Williams column: The auditorium of the Granite Quarry School is full of memories

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 16, 2011

By Mack Williams
For the Salisbury Post
When I was in grade school at Granite Quarry School from 1957-1965, the auditorium had a look and feel to me of being somewhat newer than some of the other buildings which comprised the school, with the possible exception of the low-slung, one-story extended rectangular building of the lowest grades. I’m pretty sure that it was newer than the gym, which seemed ancient even then.
The Granite Quarry auditorium was an entity unto itself, not nestled within another building, as is the case with some more recent “assembly halls,” “multi-purpose rooms,” and school cafeterias with a stage at one end. It was reached by a walkway from the farthest classroom building on the opposite end of the school from what was then the primary playground. The walkway was covered, but open at the sides.
To our yearly classrooms, we said goodbye at school’s end, but at the school assemblies of our elementary educational career, the Granite Quarry auditorium was our communal classroom for the entire student body, plus teachers and principal, Mr. C. L. Barnhardt. In later assemblies, we saw again the teachers to whom we had bidden tearful goodbyes years before.
One of my first memories of the auditorium was that of the old Granite Quarry High School band concerts, with my brother Joe being one of the percussionists.
Back in late 2009, a second-grade memory was resurrected by an old friend of those days, Ronnie Hellard, who placed a picture on his Facebook page. The picture is of Mrs. Melton’s second grade class, but instead of being made in her classroom,it was taken of the entire class seated on the stage of the Granite Quarry auditorium.
In the photograph, our class is seated in the picture’s foreground, and in the background can be seen a large black “shoe-house”, constructed from cardboard and placed on stage.The shoe’s style was in the tradition of button and lace-up ladies shoes of the Victorian Era.
We performed several fairy tales around that shoe prop at a PTA program. In addition to “The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” and “Old Mother Hubbard,” “Jack Be Nimble “ was performed. I remember being offered the part of Jack, but hid inside the shoe when it was time for me to make my appearance at practice time ( I was very shy then), resulting in someone else winding up with the part.
We made cards for our mothers out of black construction paper, including a picture of our class in the card, the very same photo which Ronnie posted on Facebook. My mother always kept her card sitting in her china closet (or perhaps I should say, more in keeping with the subject of our PTA performance, her “cupboard”).
I have another special memory of a class performance in the Granite Quarry auditorium in 1960, to the best of my memory, when I was in Mrs. Overman’s third-grade class. Just now I remember one day when Mrs. Overman sat on the edge of her desk, slightly revealing her petticoat, the sight of which caused some of the boys to start snickering. When she inquired as to the cause of their snickers, and when they told her the reason, she said: “It’s just a petticoat” ( this was a much simpler, innocent time, in which the sight of a petticoat resulted in great excitement).
To the best of my memory, Mrs. Overman was the teacher who taught us to square dance in preparation for a performance at the PTA meeting (it’s probably a telling statement, but I seem to remember with absolute certainty that the petticoat belonged to Mrs. Overman, while being only fairly certain in my memory that she was the teacher who taught us to square dance). I remember our class rendering a great performance of the square dance, circling like precision clockwork cogs. In addition to our country-style clothes, we wore big sombrero-style straw hats ( which also alluded to the tropical) with strands of extra unwoven straw sticking out all around the brim.
There was even attention to stage make-up, with boys as well as girls wearing lipstick ( about which the boys laughed). Some of us must have used the lipstick for additional decorative purposes, as I remember years later, the big straw “sombrero” with long red lipstick streaks marking it, sitting in the back of my closet in my old home on the Old Concord Road.
Some of us were piano students of Mrs. Herbert Jones, who taught at Granite Quarry School and held her annual recitals in the Granite Quarry School auditorium. We also participated in a nationally graded, scholastic piano jury, in which an outside judge would grade us on all aspects of our performance, for which we had prepared several pieces. The graded piano jury was also held on the stage of Granite’s auditorium.
During one school assembly, I had secreted a book on dinosaurs into the auditorium. The teacher saw it, but didn’t take it from me, only warning me not to read it during the assembly. I followed her instructions, feeling that if I didn’t, my book would have soon joined its subjects in extinction.
In reflection, the stages and stone steps of some of the amphitheatres of ancient Greece and Rome are still in existence, as are the much more recent seats and stage of the Granite Quarry School auditorium. Of those who performed on the stages and sat in the seats of those ancient amphitheatres, I have only conjecture, but of the performers on stage, and those who sat watching in the seats of the auditorium of Granite Quarry School, I have memories.