by Pat Edwards, October 18, 2012
Although no one has ever told me directly that I need to quit living in the past, I’m sure that the thought has occurred to some… especially with the recent issues that we, in Lorane, are facing regarding the closing of our school. Much of the emotional turmoil that has bubbled up around that reality comes from the fond memories that the school has evoked in those of us whose lives have intertwined with our small rural community, however briefly. The past has impacted our lives in ways that those from other, more urban, communities can’t fathom.
In the past, when life revolved around home and a single bread-winner, we knew our neighbors and shared our lives with them. Social activities were centered in the church, the Grange, the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs… but especially in the school. There were potlucks and dances and smelt feeds and 4th of July celebrations and baseball games. We had Christmas programs in our school where we watched our children perform and we would all join them in singing Christmas carols. Even as recently as a few years ago, large funerals have been held in the gymnasium because no other venue in the community would hold the hundreds who gathered to pay their respects. Our neighbors were many times our best friends and, we generally respected each others’ differing political views and could good-naturedly discuss them without fear of making them an enemy.
In the 1960s, we mothers usually went to town once a week to buy groceries and we frequently scheduled doctor’s appointments on the same day. Lunch at a hamburger stand with the kids on that one day was a big event. When we were lucky enough to lunch with another adult, we actually talked and listened to each other. Unlike today, conversation did not have to be woven around phone calls or while the other person was reading her text messages or playing a game on her phone.
Kids spent their summers building forts and taking hikes in the woods, bucking hay, gardening and playing outside in the sunshine and fresh air all day long. Usually, if they didn’t, they found themselves cleaning their rooms or practicing the piano, instead. During the school year, after school and on weekends, they raised livestock or learned to sew or cook in 4-H clubs. Some older boys helped their dads in the woods, learning not only to cut timber, but to build a strong work ethic, as well… and there were always daily chores in addition to homework.
No, it was not an idyllic life. Money was usually tight. Kids usually wore hand-sewn “hand-me-downs” from older siblings or cousins. There were no designer shoes or clothing that separated the “haves” from the “have-nots,” but respect was taught. Usually it was done with love, but, like today, for some, it was taught with a hard hand.
Yes, it is easy to live in the past, but even though I am now a septuagenarian, I am still able to look to the future as well as live and function in the present… and I do that every day. As far as the school closing is concerned, I am a realist. In light of our poor economy and the school funding situation, it’s apparent that the school board had few other choices in order to make the school district run as efficiently as possible. Lorane is about 25 miles from Eugene; Crow is about 15. Most parents now work in Eugene, so placing all of the district’s elementary-age children in Lorane was not feasible when you consider the burden that would be placed on parents who needed to pick them up mid-day for doctor’s appointments, etc. I know this with my mind, but my heart wishes it wasn’t so.
I am a realist. Life, as I described it above, no longer exists in Lorane and I realize that we will never get it back. Modern technology is here to stay. Most women have taken their rightful place in the work force… not only as a matter of financial necessity, but because that’s where most of them would rather be. Designer clothes, computers and X-boxes, cell phones and texting have taken over our lives so completely that there is no turning back.
I know this, but it still hurts, deeply. The closing of the school is threatening to put a final stamp on our past and move us into a future over which we have no control. Our rural way of life, not only in Lorane, but all over the state and nation, is at risk with the closing down of our local schools and post offices.
We look for solutions that no longer seem to be there. There is evidence that the numbers of those willing to work towards finding those solutions, however, are swelling. A group of dedicated community members in Lorane are working diligently to form a charter school. If that does not happen, many of us envision the school building turned into a community center, but the financial obstacles seem almost insurmountable… especially in this economy. If we could fiscally figure out how to obtain, upgrade and maintain the building, how much use would it really get? These things need to be explored. They are concerns and questions that may never find answers because our time is running out.
Regardless of the outcome, in the time that we have remaining to search for these answers, we want our past… our history, embodied within the Lorane Elementary School… to be treated with respect. Only by understanding and respecting the successes and failures of our past, can we move confidently into the future knowing that we have done everything possible to control our own destiny.