When I hear a word or phrase, I sometimes get a nice (or sometimes not so nice) mental image that I associate with it. I don’t know if you call that personification or an overactive imagination/memory, but that little oddity of mine keeps me amused.
“Old school” is one such phrase. I think I learned it when I first moved to North Carolina, when I was 7 years old. I started attending an elementary school, parts of which had been built in 1929. At one point in its life, during the years of racial segregation, it had been a high school serving the black community. In 1969, when segregation ended, it became a middle school until 1987, then finally became an elementary school after that, although it did not house all the elementary grades (K-5) until 1997, the last year I was there.
To this day, every time I hear the phrase “old school,” I get a mental picture of that elementary school.
In 1997, a new, shiny elementary school was built and that was where I went until I “graduated.” (Don’t know if you can legitimately call passing the 5th grade graduation.) It was nice being in a new school, but it didn’t have quite the same character as the old one.
For my first two years of middle school, I attended the only middle school in town, which had been built in 1991, so again, it wasn’t an “old school.” Then, because of population growth, a new, shiny middle school was built in 2001, so that new, shiny school was the one I graduated from. (I don’t even think you can legitimately call passing the 8th grade graduation.)
Then, for my freshman year of high school, I attended another “old school,” which was even older than the elementary school. It was established in 1901, although none of the buildings in use then were in use when I started going there. The oldest part of the school when I went had been built in 1955.
I still remember the thoughts than ran through my head when I walked into that “old school” on my first day. I was reminded of my old elementary school — strongly reminded. I think both of those older buildings had the same type of feel to them. Maybe it was the architecture. Maybe it was the way they smelled. Maybe it was all the old graffiti. Or it could have simply been the knowledge that I was moving from that new, shiny middle school into this old, stinky high school that had been around since dinosaurs roamed the earth.
“Old school” buildings always give me a lot to think about. They have so much history. It’s interesting to imagine all the different students who had attended the school in the past: what they did then and what they’re doing now.
But “old school” doesn’t necessarily have to be a school. For a while, I worked at a restaurant — one of the oldest restaurants in my town. It was built sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s, and to this day, the building has never been completely remodeled; parts of it are old and breaking down, but still function well, for the most part. Customers always make remarks about the sunken booths, the caved-in ceiling, when are y’all gonna get remodeled, etc. When the restaurant was first built, because it was one of the only chain restaurants in town, it was constantly busy, especially when excited high schoolers used to stop by after football games. In the restaurant, I even found an old high school (my old high school) football schedule printed on a refrigerator magnet; a schedule for the 1974 season.
So, in short, when someone uses the phrase “old school,” that is what I think of.