Visiting Fernwood before the wrecking ball
I always feel jealous of those people lucky enough to have a hometown. The place where the majority of your family lives and your memories have physical counterparts: restaurants, streets, schools, parks, libraries, stores. As a military brat, I was born in a state many mountains and hours away from the home my parents knew. The closest hometown I’ve adopted has been Biloxi, Mississippi, but each year it seems like more of what made it home is gone.
The street that I lived on for 9 years where I learned to ride my bike and walk off the tears after falling, where I learned to swim with my eyes open under water in my snap-n-set pool, where I walked my first dog Pepper, played HORSE until dark, and got my first present from a boy…that street only exists now in memories and photographs. After Katrina, the military gutted the housing installation including the streets.
Dukate, the elementary school, where I learned to read, where I wrote my first story and book of poems, where I checked out Shel Silverstein books every three weeks, where I sat in class wondering if anyone else knew I was wearing my first training bra… I tried to drive by that school a few years ago and not even the foundation remained.
Now it appears the last school I attended in Biloxi will soon have that same fate. This weekend I passed by remains of Fernwood Middle School on the way to visit my sister in law. Before I saw the ripped out auditorium chairs, the piles of tables and carpet, and the grass fields where buildings once stood, I was under the impression Fernwood was still in operation as the district’s alternative school. However, from this history of Biloxi schools, I learned that Fernwood had become the temporary alternative school in 2002.
“In the spring of 2007, the district made plans to demolish some of the structures on the Fernwood campus and asked permission of the Board to advertise for bids to do so. The main Fernwood building, where the office and CNO classrooms were located and which had served students for years prior to Fernwood’s becoming part of the Biloxi Public School District in 1957, would be retained. The cafeteria/kitchen, auditorium, a steel building, and the gymnasium would also be kept.” – Zan Skelton
It seems in 2009, the alternative school was moved and the campus has since had more buildings demolished. Little of that school stands today. Before anymore could go, I stopped to photograph what’s left.
That’s a start. I’ll probably do another post with a few more photos. I really wish I had gone by before the buildings where I had 80% of my classes had been demolished.