Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wayback Machine

The internet, and people's access to it, has come a long way in the mere ten or so years I have been "online". I remember the first time I did an "internet search" for Toby Charles--there was not one single reference to him! My search engine of choice in those days was called "Dogpile". The way Dogpile worked, and still does, was actually quite clever--it submits your query term to all the other search engines, and gives you their results lickety-split. After a year or two, I noticed that there was one particular engine that consistently returned the links I really wanted, and that engine was--you guessed it--Google.

Still, no matter how good a search engine is, it can't give you information that isn't there; and information on some of my old almae matres wasn't there. Fast forward to the Age of Facebook, and I find the situation much improved. Not only is information being agglomerated, but best of all, so are the people. I can connect with folks who have been drifting on the winds of time for thirty-plus years!

Mainly, I was seeking the status of my old school in Zimbabwe, Chaplin School, and of Parker High in Greenville, SC, where I matriculated in 1979. There is a certain sense in which I was better off not knowing, since in neither case is the situation particularly heartening.

(I choose to keep my FB identity separate from the one I use here in Blogger, so I am not making direct links--you can easily do your own search. My thanks to the folks who uploaded the photos below!)

Parker High School:
I gather the school closed in the '80s, after briefly serving as the campus for Greenville County's arts magnet middle school. Today it's all boarded up and on the chopping block. Parker was built during the WPA era; here is a photo of the heyday:

And now:

My junior year, I spent last period in the library, gradually becoming an intellectual. There is nothing quite as sad as a library without any books:

One of the teachers in my life that most influenced me was George Dukas, who I had for Chemistry and for Physics. Here's what's left of the science lab:

Chaplin School:
Also founded in the 1930s, I attended Chaplin from 1975 to 1977. Every Monday and Friday, the school day would begin with an assembly in the Beit Hall. This was also the locale for school dances:

Alfred Beit was a gold and diamond magnate in southern Africa, who formed a Trust to fund infrastructure and educational development in the lands his mining concerns otherwise ravaged. One result was Beit Halls like Chaplin's.

Sadly, Chaplin has suffered even greater indignities than has Parker, thanks to the brutal and short-sighted regime of Robert Mugabe. Here's a shot of the west gate, where the majority of students entered the campus every day:

Many of my favorite memories of life at Chaplin were on the field of athletic endeavor. The academic day lasted from 7:30 to 1:00, then you went home for lunch and prep. At 3:00 or so, you went back to school for athletics. I played basketball, track and rugby, and tried to duck out on cross country. The pavilion below was once surrounded by verdant practice fields and a pretty good quality cinder track with a well-manicured rugby pitch inside (we played soccer in infant school, rugby in upper school in those days). Below it is the outdoor basketball court, where at 14 I starred on the second team under Mr Pluke.

Thomas Wolfe famously pointed out that you can't go home again. Alas, you can't even go back to school.

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