While emptying out my classroom in our old school building a few years ago, prior to its being leveled, I came across many interesting discoveries. There were the expected pots, pans, decorating tips, utensils, etc. that one would find in a Home Economics class. Some things made the cut and so were packed away safely to be brought over to the new building while others met their ultimate fate and headed to the dumpster.
I laid out tables of freebies for staff to help themselves to: cake molds, hundreds of cookie cutters, mismatched mugs, dishware, quesadilla makers (wasted gadget), old waffle irons (didn’t want to clean them), a deep fryer (I teach nutrition so sadly, that one had to go. Although I’m glad my mom still has her ancient one for making clam cakes….hint, hint, mom 😉 ) and other odds and ends that were from my predecessor.
Before I even began teaching, I had spent the summer before clearing out, disposing of dozens of black utility bags worth of stuff. What was left I thought I’d use and each year hence, I had purged and offered the freebie table.
This was the final push though, an “Everything must go!” sort of purge and so… it all went out in one way or another. The classroom had built in wooden bins that slid out to hold all the sewing components of a classic Home Ec room (something I did not teach) and thankfully, we have some crafty art teachers that scoffed these right up for cool projects. I kept a few myself because I, too, have the dream of making something cool out of them. They are being kept in a safe place waiting to be made pretty (aka the basement 😉 ).
I cleared out the “pantry room” and got rid of the shelves to whomever wanted them. As I shimmied out the final shelving unit and walked back into the pantry (translation “The Closet”), I freaked myself out with my own image. Literally. After catching my breath, and letting my heart rate slow back to normal, I rationally saw that I did not get spooked by anyone or anything other then my own reflection.
Although I’m not a selfie addict, I don’t usually scare myself looking into the mirror (most days) but this day, after my initial fright, I was pleasantly surprised to find a ginormous mirror lurking on the back wall. This was probably used for the sewing portion of Home Ec, since I also came across a very sturdy and extremely heavy wooden low step stool (assuming it was used to measure a hem for altering). The mirror was huge and I couldn’t imagine it being tossed into a dumpster since it was in great condition (some paint and smudges of who-knows-what along the edges not withstanding).
I made a quick call to my department head and told her of my discovery. Could I keep it? “If you can walk out with it, it’s yours” was the answer.
Gleefully, I coerced one of my favorite custodians to wrangle it into his truck and drop it off at my house after school.
Mr. G. was less than thrilled since I had, once again, added to my “someday” projects pile. I leaned the mirror along a wall in the dining room where I wanted it to be framed and hung….and there it sat…for about a year.
We finally got around to it after some research online on how best to frame and hang this beast and so Mr. G rounded up the supplies.
He had a very cute assistant one winter evening and they got to work.
Unfortunately, the original wooden frame was far too thin. How it hung on the wall in that old classroom for all those years is a pure engineering miracle, as it was just basically screwed into the wall and held together by a thin two inch frame.
The good news was that this gave way to the chunky wide frame I wanted to have Mr. G make for it. He nixed my 6″ wide suggestion, saying it would make it even heavier. We compromised on a 4″ board. He made a French cleat for the wall to support the weight and managed to find a stud in the old horse hair and lath wall to attach it to.
Once stained a dark walnut, it looks part farm house, part industrial chic. I was going to hide the screws used by filling in with wood putty and staining it, but once I did the one coat of stain wiped on with a cloth, I sort of liked the rustic element of the visual screws and so, that’s how it has stayed.
During that first night, I kept expecting to hear a loud crash and the shattering of a 50 plus year old gigantic mirror scattering across the wooden floor but I awoke the next morning, tentatively crept down the stairs and was startled once again by my reflection.
And it made me smile again.
It’s been almost a year since, and it’s still hanging on the wall. Huzzah!
It’s certainly a conversation piece and I’m proud that I was able to salvage a piece of history from a building that no longer exists, too. (I’m sure I don’t have to mention how inexpensive this was to frame, too. Similar large mirrors sell for the hundreds at places like Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn and Home Goods, so this was a steal and a half!)
I love our new school building and a lot of architectural details were put into that space, but there’s something about old buildings that just gets me. Every. Time.