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The Base



May 2012

a selection from Berry Tales


I walked around in the empty, timeworn but treasured Special Education Building at the “base” earlier this week. The silence and the barrenness slowly turned it into a space full of mysteries and untold stories embedded in the past, deep in the past where memory becomes pale and longing to know becomes persistent. I walked through hollow hallways and rooms that dated themselves with cinder blocks and paneling, I even discovered several small rooms, offices that were across the way from the board room, that I never realized were there. I walked through the halls near the cleared front offices and although the names over the doors were current names, names of people that I work with now, I could easily remember other names, like Bob Smith, George Crowson, Jeanette Ackal, and George Fuller.  I imagined how the rhythm, the energy was different then, before computers and smart phones, before 9/11 and after the Cold War.  The wisp of shuffling pages, the click click sound of high heels down hallways, and the swift but tidy writing of memos before answering machines were hooked up and emails were sent. I remembered men in suits passing in the hallways holding coffee cups and saying, ‘good morning’ and in the board room there was smoke and tension in the air during tumultuous times and easy conversations and solidarity during healthier times.

 

A kaleidoscope of memories continued as I rambled through the old building; Jeanette Ackal walking up and down the aisle in the conference room during special education meetings “directing” us with earnestness as she pioneered much of this program; George Crowson sitting behind a wooden desk, approachable and genuinely nice, interviewing me for my first job; the distinguishable presence of Bob Smith walking down the hallway stopping to say hello and then; a decade later, the soft voice and authentic mission of Bernadette Derouen heading our department. These people and those years transcend time and mix together for me and as most recollections are, they are smudged but soothing. 

It is a myriad of memories sweeping across this keyboard, confusion really, because I struggle to put things in chronological order. I called Steven Stansbury and Ronnie Judice to help me sort through the timeline of it all and I have it somewhat straight in my head; it was the mid-70s and beyond that I write about. Ronnie reminded me of Mr. Claude Duhon and Steven spoke at length about the origins of the school board office and how the building was used during the 50s as a naval base when New Iberia swelled by 1000 or so servicemen and clubs like the Oriental and Leo’s Rendezvous hosted Tina Turner and Fats Domino as we responded to the omnipresent threat of the Cold War. So many memories are laced between the now empty walls where decades of dealings transpired, careers unfolded, tough decisions were made, and the world changed, a lot.

 

We are here now, on Lemaire Street, far from the old air base, but still, with a link to those days. Mrs. Flavia Eldridge is our director, and she competently continues the dedicated work started long ago at the “base”.  In many ways, she is also our secure bridge that connects the past to the future as she and we enter a new era of sorts, one with more technology, more students, more research, more issues, and seemingly more challenges. Instead of the click click of high heels and the buzzing of extensions, we hear the tapping of keyboards, the echo of voices and the silence of yesterday as we close those enduring doors on School Board Drive and welcome the future at a new “base” on Lemaire.


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