Childhood fortified by castle’s walls, secrets

September 9, 2006 

Jeff Hayes, right, remembers that his sister, Vicki, and he had free rein over Stadium High School on the weekends when their father, Al Hayes, was principal.

Jeff Hayes has explored every nook and cranny of Stadium High School.

The civil defense shelter in the basement. The charring from the 1898 fire in the attic.

He owes every memory of his childhood playground and alma mater to his father, the late Albert D. Hayes.

Al Hayes was principal of the school from 1962 to 1978 and spent many weekends catching up on paperwork in his office.

The young Jeff and his sister, Vicki, were left to amuse themselves in the empty gymnasium, auditorium and classrooms. A fantastic playhouse, even without the addition of a castle’s turrets, crawl spaces and mysterious basements.

“What’s an 8- or 9-year-old kid going to do but run around the halls?” Jeff said.

He’d slide down the banisters, sneak behind the stage and jump on the trampoline. Dad would give him the master keys, and the building’s secrets were his for uncovering.

“I knew every brick of that place,” he said.

The bomb shelter in the basement housed 55-gallon drums of water purification chemicals. In an emergency, the room’s inhabitants would have siphoned water from the nearby girls’ pool to survive.

Names of sneaky students like himself were written in chalk on the attic walls and rafters. Decades of seniors have stapled their identification cards to the walls.

“My name’s up there,” he said, “in many places.”

When it was time to go, his father would flip on the building-wide intercom and say, “OK, let’s go.”

In later years, they spent time together in the wood and metal shops. Al Hayes was first an industrial arts teacher, and taught his son to turn a bowl and weld.

When Jeff was in high school at Stadium, his father had a heart attack. Doctors said it was related to the stress of running the school. He returned anyway.

In 1977, Jeff was the last in his class to walk across the stage and receive his diploma from Principal Hayes.

Al Hayes retired the next year. He lived until 1994.

Jeff knows many of his discoveries will be lost to the renovation. But as long as the building remains, and remains as a castle, he’ll be happy.

“Stadium High School is Al Hayes to me,” he said. “His whole life was that school.”

The News Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service