Cities, like onions and ogres, are made up of layers. Anyone who has torn up the flooring in a century-old house knows this—carpet on linoleum on tile on wood. Roads erode, and another layer of pavement is added. Striped wallpaper is pasted on floral wallpaper and, in the case of lazy home remodelers, both are covered in paint. The same applies to businesses. The Twisted Cow—occupying the building formerly used by Quiznos—still uses the Quiznos lighted “Open” sign in their window; the old has built on the new. Enter a thrift store or an antique shop and think of all the layers of time stacked on one another in that space.
This phenomenon is even more obvious in ancient cities. Thousands of years of fires, silting, destruction, rebuilding (repeat) has put parts of ancient Rome under its current streets. The way to go back in time is to dig straight down. We mark years by tree ring layers and epochs by rock layers. Matter is constantly sinking and stacking, sinking and stacking, and all one must do to see the past is strip off a layer.
Well, one of those layers is about to disappear near Newton. There is an old school house just east of town that has fallen into disrepair and (from what they tell me) will soon be demolished. It has its own layers. It was built in 1919 (one year after the end of World War I and seven years after the Titanic’s little iceberg incident) and after its long useful years as a formative educational facility, it was purchased by a farmer who used it as a hen-house. You can imagine the types of layers left by those feathery occupants. Time added its own layers; rust formed on old metal coat hooks; cement steps eroded and crumbled; bricks fell from their places on the walls and the whole structure began to lean precariously. It has no real use now, and I suppose that’s why they are tearing it down, but it is a layer in the area’s history.
Vernon Klaassen, my brother’s father-in-law (one of the children pictured above) remembers walking to that schoolhouse across the fields—and giving his teacher a hard time when he got there. Some of our great-grandparents attended that school, and it is only fitting and proper that we acknowledge it before it “sinks” into the lower layers of our city’s history. So drive by sometime soon. It can be found at the junction of SE 12th and Hillside.
If you haven’t already picked it up, this post is about layers and made up of layers of thoughts about layers, and if I write layers one more time you’ll probably stop reading because you’re so sick of the word.
R. Eric Tippin
On Victoria Road in Newton