When we popped into the Lubbock High School administration office I was sure we’d be a tiresome sight – another batch of travellers who wanted to walk in the teenage Buddy Holly’s footsteps. On the contrary, Assistant Prinicipal Woody graciously showed us around, informing us that they get at most “one or two visitors a year.” One of the strangest aspects about visiting this old building is the realization that it’s still a fully functioning school in which Buddy was just another chattering student. This hits you before you even enter the building, when you first walk up to the front door and you read the historical marker which concerns itself only with the school’s construction history (finished in 1931) and its architectural features, such as its “North Italian Romanesque” design and its stately bell tower. References to Buddy: 0.
Reassuringly, Mr. Woody was well-versed enough in Buddyana to show us what we needed to see. First stop was the glass encased tribute in the main hall including photos, records, newspaper clippings, and a dusty letterman’s jacket. Next stop was his homeroom, which has a small plaque next to the door and a Buddy portrait above it, and just a few steps from this was the old choir room. The last stop, where we easily spent the most time, was the school auditorium, complete with the original wooden rock-hard seats and atmosphere to spare. This was not only where Buddy had performed a handful of times in talent shows he never won, but also where countless other historical notables passing through the Texas panhandle, such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart, once stood.
Just a few days earlier I’d read a piece by writer Ron Carlson who had reminisced about his own ancient Junior High gym in the early sixties as having a unique smell – not stench – that was “for the ages.” I knew exactly what he meant as we walked back down the main hall and headed for the exit. Not only does this “for the ages” smell of so many old schools like Lubbock High have to do with years of polish and varnish in a material sense, but also in a more potent spiritual sense, perhaps. And even though I’ll always be in awe of Buddy, I realized as we were leaving that most of this school’s aura had very little to do with celebrity.
posted by Kim Simpson