At this juncture, I have forgotten most of what took place during my two years in middle school.
And what I have not forgotten, I am hard at work on, using all the tools at my disposal. (Chiefly, rye whiskey.)
Elementary school is a fond memory, and high school’s good too. But those two years where the early stirrings of puberty collided with a primitive definition of social cool … mmmmm, let’s not get into those.
I skipped my 20-year high school reunion and fully expect to skip the rest, because … well, what’s supposed to appeal to me about seeing people who remember me when I was 13?
I wish them all the success in the world, but what they haven’t forgotten, I don’t care to know.
What has all this angst to do with my grandfather?
Not a huge amount, really. But this week’s calendar entry captures a rare thing — a community institution that’s still extant, in the same place it was when my grandpa mentioned it. I always like to spotlight those when I can find them.
And that institution just happens to be a middle school.
Dolan Junior High School, opened in 1948, would have been less than 10 years old when my dad attended in the late 1950s. My aunt would have been going to school there in April 1962, when the above calendar entry was made.
I didn’t ask either of them for their memories of middle school; I didn’t want to stir up that muck any more than I want someone to stir up mine. I know my dad was active in whatever passed for Dolan’s music program, anyway.
I don’t imagine my grandpa spent more than a few hours inside Dolan Junior High. I know my dad and aunt were the sorts to take care of business, so I’m sure my grandpa never had to go there for disciplinary reasons.
I know he stopped by for special occasions, with his camera in hand:
Today, the school is known as Dolan Middle School. It boasts of being “nestled in a hard-working residential area of Stamford.” (Not sure what that’s code for; I’ll leave the significance of that to a more experienced Stamford-watcher.)
The website also says that Dolan has “evolved over the years” from a traditional junior high to “its more recent middle school curriculum model.” Not really sure what that means either … but I suppose it’s only natural to expect the school to do business in a different way than it did in the ’50s and early ’60s.
(The school also appeared as a setting for the 2007 movie Reservation Road, in case anybody out there wants to see what it looks like. I missed that one, myself, but I don’t see too many films, anyway. Cove Island, which has previously appeared in this narrative, also shows up in the movie.)
I dunno whether they still host jazz jams at Dolan like the one pictured above. But, the school is putting on an adaptation of “Legally Blonde” as its annual musical, so we know there’s still music in the halls.
I can only imagine how many middle-school moments this old school has seen — how many I-made-the-team-and-you-didn’ts, or how many that-outfit-was-cool-last-years, or how many I-changed-my-mind-and-want-to-go-to-the-dance-with-Joeys.
If Dolan Middle School could write a book, it would either be fascinating, or hellishly boring in a same-crap-different-decade kind of way.
No matter. It’s kinda cool that it’s still there in some form, a physical tie to the Stamford my grandfather knew, and the Stamford my dad and aunt grew up in.
The faces (and the clothes, and the hairdos, and the names scrawled on the folders) may change. But the building is similar, and so is the experience — no longer a child, not yet an adult.
I imagine the same is true at Bay Trail Middle School. It’s expanded since the mid-’80s to include sixth grade, all the better to suck additional kids into its vortex of social discomfort.
Good luck to the Bay Trailers, and also to the Dolanites. Ride it out: Things will get better with time.
If they don’t, well, there’s always rye whiskey.