destroyed by flames. We had been out of town and didn't know anything about it until Sunday morning, March 16.
The school sat just catty-cornered from the Stafford United Methodist Church. As I stood at the door and greeted people for the Sunday church service March 16, I kept glancing over at the front of the school, the upper floors blackened by soot and wood pieces hanging out of broken windows. When we saw flecks of white in the air, we weren't sure whether they were snow or ash.
After church, we explored, staying behind the yellow crime scene tape. As I looked at the 1916 date on the east doors, I thought about the history there.
1916 ... 98 years standing in that very spot.
But I wanted to mark another event. That Sunday, while Jill and Randy were dressed up, I took some photos of them in front of the school. A move to the new school just down the street to the east on Broadway was planned for February 1999. I wanted some photos of the two members of our family who had walked the halls of the grand old building as students. Randy graduated from Stafford High in 1974. Jill was a 7th grade student at the time, and the middle school attended classes there. (Brent didn't make the photos because he was a 5th grader and was still in the elementary school building.)
Earlier, teams of students formed a version of a bucket brigade to transfer supplies from the top floors to the ground floor. They sat in the auditorium and listened to some history. Some of the students then carried desks and trophies to the waiting buggy.
His Dad, Melvin Fritzemeier, graduated from SHS in 1948, and his Mom, Marie Ritts, got her diploma two years later. As I dug through tubs looking for old photos, I found a 1948 Staffordonian, the yearbook from Melvin's senior year.
Randy graduated there in 1974; his brother, Lyle, in 1976, and sister, Kathy, in 1984. Their graduation ceremonies were all in the old auditorium, where the memories were piled as deeply as the debris.
But last Sunday, I was remembering the old school. It's where I went to work part-time in the middle/high school office when Brent was a first grader. It was a teeny-tiny office I shared with Judy Clough. It's where I first accompanied for the high school choir under the direction of Presley Herndon. On several May days, I was one of four pianists who played Pomp and Circumstance on two pianos in the auditorium for SHS graduation.
Photo by Stafford Emergency Services
But the school's demise was center stage on Facebook news feeds for Stafford residents and SHS graduates.