Goodbye to the old Kearney High

Via the Kearney Hub. Kearney High School opened in 1960.

As a student, I heard plenty of rumors about Kearney High School. Years after my school days, some have stuck with me.

“It’s built on an old landfill. That’s why it smells.”

“The building is an exact replica of a school in Texas. That’s why it is so cold all the time…there are too many windows.”

“The parking lot is almost too steep for a human to walk up. We calculated it in physics class.”

“Do you know what’s under the sledding hill? Garbage.”

The landfill rumor wasn’t true, of course, but that didn’t stop the Bearcats from blaming everything unsatisfactory about the building on the garbage that was surely decomposing beneath our feet.

I don’t have strong feelings about my high school experience. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t amazing. I wasn’t sad about graduating; I was ready to move on from the small-town garbage building with walls of windows and wood paneling.

The building seemed to echo my sentiment. It felt tired, used up and dirty. (After all, it was built on a landfill.) The school opened in 1960; by the time I was shuffling textbooks through the hallways, it was almost 50 years old.

No, I wasn’t sad to be done with high school. So why am I torn up that the building is approaching its expiration date?

That’s right; after five decades, the tan brick garbage building is going into retirement. In August, the new KHS will open its doors to nearly 1,400 students.

With an $84 million (and growing) price tag, the new facilities should be fantastic. (Plus, there will be a swimming pool.) It’s going to be great. But it’s not going to be mine.

Over the past year there have been a lot of “lasts” at the current KHS. I’ve seen them, both as a Kearney resident and as someone states away: the last first day of school, the last basketball game in the Old Barn, etc. But in last week’s Kearney Hub there was an article about the last play to be held in the auditorium. This struck me.

I spent much of my high school years in (or wishing I could be in) the dimly lit and always drafty theater/auditorium. I loved that place, the venue for choir concerts, one-act plays, musicals and goofing off with my friends. It was the central feature of my time at KHS, and now (pardon the cliché) the stage has seen its last curtain call.

The new KHS will have a kick-ass theater with a state-of-the-art sound system. But won’t have my name etched on the dressing room wall. The house won’t be full of a sporadic buzzing sound that is attributed to a friendly ghost called “The Who?. There won’t be a backstage spot where I stepped on a rusty nail and had to get a tetanus shot.

The fate of the old KHS isn’t yet determined, but it’s looking like demolition is the most likely outcome. It’s on prime real estate, after all.

What makes me sad, I think, is how it will be gone before I have the chance to get super nostalgic about that garbage building and those so-called golden years. I haven’t even gone to a class reunion yet. Now I’ll only get to share these experiences by pulling into a random parking lot and gesturing over the sloping land: “This is how it once was.”

There is one thing that gives me hope, though —  the rumors.

When I was covering the city beat at the Kearney Hub the new high school came up plenty at city council and planning commission meetings. A recurring and baffling issue to city and school officials was the rumor that the new building is in a flood zone.

Like the landfill idea before it, the flood zone rumor isn’t true. But I’m not going to dispel that. I liked the idea of a garbage building.

For me, the rumors about the building made the school feel like a character in my life, not some run-down place I had to sit in for seven hours a day. And since it was the only public high school in town, everyone had a story about KHS. It was an easy topic of conversation, much like the weather or the Huskers.

To the class of 2066: I hope you enjoy your flood building. Believe the rumors, or make up your own. Just be sure to tell me about them.

P.S. My favorite fact about the old KHS? I had a math teacher tell me once that the visible arches that make up the auditorium and gym are not semi-circles; rather, they are a half of an ellipse. (Who said I didn’t learn anything in geometry?)


Thoughts on permanent eyeliner

André Benedix, via Flikr
André Benedix, via Flikr

Would you get eyeliner tattooed on your face? Or, should I say, would you get a tattoo on your eyelid, made to look like eyeliner?

I’ve been thinking about that question quite a bit in the past few weeks. I’ve had a handful of conversations with women (no men) who have thought about the procedure, and a few less who have gone through with the procedure. (It looks very good, nice and natural.)

It would be nice to have permanent eyeliner. I could wake up, ready to go. I could touch my optical area without smudging dark brown goop all over my eyelid and fingers. I might look refreshed and “put together.” I can see why people elect to have this procedure done. And maybe in the future, I will have eyeliner tattooed on my face.

