In the spring of 1974, I attended Ivywild Elementary School in Colorado Springs. My time there was very brief — maybe two weeks at the most — but the building captured my imagination.
Ivywild was built in 1912. Being there was like stepping back in time. Despite its age, it was in pristine condition. The tile floors were so shiny and my classroom was full of massive chalkboards and humongous windows. We learned by natural light. I loved to climb the stairs and enter the big center doors. Even at the age of 6, I had an early appetite for everything Old World.
I’d come from Southern California where I attended a school dripping with Modernism. Julius Shulman would have loved it, but I did not. I associated it with an adult world and a parade of characters that frightened me. Some of them were crazy, most of them were worldly. It seemed people all around me were divorcing. My best friend’s mother had lots of boyfriends. There were hippies and low-riders. Teenagers walking up and down our street smoking cigarettes. Talk of razors in apples and poisoned candy on Halloween.
None of these things appeared in my favorite show, The Little Rascals. I wanted my life to be like that! Darla and Alfalfa. Birthday Cake Surprise. Buckwheat and Petey. I loved the Arbor Day episode and the 1936 Follies.
My Generation X childhood bore little resemblance to Our Gang. Here is how we’re described by Neil Howe and the late William Strauss in their generational theory, which features four archetypes. Gen-Xers are “nomads.”
Nomad generations are born during a spiritual awakening, a time of social ideals and spiritual agendas when youth-fired attacks break out against the established institutional order. Nomads grow up as underprotected children during this awakening, come of age as alienated young adults in a post-awakening world, mellow into pragmatic midlife leaders during a historical crisis, and age into tough post-crisis elders. By virtue of this location in history, such generations tend to be remembered for their rising-adult years of hell-raising and for their midlife years of hands-on, get-it-done leadership. Their principle endowments are often in the domain of liberty, survival, and honor. Their best-known historical leaders include Nathaniel Bacon, William Stoughton, George Washington, John Adams, Ulysses Grant, Grover Cleveland, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower. These have been cunning, hard-to-fool realists—taciturn warriors who prefer to meet problems and adversaries one-on-one.
The first generations to attend Ivywild was the G.I. Generation, sometimes, called the Greatest Generation. The next was the Silent Generation to which my father — and Our Gang — belonged. My father loved that school. During my brief time there I felt like I was on the set of The Little Rascals. I loved it so much and was sad when I had to leave and return to a modern-looking school and the usual parade of unsavory suspects. There was never another school like Ivywild in all my childhood of going to more than a dozen different schools. Ivywild was special and I’m grateful for my brief experience there. It shaped my dreams and I’m certain it led me to the historic prairie bungalow I’ve called home for the last 11 years.
In 2009, Ivywild was decommissioned. Some wonderful people preserved it and today it’s a trendy marketplace and brewery.