Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Walker Walkers

It's time to celebrate the Flint school with what is easily the best nickname ever — the Walker Walkers. These photos are courtesy of Scott Hiteshew and Jim Holbel, both of whom regularly compete for the Sacred Carp Chalice, a Flint ritual shrouded in mystery and intrigue. But the photos probably originated with Sue Kettler. It's all a little confusing, but the photos sparked a nice little digital reunion of Walkers on Facebook.

I can't vouch for the accuracy of the names or details, so feel free to offer updates or corrections.

5th/6th Grade Walker Walkers 1978/1979

First Row (L-R): Scott Hiteshew, David Shulman, Ted Mott, Eric Tillman, Beth Green, Jim Holbel
Second Row: Mr. Malcom Alexander, Kenneth Carter, Susan Kettler, Matt Theodroff, ???, Ben Dennis, ???, ???, Valerie Barrett, Marsha Goldfarb

Third Row: Jen Kells, ???, Corey Cahoon, Todd Chaney, Lisa Phipps, ???, Keith McGee, Michelle Zacks, Alexandra Tyler

The Walker Walkers 6th Grade fieldtrip to Kampsville Archeological Center in Illinois.

In a semi-organized left-to-right order: Todd Schaefer, Jim Holbel, Logan Hansen, Peter Kleinpell, David Shulman, Merry McGhan, Marsha Goldfarb, Carol Flippen, Laura Phillips, Kris Nemeth, Lori Archer, Holly McLeod, Michelle Zacks, Janet Haley, Lester Fykes, Jen Ramsdell
When I ran a postcard of the original Walker School, longtime reader/commenter smrfz ink offered up this brief history, which I've edited for length:
The original Walker School was on the corner of Kearsley and Hunt Lane. Hunt Lane, Ash St., and portions of Manning, Mathews, Forest, and Crapo Pl. were vacated when the Cultural Center was built. Old Walker was demolished and so was much of its attendance area. The Sloan Museum sits where Walker once stood.

The "new" smaller Walker was built in the late '50s or early '60s on the corner of Kearsley and Avon, next to the Administration Building.

When I-475 was excavated even more of Walker's attendance area was lost — Mill St, Albro Place, Newton Place, Vine St. Clark and Oak Elementary had the same issues. Walker survived however. Neighborhood kids were moved to Pierce, while Walker recreated itself once again as a magnet school with citywide enrollment.

Walker's status as a magnet school lasted from about 1975-1989 or so. The gifted program was moved to Garfield and Doyle-Ryder, and the building sold and used for offices.
Jim Holbel says:
As a Civic Park kid, I never really knew anything about Walker until 3rd grade, which for me was the 75/76 school year. I was placed in a 'Gifted' students program at Walker. One day per week, I was bussed to Walker for an enrichment program. In 4th grade I was somewhat dismayed to learn the day before classes started at the end of summer that I was not going to Civic Park with the neighborhood kids, but Walker full time. So for 4th-6th grade, I was in the full-time program, often referred to as the 'upstairs kids', as the upper floor was used by the FT students, and the day-a-week program used the downstairs rooms. I recall some enrichment classes were combined with FT and PT kids.

They must have been trying a lot of (then) experimental concepts. I recall almost everything was self directed, in centers, or in small groups. There was a lot more hands on education. Looking at my kids in school now this is pretty common, but I do remember it being a lot different than life at Civic park. The self-paced nature allowed me to perfect procrastination and develop the ability to create a great deal of work under deadline pressure — an attribute which has paid dividends my whole life.

I also wrote my first computer programs in 1976 because the Walker building was right next door to the administration building where a brand-spanking new PRIME computer resided. We could hook-up teletype terminals by making a phone call to the admin computer and plugging the old plastic handset into a foam receptacle. Instead of a screen, messages were printed on paper. We actually were taught the BASIC language and had programming assignments. I have worked in the IT field for about 23 years now, and each time I share this, no one can believe it happened in a rust-belt town with a fat slob socialist spokesmodel. I have not met anyone colleague of my generation who was offered an earlier start in the field.

Despite the fact that the distance from my Haskell Park neighborhood to Walker is less than four miles, we routinely faced 45-minute or more bus rides because we picked up fistfuls of kids along a route with 10-12 stops. One year I drew dreaded first-picked-up, last-dropped-off position on the route. We did get a brand new bus, #200. On the first day, a kid noticed the '2' looked like a 'Z' and it was then called the Zoo bus from then on. And we worked hard to live up to that name. We had a cool ‘70s dude bus driver named Bill who was not above a little hot rodding. The highlight of the trip was always a 'shortcut' from 5th avenue, cutting through on Forrest St. toward E. Kearsley. It runs right between the Sloan Museum and the Sarvis Center and then up by the courtyard in front of Whiting. There is a left-right chicane-like jog in the road, which rose maybe six feet in a short distance. Taken at even moderate speed, kids in the back of the bus were launched like popcorn in a hot pan. We LOVED it!

As we rose to be upper classmen (i.e. 6th graders), Scott Hiteshew, myself and a few other kids found an old dirty sock in the back of the bus. It became a running joke that no one ever cleaned the bus or removed the sock. One day Scott decided it was a Holy Sock, and we made a big joke over the course of that day's bus ride of constructing a faux religious history around the sock. But see NOW is where the ‘Gifted’ part comes in. We didn’t stop there. Over the course of the next few weeks, we start holding sock worship masses, with ceremonies, rituals, and sermons — the whole nine yards. Well, eventually word of this makes it to some of the 3rd and 4th graders’ parents, and naturally they freak the heck out. We were called into various meetings and lectured for what seemed like hours but in the end suffered no consequences, at least in the eyes of the school. I suspect readers in touch with the various faiths of the world can caution the that the consequences of our actions may yet come.

