It's inside a school that once was. Spring Creek School. Madison County. Far western mountains of North Carolina.
In the days that used to be, this wall framed the center of student flow in and out of classrooms, and echoed all the noises that typically turn an institution into a beloved fixture. I write about the school in the book I co-authored with a man who once walked between the walls as a student in the thirties and forties.
After the school closed towards the end of the last century, it sat dormant, a sleeping beauty waiting for the right prince to come along and resurrect it. Prince Charming turned out to be a committee of concerned citizens who witnessed the decay of this building first hand and worked hard to reclaim it for their community. Let me repeat. Worked hard.
Now the building is alive again, and the inside wall is framed with frames. It echoes happy voices of visitors exclaiming over photographs they had never seen or sharing memories of things they had seen.
The wall is coated with pictures of individuals and old churches and one room schoolhouses, along with a photographic chronology of Spring Creek School itself. To top it all off, there are histories of many families who lived in the local area. The one featured at the beginning of this photograph is the family of Dr. Bernie Reese, the medical part of the book's subtitle. The second frame on the bottom row contains a newspaper article about the book and its recognition from the North Carolina Society of Historians.
The Madison County native that article refers to is that same little boy I mentioned earlier, grown into an eighty plus year old man, (J.B. as most people in Spring Creek remember him) Jasper Reese. I was fortunate to help him capture the story of this section of the world in the book we wrote, Back in the Time. The subtitle (and the wall of the school) tells it all, Medicine, Education and Life in the Isolation of Western North Carolina's Spring Creek. Here he is standing in front of the portraits of his parents and the write-ups of the Reese family's contributions to the community.
As I've walked through odds and ends of old buildings I've often thought, "If these walls could talk, what story would they tell me?" In this place, the walls do silently talk, and they tell a beautiful history of a unique people.
If you ever find yourself on North Carolina Scenic Highway 209 that runs from Lake Junaluska to Hot Springs, stop in at the school. There's a restaurant to grab a bite to eat. There's a tiny library manned by volunteers. There's a gymnasium for exercise or for receptions or reunions. There are small rooms for smaller meetings.
And there's a wall. It's a you've-just-got-to-see-this kind of wall.
Catch of the day,