I am pretty much certain I have explained in previous posts my idea of “Pieces of my Childhood”. Perhaps a brief reiteration is called for, however.
If you live in the same town you grew up in, and also if you live enough years, you will see the town you live in change, and things of your youth will disappear. Some are as simple as a food or candy.(Anyone seen Kraft Fudgies or Post Fortified Oat Flakes the last 10 years?) Others large buildings and landmarks. (The Biltmore Hotel, Elmwood Swimming Park, Springlake Amusement Park) When one of these disappears forever I generally just say aloud: A piece of my childhood died today. Sometimes if it was especially significant I will call my sister to let her know that something from our childhood is no more. This happened a couple years back with the Redskin Theatre. This was the theatre my sister and I sat in all day watching movies over and over and over. They literally paved paradise and put up a parking lot. It was a sad day.
So recently, in Oklahoma City’s revamp of our downtown area (which I approve of for the most part, we have made significant progress in bringing our downtown area back to life.) a piece of my childhood was torn down.
I had a very wayward youth, from the age of 13 or thereabouts I was on the wrong track for 5 years, a hippy runaway homeless street person. The government called me “In Need of Supervision”. Kind of a catch-all phrase for juvenile delinquent I guess. At 16 it caught up with me and I was sent to Tecumseh Girls Town, a “Maximum Security Reformatory” for girls. I never had a clue why I was sent there, I hadn’t committed any crime, and in truth, even the folks who ran the place were confused on what sent me there. But I was there, so I made the most of it. I had never finished school of course, being a street person, and they said I could go at my own pace, so I finished 8th to the 12th grade in one year. Since school was done, I decided to enroll in some of the other elective classes they had, and chose “Creative Writing” given by a sweet woman named Patti Bivens. (I have looked for her on the interwebbies but not found her, if you do know her, point her my way.) I wrote a lot of poetry and short stories. Patti encouraged me and told me I had a lot of talent for writing. Her encouragement would lead to a lifelong love of writing.
Sometime during the summer of that year there was a Poetry Festival in downtown Oklahoma City, and Ms. Bivens got permission to take two of her pupils to attend. I was chosen as one of them. Off campus trips for girls in reform school was rare and I felt blessed and privileged to be chosen.
It was held at what was called at the time the “Mummer’s Theatre”. A very rare and very unique building (later called “The Stage Center”. ) built in the Exoskeleton Architecture style that had come into vogue in the 70’s, it was either loved or hated, depending on who you spoke to.
I loved it. Each stage on the interior was in one of the various modules. Seating was in the round, so the stage itself was in the center of the audience.
The festival was very open, and people took the stage to read their poetry. I was surprised when Patti escorted me center stage, my little folder of poems I had written under my arm. I read one which was generally about the idea of being classified in various ways by the Government. I lost this poem, but have been aware all of my life that it was published in the pamphlet or brochure/playbill that they handed out that evening. It is a regret that I do not have that brochure, and I have searched for it online at various times.
It was special to me because I got a standing ovation. It is the only standing ovation I have ever received. This was also such an affirmation of my worth as a human being, and also that perhaps I did have some talent in writing. Young wayward kids need that. I did.
Every year of my life if I drove past this building I would be reminded of that moment. And now it is gone. They tore it down 2 years ago. A piece of my childhood died.