Almost anything can inspire memories. For those of us who went to Huguenot High School, the water tower is a significant piece of our high school memories.  Every year book included a picture of the water tower and stories repeated about midnight adventures, scares and aborted missions.  My own climb up the tower fizzled when no one else showed up. I didn’t try it alone because I was scared that I’d fall and no one would find my body for days. Forty one years later, my Classmates profile said I still want to climb the HHS water tower. Well, another dream bites the dust.

In 1973, when Huguenot High School was annexed from Chesterfield, the City of Richmond inherited the water tower along with the school property.  Apparently, the tower wasn’t functional in the city utility system, or hasn’t been for years.  Richmond’s plan to replace Huguenot High School with a new building over the next three years doesn’t include preservation of our precious water tower so it has been sold and is being dismantled.

A frantic email from Gerri Hall, class of ’71, went out that demolition was beginning Thursday afternoon.  My brother Parks passed the news to me and I was heartbroken. Not only did this mean that I can’t fufill my dream to climb the water tower but I was having a cast removed at the same time and couldn’t even be there to record its demise.

But fear not…former HHS Falcons are determined, especially those in the Class of 1970, and I tore out of the doctor’s office on my walker, into the car and straight to my old alma mater, where I met some of the youngsters of the Class of 1971. The ceremony was over.  The actual dismantling wouldn’t commence until Friday so they were taking a walk down memory lane. I joined them, hobbling  along the hallowed halls of Huguenot (See, Mrs. Wood? I DO know what alliteration means!).  Many of us have returned over the years but for some, it was the first visit in 40 years.  Faces grew dreamy and eyes focused on events from decades ago as voices of classmates and teachers echoed down the corridors and down the years.

I was so struck by the clarity of those memories that I sent our former teachers an email, relating how their baby-boomer students recalled staff names, classes taught, mischief caught and sins overlooked. I wanted them to know they are remembered, that we are grateful for their efforts and the impact they made on our lives. I included a picture of Lee E. in front of Mr. Steinberg’s English classroom.

I went by the site today and was told rain and wind delayed their start (an omen that our beloved icon should remain?) I took more pictures and sent them to teachers and classmates, eliciting the following responses:

Cindy C.  “So many memories and so long ago.  I can even remember when my name was up on that water tower…… that a good thing?

Dean C. “NOOOOOooooooo!”

Mr. Mack Swift “thanks for remembering —  It is the only water tower I ever had my name on  — a kid named Billy (I think) climbed up and wrote “”SWIFT AND BOWLES”  in big green letters and they stayed up there until some later kid painted over it about five years later — whenever I would visit Richmond from Staunton I would drive by just to check on it.   It would bring back memories of HHS in the 1960’s, including the crazy Rountrey gal who did imitations of Miss Harrison on stage.  Sorry to hear about her passing. “

The “passing” Mr. Swift mentioned was Miss Harrison’s, not mine.  I was reminiscing about Falconotes and our choral director. It’s amazing that our teachers can remember things we forgot ages ago (like the Miss Harrison imitation I did). In organizing our class reunions and locating teachers, I have been astonished to hear them describing events, telling stories, naming students…often students they never even taught! The school living under the shadow of the beloved water tower was a special place and time for us and will live in our memories long after the wrecking ball does its work.  “Huguenot, we fondly love thee and thy green and gold. In our hearts, we’ll ne’er forget thee as the years unfold.”  Corny School Song lyrics, perhaps, but still true. “Hail to HHS!”

The office where Lee sat when he was sent home for wearing a skirt to class, the bus loop and water tower shots…ImageImageImageImageImageImage