"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

morris mn - our (destructive) summer of 2013

Old school comes down
This is what much of Europe must have looked like at the end of World War II. We see piles of rubble where the old school once was.
Fences keep people from getting too close. On Tuesday there were new barricades up along some streets. Gawkers couldn't drive up or down that hill. I'm not sure this was so much for safety reasons as to discourage people from noticing an odor coming from the rubble. People might ask, "what the heck was going on inside that old building to cause this odor to build up?"
The inside of that building was sure a nightmare after it had been abandoned for a couple years. I know because I was in there.
Any odor now should dissipate in good time.
I'm curious as to whether there will be cost overruns. The project certainly looked ambitious. Oh, and it's far from over. On Tuesday the only section still standing was the auditorium, the section that was most worthy of preserving.
It was an art deco auditorium with balcony seating. It must have been considered very special when it first opened. There must have been a grand opening night when the community felt intense pride. I remember the all-school musical, "Oliver," presented there in 1970. It's a ghost now.
How are we all going to feel when the demolition is completely done? I think there will be a sense of emptiness. Even after it was abandoned, that old patchwork (or erector set) school was like a hulk of a landmark on the east side, literally standing out on the "skyline." From where we live on the north edge of the community, it has always been a point of reference. It has been like a rock or a fort.
There was a time not long ago (in the scheme of things) that Morris youth accepted that structure as being fully satisfactory - no derision based on apparent shortcomings. At the end there was a strong political meme around Morris that the old school complex was some sort of disgrace. School staff promoted that.
Maybe "vote yes" was the way to go. But it's unfortunate we had to turn thumbs-down on the old building in such a vicious way. I don't think it was ever that bad.
How soon will we see new construction on the site? The party line in Morris is optimistic. I of course never blindly follow the party line.
We may see that property stay open and barren - not such a bad scenario, actually, if you put economics aside. Just think: all that open space would make a heckuva city park. Private development? How about the world's largest putt-putt golf course? (I suggest that with levity, reminded as I am of the movie "Happy Gilmore").
Civilization marches on. Which brings me to my next subject:
Whither high school football?
I always used to associate the end of the county fair with the start of football practice. We should know real soon, if not already, if the numbers in the lower grades are going to be affected by the flood of new knowledge and awareness about the health consequences of football. I certainly hope they are.
The biggest step forward would be the creation of organized soccer for boys, if not at the school level then at some sort of club level. Football has been sort of a default sport selection for boys. Cross country is not a viable alternative for a lot of boys - the boys who would play in the line or linebacker.
There are countless cautionary essays about football you can look up online - new ones every week. One commenter put forth a new release form that parents could sign. It's very graphic and bluntly-worded. Upon reading this, one would have to conclude that only total fools would let their kids play football.
You might read the warning on the football helmets made by Schutt: "No helmet system can protect you from serious brain and/or neck injuries, including paralysis or death. To avoid these risks, do not engage in the sport of football."
The Rawlings company has followed the lead of Schutt. Why would a helmet company use such stark words in connection to football? Silly rabbit, it's liability. What an activity for our public school to actually sponsor.
I don't think the kids are clueless about this. Regardless of parental intervention, I think boys will begin to gravitate away. The old aura of football as projecting some sort of machismo has become anachronistic. Our youth know that.
What we need now is organized soccer. Promoting high school football because it seems to mimic pro football is the saddest thing of all.
Let's stay on the subject of school:
Attire in our school
"Life is one world, and life seen in the newspapers is another." 
- GK Chesterton, writer
I don't get the Morris newspaper but I have occasion to glance at it in various public places. A few weeks ago there was an item of contention created out of thin air, a topic put before the public only because a person in the legacy media chose to make a stink out of something.
The school apparently had a very orderly process in place to put out a student handbook. That should have been the end of it. No handbook is going to get 100 per cent approval from school constituencies.
The problem in the recent flap is that an aggrieved parent used her platform in the legacy media to make it seem a big and uncomfortable controversy had arisen. I'm sure there was no such community sentiment. I'm sure there isn't now, really.
The handbook prohibits hats in classrooms. I'm not sure why a hat would be necessary in a classroom. The parent who got all agitated by this, used her power with the newspaper's op-ed page to put our teachers on the defensive, by suggesting our teachers set no example, as they allegedly dress in a very casual way.
"Formal" and "casual" are very subjective and evolving terms in the clothing world. If by "formal" you envision men wearing white shirts and neckties, well, that's a little too "Mad Men" for males of today.
We all know how church has changed, how it's much more acceptable to wear so-called casual attire in church.
People today choose clothing that is practical! Toss aside the "casual" term. No need for the empty pretense of neckties. We see UPS drivers wearing shorts. I used to wear shorts on summer days when I drove the van for the Sun Tribune.
Cleanliness is still a standard. "Formality," not so much. Hats are totally superfluous.
If I were a Morris Area schoolteacher, I would cease any financial support for the Sun Tribune newspaper.
A friend has told me the school website has improved. I checked and yes, there is a baby step forward. But wouldn't it be great to see the school website as a total PR and reporting extension for the school? I have pushed for this, with what limited influence I have, for some time.
Change can take time. It took time for the Morris community to finally let go of the old school.
Our museum is helping us remember the old school. We see posters around town promoting an exhibit: "History of the Morris eastside school." There's a little theme too, although there is a punctuation error. An apostrophe is missing.
Here's how it reads: "Don't cry because its [sic] over: Smile because it happened."
I'll give a pass on the colon even though it should be a semicolon. The semicolon is actually a fading bit of punctuation in our culture. It seems awkward. On many occasions I opt for a simple dash instead. A comma would do, also. Whatever communicates best. Our language is fluid.
Combine police and sheriff?
Another topic being bandied about in our summer of 2013 is law enforcement, specifically, whether to have our police and sheriff's departments combine.
Maybe it makes too much sense. The obvious answer is "yes." Jim Beauregard is leaving his post as police chief. Apparently this is what precipitated talk of the consolidation.
Right now our city police appear to be encumbered having officers fan out looking for people not wearing seat belts. It is a major irritant. These citations extend the length of the district court news in the newspaper so much, you'd think our community is riddled with crime.
The "district court news" is a PR black mark for this community. It also is arguably an invasion of privacy. The people who receive minor citations don't deserve to be publicly embarrassed this way. Those of you who have been, make sure you discontinue any financial support for the Morris newspaper.
The only way seat belt laws ever got passed in the states was with the assurance it would only be a secondary offense. Otherwise the public was strongly rejecting it. See what happens with the creeping power of government? It makes me sympathize with the tea partiers a bit.
Anyway, consolidated law enforcement ought to be plain as the nose on your face for Stevens County.
Summer is winding down. Tuck the memories away.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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