The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Balliet Revisited

After the Closing

Yesterday morning I traveled south to Springfield. Here is a neat photo of the city as seen through the morning mist by Mark Alamed.

I got off the bus near Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School, now the location of the World Famous Thomas M. Balliet Elementary School.

A few blocks away stands a building with the same words etched in stone.

I always call Balliet "the world famous" as an insider joke for those who know Springfield. Actually it is a rundown ghetto style school building with no gym, no cafeteria, just a plain brick box dating back to the times when schools were built as brick squares equally subdivided into smaller boxes that served as classrooms.

I'm pleased to hear that my originally sarcastic title has been adopted as a complement by the school itself, with a School Committee member once telling me that the students and staff of Balliet now informally call it The World Famous Thomas M. Balliet Elementary School. And despite its physical limitations, don't let anyone tell you that it isn't a good school. A shack could be a university if Aristotle was teaching inside. In the same way Balliet served generations of Pine Point residents, with a dedicated and talented staff. The best teachers I ever had I had at The World Famous Thomas M. Balliet Elementary School.

The city talked for years of rebuilding or at least adding a new addition to Balliet, but nothing ever came of it. Then last year Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic School, located just two blocks away, went out of business, providing an excellent opportunity to relocate Balliet to a newer facility. The city bought OLSH and renamed it Balliet, opening its new location for the first time a few weeks ago. I wonder if the new Balliet practices the old OLSH custom of making boys and girls enter by seperate doors.

Everything surrounding the new Balliet is still OLSH property, such as the Leo Shea building directly across the street.

My Gramdmother Devine was a contemporary of Father Shea, and she used to tell an interesting story about him. As someone often abandoned by her alcoholic husband, my grandmother faced many financial hardships. One time she was facing a real crisis, where she was flat broke but the rent was coming due. She despaired of the fact that she was only days away from possibly ending up on the street with her children.

On the last day of the month, Father Shea stopped by unexpectedly. My grandmother served him some coffee, and they talked about a variety of topics, but nothing in particular. A proud woman, my grandmother made no mention of the fiscal disaster about to befall her, but there were others in Pine Point who knew of my family's dire straits, and Father Shea had regular contact with everyone in the community, even non-Catholics. When Father Shea left, their vague small talk had left my grandmother with no idea why exactly the priest had stopped by - until she went to clear away the coffee cups. Picking up the saucer that held Father Shea's cup, she found a sum of money folded and hidden beneath it. The amount was large enough to cover the rent with a little left over to buy groceries at the A&P Supermarket next to Saint Michael's Cemetery. Knowing that Father Shea must have left it, she ran out on the porch, but saw the priest hurrying away, a distant figure already far down Haskin Street.

My grandmother hated spending the money the priest had left, but she had to swallow her pride and put the well being of her children first. Still she resolved to consider the money a loan, and when she saw him the next Sunday after mass she told Father Shea that she would repay him. However Father Shea insisted on pretending that he didn't know what she was talking about. My grandmother pressed the point that only he could have left the money, finally demanding of him, "If you didn't leave that money under the coffee saucer, then who did?"

"It must have been the wee people," Father Shea replied, "they are known to leave gifts to the deserving." My grandmother scoffed at such an explanation, but Father Shea grew stern. "If as your pastor I tell you that it was leprechauns who gave you that money, then the matter is settled. Don't ever mention it to me again." Since in those days you could not question your pastor when speaking as your spiritual adviser, the subject was considered closed and my grandmother never brought it up to him again. But for the rest of her life my Grandmother Devine told about the time her family was saved from hunger and homelessness by the leprechauns who just happened to arrive bearing money on the same day and at the same time that Father Shea stopped by for a cup of coffee.

So for the first time in generations, the old brick dinosaur on Seymour Avenue is vacant at the start of a new school year. Of course I had to go visit the old school, and saw this sign on the front door.

The vandals have already left their calling card.

Through these battered doors generations of Pine Pointers passed.

I took this picture through the front widow, showing the entrance to the principal's office.

Now only ghosts walk those halls. I only hope that the students of the new Balliet will remember their school with the same fondness that so many recall the original.

Here's a video I made around the back of the building.

Interesting Quotes

Blogger Tom Devine told people to vote against me because “he gives Libertarians a bad name.” Devine has a half naked picture of himself on Facebook. He told people to vote to legalize marijuana. He then supported people who will raise the fines for it locally. I am not sure whether he helped me or hurt me. He likes cops and Republicans.

- Concession statement by failed Springfield City Council candidate Robert Underwood.

I became a conservative by being around liberals and I became a libertarian by being around conservatives. You realize that there’s something distinctly in common between the two groups, the left and the right; the worst part of each of them is the moralizing. On the left, you have people who want to dictate your behavior under the guise of tolerance. Unless you disagree with them. Then the tolerance goes out the window. Which kind of negates the whole idea of tolerance. That’s the politically correct moralizing. Then when you become a conservative, the other kind of moralizing comes from religion. But if you remove both of those from the equation, what you’re left with is libertarianism.

From the right, you’ve got free markets. From the left, you have free minds. To me, that’s the only sensible direction. As you grow older, you kind of end up there. Especially if you drink and do a lot of drugs.

- Greg Gutfeld

In Holyoke

Out a window.

A mural.

A monument at Saint Jerome's.

The Bodega 24.

A poster in Veteran's Park.

Today's Video

Did they tell you the name of the game boy? We call it riding the gravy train.


Margaret said...

Tom you are a great story teller! You know how to bring the past alive.

LarryK4 said...

Like the flag in background of the "half naked" shot.