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Memories of Memorial Hall

Posted: June 11, 2011 8:48 p.m.
Updated: June 13, 2011 5:00 a.m.
Mike Mischner/C-I

Memorial Hall, once part of both the former Camden Middle School and the original site of Camden High School on Laurens Street, was recently demolished to make way for additional parking at Grace Episcopal Church.

When Tony Boykin stepped into the Camden High School’s (CHS) old building on Laurens Street more than 40 years ago, he had no way of knowing how many memories would be created in Memorial Hall.

He probably never thought that he would meet teachers that he would still remember today, including “Bulldog Wilson” -- a teacher Boykin said was about 4-feet-8-inches and carried around a paddle that would “lift your feet off the floor.”

And then there was Rubye Zimmerman, Boykin’s ninth grade algebra teacher, who awarded board credits to her students for answering questions correctly on the blackboard.

“I think I had the least number of board credits in my class,” he said, laughing. “I was always the last person at the chalkboard. She was an excellent teacher, but I didn’t really like that particular method of teaching.”

It was also in Memorial Hall that Boykin said he used to pass notes to his classmate, Martha. They would later marry.

“That building was non-descript and ugly, but it was functional. You couldn’t tear it up,” he said. “I have a lot of memories of Memorial Hall, but it’s not of the building. It’s the teachers and the relationships that I will always remember the most. That place created a lot of great memories.”

Two years ago, after Camden Middle School moved to its current Haile Street location, Memorial Hall was part of a 1.13-acre property sold to Grace Episcopal Church for $85,000.

While the mere mention of Memorial Hall in any CHS alumni’s conversation is enough to spark laughs, jokes and nostalgia about former teachers, students and administrators, former CHS assistant principal Betty Sue Webber said that the building itself never evoked much emotion from her.

It’s the memories and relationships formed in that building, she said, that flooded her mind when she saw that it had been torn down recently.

“It wasn’t sad for me to see the building gone, but there are lots of things and memories that I think about when I think of old Memorial Hall. When I first started teaching in Camden, that building was just one story, so I remember when they decided to build the second floor onto Memorial Hall,” she said. “Of course, nothing ever goes as planned -- some days it would start raining and the rain would seep through to some of the first floor teachers’ classrooms. Some days there was no electricity. That’s probably something that I’ll always remember.”

 Former CHS math teacher Jean Redfearn -- who said that she had a great time teaching in Memorial Hall during more than a decade of her 35-year-long career with the school -- said that she knew that the day that it would be torn down was coming soon.

Even so, she said, she couldn’t help but stop her car when driving past the building recently.

“Even though I knew that it was coming, when I saw it torn down I just had to stop. It was very emotional, because I spent a lot of time in that building,” said Redfearn. “I wish they would offer us a brick, or a doorstop, or whatever. We had a good time in there, there’s a lot of good memories in Memorial Hall.”


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