Remember when _____ used to be ______?

I used to teach at St Paul’s Collegiate School in Hamilton.  The school is on, what used to be, a dairy farm on the outskirts of what was then, the edge of Hamilton. Over time the school has come to be miles from any city boundary and the old number eight wire fence, a remnant from the site’s farming days as long been replaced by a more austere brick and iron edge.

One of my strongest memories of teaching at St Paul’s is as summer was getting into gear and the year was ending. The senior students would return each day from a (biology?) study at a lake just outside of the then city boundary.  What is now acres and acres of sub-division was at that point multiple strawberry farms and as the students returned in dribs and drabs their uniform shirts would be full of bright, fat, red strawberries which they had “acquired” on the way back to school from the edges of the largely unsupervised strawberry farms. Any teacher knows the carefree feel of those last days at school – the weather is better, the end is in sight, the students are suddenly aware that they have only a few days left in their school uniform.

Somehow strawberries go well with this feeling – an excellent food and memory match. Of course…those strawberry farms are now supermarket carparks, two car garages or split level “architecturally designed” plaster and tile monstrosities.

It’s just another place that’s gone and transformed from one thing to another, it happens everywhere. Time moves on. History is told through the memories of those of us who were there.

If I was still teaching there I might try a project like this one ‘Remember When _______ Used to Be _______?‘. This article is based on sites in San Francisco over the last 20 years but it is an easy structure to model. The possibilities in the classroom are remarkable and the application broad.  Find a person and ask them what they remember of a certain place.  Do this for a reunion, a specific year, a family, a class, the departing Year 13s or the returning alumni.

Overlay photos, collect memorabilia, combine accounts and re-tellings.  In a school there are so many people coming and going. The memories of such places and moments offer some kind of mooring, a way of feeling connected to a past that too often seems gone before it even happens. So then, why not dwell on these things sometimes, if we can? Why not recall these places that once were, the people who were there? or just the strawberries.