90 years standing, 6 hours to fall

June 9th, 2015 9:46 pm

First Posted: 4/1/2014

DALLAS TWP. — Around 7 a.m. the crews were on scene.

Three hours later, the back of the old Dallas Township School was gone.

Bystanders started trickling in — some curious, some sad, a few occasionally furious.

“I loved it,” Lois Watkins, class of 1954, said as she watched on Tuesday large Caterpillar excavators claw down the old school marked for demolition. “The best years of my life were in that building.”

She spoke as the big rigs began smashing the front of the structure.

Silver-haired, petite and at times feisty, Jeannie Clark laughed as she recalled her favorite part of entering the school in second or third grade.

“I went to a school down there in first grade,” she said waving a hand south to a space across Church Street. “I hated it down there. You had to go to an outhouse.”

When she moved to the new school, everything was indoors and modern, from bathrooms to basement cafeteria. “There was one teacher,” she said with a smile, “as you were sitting there in class, if the boys didn’t behave, an eraser would come flying past your ear.”

Clark laughed, then looked back at the excavators engaged in the building’s extinction.

“It’s a sad day,” she said. “It really is a sad day because I really don’t think it had to be done.”

Several bystanders started asking about obtaining bricks for commemoration. “I want two,” Clark said. “One for me and one for my brother in Florida.”

One person disappeared and brought back a clump of them, still connected with mortar, each brick bearing a distinct impression: two letters, four digits. A worker later said they were most likely made-to-order bricks marked to let masons know where they were to be placed.

On the other side of the work zone, Kunkle Fire Chief Jack Dodson recalled his years in the school, including lunch in the basement cafeteria and the annual “May Day” celebration, hearkening back to centuries of celebrating spring. The event included costumes and a “May pole,” complete with colorful streamers students could grab as they circled the pole.

“It’s a shame,” Dodson said, noting he had been inside the building to help with removal of the cupola on Monday for restoration and preservation at the current Dallas High School campus. “They don’t make buildings like this anymore.”

As the front of the building fell, Lois Watkins’ husband disappeared around back, returning with two bricks.

“Thank you, hon,” Lois said softly. “Let’s go home.”

Asked about requests for bricks, a worker said a pile would be set out in the next few days near the road in front of the work site, free for the taking.

By 10:50, little stood other than the center hallways that ran the length of the building, and stairwells on each side. Around 11:50, most of that was gone. A lone Caterpillar had created a make-shift ramp from all the debris and climbed to a point where the heavy steel bucket could reach what remained.

The top third of the chimney toppled like a Lincoln Log on end. The rest of the chimney went in two strokes. Less than 90 seconds later, the last of the masonry, wood and plaster had been swept into rubble.

The school, serving various grades at different times in it’s nearly 90-year life, had stood for some 780,000 hours.

Bdaric Excavating knocked it down in less than six.