Relics are a reminder of school days
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    Auction Finds

    Selling what’s left of a shuttered elementary school

    The woman was a solitary figure in a long hallway that 10 minutes earlier had been filled with a clump of people moving mechanically from one classroom to another. In this quiet time, she seemed to be savoring the aloneness.

    It brings back memories, she said. Did you work at the school? No, she was just feeling the years she’d spent at her own grade school.

    She was not the only one. This now-closed elementary school evoked memories from a number of people who moved about a place that they once knew, or where they’d come to buy what was left behind in it. The school was open on this crisp Saturday for an auction of its contents, but it drew out much more.

    Art Deco water fountains were among the most lovely items at the Lafayette school auction.

    Art Deco water fountains were among the most lovely items at the Lafayette school auction. The one on the right is broken.

    A woman told a friend that she’d worked at Lafayette Elementary School in Bristol Township, Bucks County, PA , for 18 years. At one point later, she appeared to have teary eyes.

    Another woman walked the hallways with who looked to be her granddaughter, pointing out the classrooms of different teachers. When she approached the school store – which now contained slim paperback reading books, some poster frames, metal paper pins and dusty empty boxes – she told of helping out in there while she was pregnant with a child whose name she mentioned. The woman was also there to buy: During the sale, she, the child’s father, the little girl and some other children carried tiny chairs and desks to their SUV.

    One woman mentioned that she had found her son’s name written in one of the 6th-grade classrooms.

    Tiny chairs in pastel colors were in the kindergarten rooms.

    Tiny chairs in pastel colors for small bottoms.

    This was my first schoolhouse auction, and I, too, was curious to see what would actually be sold. I also understood the attraction for reminiscing about school days. Every time I pass by my old elementary school in Georgia, I’m always amazed at how small it looks now. It seemed to be a towering stack of red bricks when I was a kid there.

    As for Lafayette school, it closed in June 2016, one of six that the Bristol School District shut down after building three spanking new elementary schools. Students from those six schools transferred to the new schools. Lafayette had 390 students in grades K-6.

    The school board plans to turn one of the schools into an administrative/transportation center while some of the others will be torn down.

    Lafayette had been around since 1955, and it certainly showed its age.

    Cabinets and cubbyholes for coats and books at Lafayette school auction.

    Cabinets and cubbyholes for coats and books at Lafayette school auction.

    Vandalizing kids didn’t help much, either. They had gotten in, written foul language on the walls, and opened up fire extinguishers and sprayed the contents in some rooms. The library seemed to have taken a big hit because a white film like dust had settled all over the floor, tables, desks, bookcases and books. Some books apparently were salvaged, because they were on carts outside the room.

    One man, whose mother had been a secretary at the school, lamented that all of the updated and usable electronic equipment had disappeared, including some Bose speakers that had been attached to a wall in the technology center. (These may have been removed by the school district, someone pointed out.) He was disappointed because he had hoped to buy some of the new stuff. A lot of computer hard drives, HP printers and inoperable laptops were stacked in the multipurpose room and outside it.

    Most of the rooms were dusty, dirty and littered with paper, but you could still sense their purpose. They all had the same type of furniture and oak built-ins, the same small hooks for jackets, and the same slanted pull-out drawers for large posters and books. Some rooms also held kidney-shaped tables with bright colors to match alphabet rugs.

    Oversized reading books.

    Oversized reading books.

    All of the stuff was auctioned, attached or unattached, and most of it sold at little lost. This was a clean-out, and the other schools would be receiving the same treatment later, according to an auction-house staffer. There were:

    Cooling fans and projectors attached to walls. Rand McNally maps of the United States and beyond. School desks and chairs. Fire extinguishers and fire alarms. Metal beat-up trashcans (people always ask to buy these, the auctioneer pointed out). Oversized children’s books. Beautiful Art Deco water fountains (one man who bought at least two said he’d use them in his back yard). Lunchroom tables and kitchen equipment. Classroom cubbyholes for coats and books. A Kawai piano that no one wanted (pianos are hard to sell, the auctioneer noted). Even the thick glass block tiles alongside classroom doors were for sale if people could remove them.

    Dusty fire alarms were laid out on a table in the lobby of Lafayette school for the auction.

    Dusty fire alarms were laid out on a table in the lobby of Lafayette school.

    After individual items were sold in each room, the rest of the room was put for sale for a few bucks and all were snapped up. One of the main buyers was a man whom someone mentioned had attended a schoolhouse auction a few months ago. He buys items to send to Haiti, according to an auction-house staffer.

    One of the sweetest displays at the school was a classroom white board that bore messages from students, possibly on the last day of school last year. They wrote about their favorite memories, most of which occurred when they met their best friend or best teacher.

    One was different, though: “My favorite memory is when I have my birthday,” one student wrote.

    A room at Lafayette school. There wasn't much to sell in this room and a few others like it.

    A room at Lafayette school. There wasn’t much to sell in this room and a few others like it.

     

    A board of students' favorite memories, along with a pencil sharpener.

    A board of students’ favorite memories, along with a pencil sharpener.

     

    Folded lunchroom tables with round seats projecting out on both sides.

    Folded lunchroom tables with round seats on both sides.

     

    A welcome sign outside a classroom, and a spring collage above an Art Deco water fountain inside a classroom.

    A welcome sign outside a classroom, and a spring watercolor above an Art Deco water fountain inside a classroom.

     

    Discarded HP printers at Lafayette school.

    Discarded HP printers at Lafayette school.

     

    This mosaic mural is in the lobby at Lafayette school. Bucks County artist Terri Herring and Amy Winston, community coordinator for the Bucks Artists in Residence program worked with students to produce the mural of a tree and the creatures that might live near it.

    This mosaic mural is in the lobby at Lafayette school. Bucks County artist Terri Herring and Amy Winston, community coordinator for the Bucks Artists in Residence program, worked with students to produce the mural of a tree and the creatures that might live near it.

     

    An empty hallway at Lafayette school.

    An empty hallway at Lafayette school.

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