But I wish I could get other things permanently affixed to my face. (And I don’t mean lip liner or faux eyelash inserts.)

What would life be like if you could wake up, look in the mirror, and see never-smearing, waterproof and 100% unremovable self-confidence? (Some might say that could come with the eyeliner.)

Or what about patience? If you know me, you know I could use some extra patience. Just imagine if every minute of every day I had patience.

What about kindness? Happiness? A calm spirit? Wisdom? What if those qualities were permanently attached, visible to all I would meet when facing the day? I would pay a lot of money to have any (or all) of those qualities always with me, present in my life.

But alas, there are things that money can’t buy and no esthetician can etch into my pores.

What qualities would you like to have a ‘tattoo’ of?  How do you remember to be patient, kind and wise?

6 things I’ve learned in my first 6 months as a reporter

It’s been six months since I’ve started my first “real” job as a digital reporter at my hometown newspaper, the Kearney Hub.

Six months! Where does the time go? I’ve learned a lot in that time–things about myself, the world world and the profession/industry of small-town journalism.

Here are my six biggest takeaways from the journalism side of things.

  1. Every journo has a great story (or seven).
    Whether it’s a story they broke or a funny detail from an interview, a group of reporters has seen it all. I love listening to veteran journalists talk about their careers, from things such as covering the county fair to murder cases.

    It’s also interesting to see who they have interviewed, from lawmakers to celebrities such as Taylor Swift and Ellen DeGeneres. (So far, the most famous person I’ve interviewed is Justin Moore. And the Lincoln kid who got stuck in a claw machine. I met him and his grandfather at the scene of a playground fire in Omaha. The interview didn’t make it in the story, but the kid was pretty cute.)

  2. In addition to reporting, I work on the digital side of things. This ranges from web management to taking videos to implementing the social media plan. Here’s the thing about social media–it’s a lot harder than it seems. I thought my past experiences managing social media campaigns prepared me for this, but I was wrong.

    It takes a lot of time and a lot of creativity/wordsmithing. It takes some of the fun out of social media. My Tweetdeck and Facebook pages are up all day at work, and at the end of the day, I never want to look at Facebook again. But not Twitter–I’m addicted to Twitter.

  3. “Regular” people are very interesting. Oftentimes, they aren’t “regular” at all. I’ve met some phenomenal individuals–selfless athletes, a generous seamstress, a gregarious breast cancer survivor–and written stories about their lives. The process fascinates me. It’s bizarre to sit down with a person you’ve never met and have this emotional experience where they tell you their hopes and dreams and the intimate details of their life. Then, when the interview is over, you will say goodbye and probably never talk again. It’s very strange.
  4. There are a lot of good writers in the world. Look at a newspaper, be it the Hub, the Omaha World-Herald or the New York Times–the pages are filled with superb reporting and writing. But good writers are not necessarily great communicators. This surprised me. I first experienced this as an intern, but figured it was because I wasn’t a full-fledged employee. Actually, it’s like that everywhere, in every field–sometimes communication breaks down. Who knew?
  5. I imagine that being a reporter is like working in sales: it takes a lot of initiative. You have to call people on the phone (something my fellow millennials despise) or, if you are ignored, show up at their place of business. Aren’t there? Maybe you have to leave a note and business card in their mailbox.

    You have to pitch your idea to a source, get them to agree, and then have them tell you all the details of their life. Sometimes, individuals or businesses will turn you down, declining to participate. (That always baffles me.) Some stories are magical. They grab your attention and spill out of your brain so quickly your fingers can’t keep up. Others aren’t so captivating, but still need to be shared.
    (One difference between sales and daily reporting–there is no commission.)

  6. I like making people feel emotions. I get a strange satisfaction when I learn that people were moved by something I wrote. If you aren’t in the news business, chances are a reporter is invisible to you. So when I read internet comments such as “(subject of the story), you made me cry,” I feel like I’ve doubly won–I’ve told the story in an unobtrusive way and I elicited a response from a reader. There’s nothing quite like it.

Bonus thing I’ve learned: Everyone should want to be a reporter. It’s awesome.

Bonus skill I’ve learned: How to type while holding a pen.

Are you a reporter/journalist/work in the media biz? What did you learn in your first six months on the job?

Not in the business? What did you learn when starting out in your job?