives in the former Highland district.
As was initially true of her grandpa, she will know no intracity public school rivalries. But her experiences at her alma mater will permanently impact her life.
And by the time she has kids ready to enter high school, everyone will have forgotten what all the fuss was about.
Jim Bailey’s column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.