A number of SPS projects are underway and one of them is near and dear to my heart. I went to Williams Elementary for my kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade years. The picture to the left is a very young Travis Miller on the playground at Williams Elementary. I am not sure what grade I was in but this picture brings back a bunch of construction memories; maybe some of our CSI members can fill in the blanks where I cannot remember.
To understand this photo, you need to understand the perspective it was taken from. The playground for the young students was on the south side of the building nested between the school and Kearney Street. Elizabeth Avenue T’ed into Kearney at this location and I lived one block south of Kearney at the intersection of Elizabeth Avenue and High Street.
The neighborhood was full of kids. When we would walk to school, we would arrive at Kearney Street which was two lanes with no sidewalks. There was a crosswalk lady with a big mole on her chin that would boldly walk out into fast-moving traffic with a hand-held stop sign and stop the traffic for me and others to cross safely. I have no idea what she looked like because I could not look past her mole but she was quite brave – I remember a lot of close calls where she was nearly run over. One time a driver was not paying attention and swerved around her and actually hit her arm with their mirror. I was not in school, but I learned a few new words that morning. Too bad it didn’t knock that mole off…
In the background of the photo you can see where a new glulam pedestrian bridge is being constructed. What is amazing is that this construction job site was not fenced off or blocked from the playground. During recess we would play in the sand pile that you can see on the left side of the picture – this was the sand that the masons would use for their mortar on the CMU bridge abutments. Occasionally the hod carrier would run us off but it was all in good fun. That bridge was replaced a few years back. It is a weird feeling to see something like this being constructed and to also see it reach the end of its useful life. Surely I am not that old! What is funny is that before the bridge work started, the only thing separating us kids from Kearney Street was an old, rusty 4 strand barb-wire fence. If those conditions were present today, it would be on the Today’s show with Al Roker telling how many MILLIONS of people were at risk. Somehow it was good enough for us…
If you could take this exact photo today, you would see Race Brothers Farm Supply filling the sky behind me. That project was under construction during this time frame and furthermore I can tell you that construction was underway during the winter months. One day, on the way to school, the concrete slab for Race Brothers was in place and it was a perfect ice rink. Me and half a dozen others started having fun over there playing on the ice and we lost track of time. We all heard the bell ring which meant that school was starting and the crosswalk lady had already left so we just had to make a mad dash to class and play Frogger with the cars.
I can tell you that the roof of that school was a ballasted built-up roof system. I know this because I brought a real boomerang to school to play with at recess and, as you would expect, it went onto the roof the very first throw. After whining to the Principle, Mr. Haynes, for a month, he actually went with me onto the roof so I could retrieve it before the end of the school year. (I saw the gravel and was dumbfounded.) So how do I know it was a built-up roof? I remember one time when the 1000 degree asphalt kettle was literally 3’ from our classroom window. We had no air conditioning and all the windows were open. I remember getting very dizzy in class with a bad headache and sick to my stomach. I looked around and more than half the class was asleep with their heads on their desks. Maybe some were dead? Fortunately, this only went on for an entire week. My dad would make me take a bath when I got home because I reeked of asphalt. My teacher Mrs. Brandenburg was a hippy so I don’t think she minded the contact high. SPS may owe me a couple years of life for that one…which number should I call…417-333-3333 or 417-777-7777? (This is a local joke for those outside of the southwest Missouri who might be reading this.)
Lastly, if this article should happen to make its way to my elementary school friend Kirby Harris, I am sorry for laughing when you broke your arm jumping out of that swing set on the right side of the photo. I thought you were just being a wuss. If Mrs. Freeman and Mrs. Brandenburg read this message – you guys did great. All the years I was there, we had more than 30 students in a class – these ladies were miracle workers! If the crosswalk lady reads this, sorry about the mole comments. Let’s just call it a beauty mark. If the size of a beauty mark indicates that amount of beauty that one has, then you are a super model in my book.
By Travis Miller