The Article Archives
Topic: SETX Social History

For Whom the Bell Tolls: Preservation vs. Progress

September 5, 2009
Debra H. Johnson

font size=4>Someone said; “It is difficult to go forward if you don’t know your past.” That could be true in a lot of instances but seems appropriate when the discussion turns to saving some of Beaumont’s older buildings and homes. The hot button issue of the fate of the 1923 South Park High School building looms in the shadow of a divided Beaumont.

In the early seventies faced with mandated federal orders to integrate, Beaumont witnessed a lot of its older school buildings falling prey to demolition in the name of progress. Some remember the chaotic times as not being able to see the forest for the trees. The forest being the issues surrounding forced busing. The trees symbolic of all the rich cultural heritage once present in neighborhood schools that in future years would be lost.

Each lost school was once a living, breathing connection to a vital and vibrant community with traditions, dreams, and unique personalities. The school serving a particular area of town took on a life of its own and meant so much more than a place to acquire an education. The neighborhood schools in Beaumont were the heartbeat and social hub that represented the spirit and pride of the surrounding area. Once the schools became defunct, in a lot of instances so did the neighborhoods.

Who would know by visiting Central High School that at on time it was once Beaumont High School and the likes of Harry James played in the band there? In rushing towards our future did we forget to commemorate in some way Beaumont High School played a part in the lives of the “Big Bopper,” and Babe Zaharias Didrickson?

Is it possible for progress and preservation to co-exist? Can the future save a place for the past? For whom do the bells toll? They toll for all the schools, neighborhoods, alumnus, homes and buildings affected by the disregard of the legacy, heritage and history of us all.