Monday, January 27, 2014

The Special Education Center

After seventh grade, the worst year of my life, I bailed on my junior high school in the fall of 1972.  After consulting with school counselors and child shrinks, I landed at a private special-education school, the Special Education Center, located in downtown Albuquerque.  It was run by a Mrs. Reed, who was at least a decade overdue for retirement.  The school wasn't a good fit for me at first.  When I arrived, all of the students there either were mentally retarded or had major behavioral issues; however, as things turned out, I was the first of a number of relatively "normal" boys at the school that year.  (Apparently the school wanted to experiment with having smarter kids who simply were struggling in public schools, but I think it backfired and proved to be the beginning of the school's demise.)  

The facility was an old house (with additions) located on the southwest corner of Elm Street and Silver Avenue, near where I-25 crosses over Central Avenue.  My two teachers were Chris Gallagher, from upstate New York, and Marilyn Henley, whose hometown I don't remember.  The house is no longer there, having been razed after the Greek Orthodox church next door acquired the property, probably later in the 70s.  Although my "tuition" was subsidized by a charitable organization (United Way?), my parents had to pay a monthly fee that they couldn't really afford -- not that I was cognizant of that fact at the time.  (Now I feel shame for having made them bear that expense.)  I don't remember learning much that year, although it was a nice respite from the public-school jungle.

The attached images from Google Earth show several aspects of the school's old locus.  (The church evidently underwent major repairs at some time in the recent past.)  The drawn-in red boxes are the approximate boundaries of the Special Education Center property; the concrete slab once was an outdoor basketball court, in back, on which I shot lots of baskets back in the day.  There was a geodesic dome in the front corner of the lot; we were supposed to finish it and apply foam all over it, but the project never really got off the ground.  (It's long gone now, obviously.)  

The neighborhood south of Central and west of I-25 was an interesting place -- lots of older houses, lots of drug users.  The park across the street, Highland Park, always seemed to be littered with needles, the remnants of joints, etc.  We were given a lot of freedom and often ate lunch at various restaurants on Central.  I had my Honda CL-70 motorcycle at the time and actually rode it to school several times during the year.  I was attending the Special Education Center when I first became smitten with Dorine, in March 1973, while on a youth temple trip to Mesa, Arizona. 

The following school year, 1973-74, I made the transition back into the public schools, attending a different junior high from the one at which I'd done seventh grade (and discovering that the latter school really did have a particularly base class of people).

Street View