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?)



God’s Country


I have a confession to make.

My name is Amanda and I am a proud Nebraskan.

Tis true! I love where I am from. Kearney, Nebraska is special. It’s located in what the good ol’ boys would call ‘God’s Country.’

I spent my childhood and adolescent years embarrassed of my heritage. South central Nebraska? Might as well have been from Mars, if mars were a backwoods planet where all the people are uncouth and strange. I wanted nothing more than to get out, leave and fly away.

I don’t recall why this is. Nobody was proud to be from Kearney. You said you were from Nebraska with a roll of your eyeballs or a dismissive gesture. Why? Why??

Why are Nebraskans quick to reject their homeland? People from all corners of the country are fiercely proud of where they are from. Don’t believe me? Just ask a Coloradan.

Maybe Nebraska, especially the west of Lincoln portion, is not exactly cosmopolitan. But you know what? I like it that way.

I am from a one high school town that has over six major grocery stores. I have never lived on a farm, but I have driven by enough fields to appreciate a good crop when I see one. I am from a place where you can see the stars just as if you were in a planetarium. The sky is big and expressive. I didn’t deal with traffic or smog. I was never fearful of violent crime or gang members. I was taught to say hello to strangers and wave at the garbage man from your car. I love this place. I love my family. I love my friends and my dog. I love having a huge backyard and listening to cicadas on the back porch. And I absolutely LOVE hearing a train whistle as it passes through town.

I believe bigger places are waiting for me in the world. Notice how I didn’t say ‘bigger and better.’ Can it get better than here? Maybe a tie will be allowed, but my nostalgic self will never let me forget where I am from.


My Winning Smile

Hello all!

As some of you know, the first month of this summer was full of cultural exploration in France.  (See previous 30 posts.) The next two were full of work at the pool.  There are many things I love about the pool: Being tan, my coworkers, being tan, going swimming, and being tan.  While these are all wonderful things, my absolute favorite things occur when I am working the slide at Harmon Pool.  There are two rotations dealing with the slide: the bottom and the top.  That means forty minutes of combined slide time! While it may all sound like giggles and sunscreen, there are a few difficulties to this part of the job, namely getting splashed (bottom) and battling the occasional wasp with a flip-flop (top).  Believe me, braving these perils is worth it!

Perched on top of 4.5 flights of stairs, the station at the top of the slide has amazing views of Kearney.  It is also a prime spot to look for lightning, every lifeguard‘s favorite activity.  (After every bolt of lightning, the pool must be cleared for 20 minutes.) Sometimes it can be pretty slow up there, So I like to practice what I call my “winning smile”.  Who doesn’t utilize a winning smile in their everyday lives? Up in the clouds, among the wasps and the children, I am working to perfect mine.  How exactly do I do this?  I look straight ahead for the all-clear signal.  Then, I whip my head to the right and make eye contact with  the next patron in line.  I crack my winning smile and speak to them in my best customer service voice- “Go ahead!”.  If I feel that phrase is losing its gusto, I sometimes switch it up by saying “You can go!” or “OK!”.  The winning smile is useful on all types of swimmers.  I choose to believe that it comforts scared kids and reassures parents of their child’s ability to safely navigate the 3 foot water at the bottom.  I truly believe my winning smile has reached its zenith.  So next time you see me, go ahead and ask me to demonstrate.  I’ll try not to dazzle you too much.  Chances are, I will strain my neck due to all the flipping!

At the bottom of the slide, swimmers tend to chat with the lifeguard on duty.  Little kids love to do this, especially after a lifeguard catches them.  I have heard many interesting comments, and often have responses for them that until now have remained in my head. Examples: Continue reading