Dear Editor Finklea:
On May 20, 2014 Dillon Historic School Advocacy (DHSA) met with the Dillon County Board of Education to ask specific questions about this Board’s barring all access to the auditorium of former J.V. Martin Junior High School. Before DHSA left that meeting, Chairman Schafer invited the members to submit any other questions which the Board would answer. [Note: As of June 6, 2014, DHSA has become a foundation, or DHSF.] In response, the members of DHSF would like to express major concerns and ask the Dillon County Board of Education some relevant questions.
On June 6, Chairman Richard Schafer stated in an interview televised on TV Channel 15 that, barring a miracle, the auditorium at former J.V. Martin Junior High School would more than likely be torn down. This expressed prediction to totally demolish this historic site has prompted serious discussions among Dillon citizens.
On July 25, this probable demolition was directly referenced before the Review Board of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History by the school board’s attorney, Bruce Davis, who attended the meeting along with Supt. Ray Rogers, Doug Broome, and Richard Schafer. Even after the Review Board had seen projected photographs of the four buildings of the proposed site and had heard two presentations supporting the nomination of this site for the National Register of Historic Places, Davis twice declared to the fifteen members of the Review Board and all others present that these buildings are “falling down,” that they are “not historic,” and that they are not worth the expense of saving – all statement clearly intended to effectively undermine the efforts of DHSF.
However, the Review Board listened to Davis’s repeated objections, discounted them, and then voted unanimously to accept DHSF’s nomination of the proposed site, thereby facilitating the process for DHSF to gain coveted recognition from the National Register of Historic Places.
It became immediately obvious to the three DHSF members in attendance that Bruce Davis would definitely benefit if he were reminded of three very important things:
1) He is a school attorney; he is not an architectural engineer, historian, or preservationist.
2) Buildings representing any previous era can definitely possess an intrinsic or inherent history of their own, a “soul” in other words. Edifices are erected for very specific reasons. Although in time, a building may have outlived its initial, utilitarian purpose, the history of events that occurred within that building remains intact. If these buildings, for example the former Dillon High School, have become either weakened through time or ravaged by the elements or have suffered from the evident neglect of those entrusted to care for them, then many concerned citizens and former students have declared their right to Respect, Protect, and Preserve them. The buildings that remain of Dillon High School are definitely historic in the hearts of those who called this school their “alma mater” and pledged to honor her forever.
3) Buildings, specifically school buildings, are not designated “historic” based primarily upon the renowned accomplishments of some fortunate individuals who have walked through their doors, moved through their spaces, and achieved varying degrees of success or fame in their lives. Instead, these very same buildings have become genuinely historic for the generations of the other students who also filled the classrooms over the years and were taught by teachers they honored and guided by administrators and coaches they respected.
Standing near the very heart of Dillon, these buildings provide a tangible connection to the town’s past. They will always represent important history for the thousands of graduates who chose to remain in their hometown or return to it – living “everyday lives” while working in the factories, in the local businesses, in the local schools, in professional offices, or on the farms in order to earn their living, build their homes, and raise their families in the community they had grown to know and love.
This being said, the Dillon Historic School Foundation must ask the Dillon County Board of Education, “How could you even consider the possibility of eventually demolishing a vital element of our local history when there is a strong, devoted, and active group of responsible Dillon citizens who have publicly expressed a genuine interest in protecting all four of these buildings and who are now concentrating primarily on saving the fragile auditorium – currently the most seriously threatened one – by restoring it and returning it to the people of Dillon for their use, enjoyment, and pleasure – enhancing the quality of life by promoting cultural experiences for Dillon’s citizens now and in the future?”
A final note: When entering Dillon from Highway 9 West, everyone should note the small sign mounted and standing in the island of flags. That sign reads:
“PRESERVE AMERICA: EXPLORE AND ENJOY OUR HERITAGE”
“Welcome to Dillon: A preserve America Community.”
Does this sign truly reflect our town’s current philosophy of preserving our local history, or is it just some impressively progressive promotional ideal that has become ironically warped and twisted by a few people responsible for shaping Dillon’s future?
Respecting the preservation of Dillon’s cultural heritage,
Gerald M. Berry, Chairman
Dillon Historic School
P.O. Box 173
Dear Editor Finklea: