Answering an e-mail call that went out earlier this week from the alumni association, hundreds of Cass Tech grads gathered Saturday at 1 p.m. for one last round of pictures in front of the quickly disappearing remains of the old school. We were elsewhere when the picture taking started, but we were told there were 25 or 30 grads representing the ‘50s. The groups grew, progressing through the decades into the ‘60s, ‘70s (including yours truly, class of ’71), ‘80s, ‘90s and into the ‘00s, all this in the street separating the old school from the new one erected in 2004. (We were expecting to see group pics over at the Cass Tech Alumni Association
website, but not yet as we post this.)
Until police arrived and escorted the last Technicians from the rubble side of the security fence, former students rooted for bricks and other souvenirs, some emerging with what were said to be some of the hundreds or thousands of abandoned copies of text books to be found. Texts, knowledgeable-sounding folks said, that were still in use. (“This one sells for $65,” someone said, holding a copy aloft) The books were definitely new and shiny.
Plenty of talk turned to the saga of the building as a metaphor for the city whether cultural or practical.
On the cultural, and admittedly sentimental, tip: There went another piece of the city’s heritage, a structure that had stood, its oldest parts, at least, since 1919, the home of what was for decades the
all-city magnet school with a national reputation and an esteemed cast of alumni, etc., etc. The efforts of some to have the all-city school recognized for its historical import never gained traction, and DPS never seemed much interested. In a city that has an abundance of abandoned buildings and a glut of office space, the demolition end-game might have been a foregone conclusion. “But those buildings weren’t Cass,” one Technician rejoined.
On the practical tip: Those textbooks were just the tip of the iceberg. Some who said they knew claimed that additional thousands of textbooks had been abandoned in now-demolished parts of the building, likewise musical instruments, all manner of items – from clocks to door knobs – that vandals stripped from the building. It was obvious earlier this summer, when the wrecking crews tore into the back of the auditorium, that the seats were still there. Might there have been a market for them? The alums on Saturday seemed to think so.
Of course, that wasn’t the entirety of what we heard walking through the crowd, picking up bits of conversation, engaging in others. What year did you graduate? What was your major? (The two fundamental tribal markers for Cass alums.) What was your homeroom? Did you have this teacher or that? Do your remember
? And despite the sun beating down, once the pictures were taken, we braved it for a good while. Because we did remember. And there were stories to share.