Their assumption of eternal permanence is striking. They made the schools of solid brick and stone, expecting the populations to remain unchanged for all future generations. No wings could be added or closed off. Most of these schools are completely symmetrical like this one, and many (although not this one) are labeled “Boys” on one side and “Girls” on the other, as if even the ratio and their needs would be forever equal.
A friend my own age at the community center went to a Philadelphia Catholic school (St. Gregory’s) where the boys and girls were kept completely separate—separate entrances, separate classes, and separate teachers. They never even saw each other. His grammar school class recently had a well-attended reunion of both the boys and girls, but, he explained, the two sexes did not know each other or even have the same memories. It was as if they came from different schools. They could only talk about siblings and their shared neighborhoods, not teachers or classroom experiences. They had never even ventured into the other half of the school building. Were all schools once like that?
(My friend is twice-divorced. He blames his marital missteps on this early segregation, tongue-in-cheek, although not so tongue-in-cheek, he talks fondly about his boyhood crush on his teacher, Sister Pierre-Marie, a nun, full habit and all. My crush at that age was for Miss Bender. The old LAHIAN photos prove my good taste. See posting of 12/15/2014. There was nothing nun-like about her.)