WOSTER: Chamberlain City Hall was town’s heartOld buildings hold memories of city.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
I told you recently that the old City Hall in Chamberlain was demolished, and I talked a little about the terror that building held for a kid whose name was on the program for Miss Willrodt’s piano recital if that kid hadn’t practiced his chosen piece of music.
What I didn’t tell you was how incredibly varied were the uses of the old City Hall.
Sure, the local piano teacher paraded her students there, and doting parents and grandparents hung on every note — true or clunker — while little brothers and sisters squirmed on the unforgiving metal chairs. But the school vocal teacher put his students’ talents on display in the gymnasium-auditorium, too, and the local dance teacher used the stage to give young girls like my kid sister a chance to wear funny little sailor suits and tap shoes in front of a live audience.
I watched a bunch of high school basketball games there, and I practiced there as a junior-high kid right about the time the new armory was being built at the high school, I suppose. I didn’t pay much attention to that. The high school building itself had a small gym in the basement. That’s where we took physical education as grade-school kids, learning the hazards and joys of dodgeball and standing at attention on the center stripe for long, long minutes as group punishment whenever one of our class clowns acted up.
(No, I never did quite understand the educational value of punishing everybody in the class for the misdeeds of a single, unruly fifthgrader, but I never really understood the value of dodgeball in the American educational system, either. Perhaps I just wasn’t cut out to be a P.E. teacher.)
The high-school gym must have been way smaller than the City Hall basketball court.
Even so, it seems to me the floor at the City Hall — polished old hardwood as it was — was smaller than today’s regulation size. It was a great place to practice basketball, kind of a scene out of “Hoosiers,” with out-of-bounds lines right up against the edge of the stage and a narrow, winding set of black metal stairs leading from the side of the stage down to the dressing rooms.
I caused an entire eighth-grade intramural tournament to be postponed for a couple of days once when, thinking I was really funny, I suggested that one of the junior high teachers had made a bad call on a play.
I was on the sidelines waiting for the next game, but the teacher stopped the game he was officiating and said there’d be no more tournament until I apologized. I remember being mortified. I also remember being more than willing to apologize on the spot. The teacher told me an apology wouldn’t be sincere unless I had at least overnight to think about it. I approached him first thing the next morning, but when I started to apologize, I laughed nervously. He said I was insincere. I did better the next day, and I think the tournament resumed. I guess that was another example of punishing the whole group for the misdeeds of a single unruly kid, even if I was the kid.
I should have terrible memories of City Hall, I suppose, except for the city library on the top floor and this:
After a basketball game sometime in February of 1961, the gymnasium at City Hall was the site of a sock hop. We still called them that, even though most kids wore shoes as they danced.
Well, I was at that sock hop, hanging out on the sidelines with some of the basketball team and watching every move made by a brown-eyed girl talking with some of her classmates across the floor. I’d taken an interest in her earlier in the semester but had never worked up the nerve to ask her to dance.
After about an hour, I found the courage. I shuffled across the floor, she agreed to a dance and, what do you know, I gave her a ride home.
Longest walk of my life, but worth every step, and I dearly love the memories of that old City Hall.