10 comments:

  1. As a Civic Park kid, I never real knew anything about Walker until 3rd grade, which for me was the 75/76 school year. I was placed in a 'Gifted' students program at Walker, where 1 day per week, I was bussed to Walker for an enrichment program. In 4th grade I was somewhat dismayed to learn, the day before classes started at the end of summer, I was not going to Civic Park with the neighborhood kids, but Walker full time. So for 4th, 5th, and 6th grade, I was in the full-time program, often referred to as the 'upstairs kids', as the upper floor was used by the FT students, and the day-a-week program used by the downstairs rooms. I recall some enrichment classes were combined with FT and PT kids.

    My recollections include... They must have been trying alot of (then) experimental concepts. I recall almost everything was self directed, in centers, or in small groups. There was a lot more hands on education. Looking at my kids in school now, this is pretty common, but I do rememeber it being alot different than life at Civic park. The self-paced nature allowed me to perfect procrastination and develop the ability to create a great deal of work under the pressure of a deadline. An attribute which has paid dividends my whole life.

    I also frequently share the fact that I wrote my first computer programs in 1976 based on the fact that the Walker building was right next door to the administration building where a brand spanking new PRIME computer resided. We could hook-up teletype terminals by making a phone call to the admin computer and plugging the old plastic handset into a foam recepticle. Then instead of a screen, messages were printed on paper. We actually were tought the BASIC language and had programming assignments. I have worked in the IT field for about 23 years now, and each time I sahre this, no one can beleive this happened in a rust-belt town with a fat slob socalist spokesmodel. I have not met anyone colleague of my generation who was offered an earlier start in the field.

    And one little side story. Despite the fact that the distance from haskell park to Walker is maybe 3 miles, possibly 4. We routinely faced 45 minute or more bus rides, as we picked up fistfulls of kids along maybe 10-12 stops. One year we drew the short straw on bus routes, put in the dreaded first picked up, last dropped off position on the route. We did get a brand new bus, #200. On the first day, a kid noticed the '2' looked like a 'Z' and it was named then called the Zoo bus from there after. And we worked hard to live up to that name. We had a cool 70's dude bus driver named Bill, who was not above a little Hot Rodding. The highlight of the ride was always a 'shortcut' from 5th avenue, cutting through on Forrest st, toward E Kearsley. It runs right between the sloan museum and the sarvis center and then up by the courtyard in front of Whiting. Well there is a lef-right shicane-like jog in the road, which rises maybe 6 feet in a short distance. Taken at even moderate speed, kids in the back of the bus were launched like popcord in a hot pan. we LOVED it!

    As we rose to be upper classmen (6th graders, lol), Scott Hiteshew, myself and a few other kids, found an old dirty sock in the back of the bus. It became a running joke that no-one ever cleaned the bus or the sock. One day Scott decided it was a Holy Sock, and we made a big joke over the course of that day's bus ride of constructing a faux religious history around the sock. But see NOW is where the Gifted part comes in. We don't stop there. Over the course of the next few weeks, we start holding sock worship masses, with ceremonies, rituals, and sermons - the whole nine yards. Well, eventually word of this makes it to some of the 3rd and 4th graders parents, and naturally they freak the heck out. We were called into various meetings and lectured for what seemed like hours, but in the end suffered no consequences, at least in the eyes of the school. I suspect readers in touch with the various faiths of the world can point out that our consequences may yet be to come.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "The highlight of the trip was always a 'shortcut' from 5th avenue, cutting through on Forrest St. toward E. Kearsley. It runs right between the Sloan Museum and the Sarvis Center and then up by the courtyard in front of Whiting. There is a left-right chicane-like jog in the road, which rose maybe six feet in a short distance."

    I know the stretch. Quite the thrill.

    "The Future Lives in Flint!"

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think that proper term for that is "pagan idolatry" and it is generally frowned upon by most schools, gifted or otherwise . . .

    ReplyDelete
  4. Scott, there's still plenty of time for you to start a new religion.

    ReplyDelete
  5. So whatever became of the sock? Did you divide it up and distribute the pieces throughout the known world as relics, or did you gold plate it and put it somewhere special? Wash it perhaps?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Jim,

    I also was in the program at Walker once a week coming from Durant Tuuri Mott. Wasn't it Mr. Debevic that taught the programming?

    I remember playing football on the computer and waiting for the random play we would end up getting printed. Ahh the good ole days. A game took a long time waiting for the printout each play.

    ReplyDelete
  7. My daughter Cathy's rocket flew the highest in one of Debevic's science project outings. Walker's academics challenged kids in education as no other program since in Flint.

    Jim, I enjoyed your notes on your visit to the old neighborhood. Actually, I'm still here!
    -Edward McGraw

    ReplyDelete
  8. Jim,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I was a PTer in the gifted program from Freeman and have the same memories of 'calling' the computer and writing 'if/then go/to' programs as well as backpacking with Mr. Debevic, reading the paper in Mr. Horn's class, creating a movie with a teacher whose name I can't remember! It was a great program!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Oh, my gosh! That is totally my brother Ben in the second row. How cool to come across this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joe, your family is all over Flint Expats!

      Delete

Thanks for commenting. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at www.teardownbook.com.