The Last Days Of Lincoln School-
Through The Eyes Of A Boy, That Made Him A Man.
by: Stuart Barlow © November 21,2006
A introspective look at a doomed school.
I was there the day they took down Lincoln Elementary School. It was
an cold damp overcast day in Malden Massachusetts. The sound of
heavy equipment filled the air. As the wrecking ball demolished the
building I could hear the whispers of the past echoing as each brick
It was the end of an era, the day the school was torn down. Yet no one
was there, no one to protest, or no one cry for him. The school was
dead, poisoned by years of neglect and red tape. The last years of it
life had no tenants, no children in his halls. He was and empty shell fit
for rats, bats, and refuse. He died in with out dignity and his name
sake stood till the last blow.
It was time for progress, time for a change. Yet, as I stood there,
watch the swinging of the wrecking ball, I felt pain in my heart for the
loss of all the memories. Here was a part of my history, a part of my
identity being demolished. Who would tell his story, who would keep
his memories alive. This school, Lincoln School it was my heritage, my
connection, it was what he did to changes me, to survive me.
It was at Lincoln I became a man, and had started my own path. It was
because of Lincoln and some very caring teachers that help me on that
path, but it was my faith that I developed while attending Lincoln that
kept me on my path.
Yet here I stand, just watching, saying good bye not to the building but
experiences lost, all the untold stories all the laughter and all the
sorrow. As I watch the bulldozer take down the last identifying mark of
the school I know it was over, time to go. Time to say good bye.
-How I got to Lincoln
I spent most of my young life in the halls at Lincoln. I believe it was
mostly because of Proposition 2˝ passed in 1980 and that became law
in 1982 ( # Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 59, § 21C ) that closed down my old
school. I seem to remember it being a big deal and all the teaches
complaining about it. Hey, I was young and the only think I remember
was the mass walk out all the teaches and students did on election
day. It must have cause a strain on the failing economy because after
that law Charles A Daniels School close down. I attended for only two
It is funny Daniels School was a Registered Historic Places in
Middlesex County Massachusetts added February 6, 1987. The only
problem was it was already a condo by then and just the shell of the
school was left.
This would double our class size, and effetely dissolved the small
classrooms where a teach could teach and just babysit.
That next fall I started my schooling at Lincoln it was 1982, I was in
the 4th grade. Under the Mr. Robert E. Lenehan era. I remember My
first day, walking in the front doors next to the office. There where
four sets of double doors that led in the first hall then another set of
french doors before you hit the main hallway. On the right was the
office you could see right inside just a wall of glass windows
separating you. It have a bit of an atmosphere like a hospital or just a
very sterile feeling too it. The office was wide open with Mr. Lenehan
office off to the left wall with a large light stained wooden door. Little
did I know then that I would be in that office often.
The lady behind the desk was old and here grey hair had a touch of
purple to it. I sat there waiting, not understanding why it took so long,
I mean I was not late and my parent already registered me, other kids
I knew came and when with out waiting. Then a teacher came in and
call my name she told me to follow her as we walked I passed class
room after class room then we when up the steps and came to an open
class room with just a hand full of kids. “Not again, not back in the
retard class” I thought to my self.
I was in the special class, one set up for kids with learning problems,
we where the bottom of the barrel of the school. It was mixed with
kids like me that had real leaning disabilities and many kids with
behavioral issues. Now a days they probably be classified as ADHA
(Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
“is characterized by a poor attention span which tends to cause the
sufferer to ignore details, make careless mistakes, have difficulty
following instructions, listening, finishing tasks and they may appear
to be forgetful, distracted and disorganized. The other area is
hyperactivity or impulsivity causing a person to be fidgety, have
difficulty sitting still, talk excessively, interrupt others, have a
tendency to be in constant motion and display a general sense of
physical restlessness. While most of us exhibit some of these
symptoms occasionally, a person with ADHD probably displays them
more consistently and has done so since early childhood.”
If that description does not described our class then nothing would. I
was diagnosed with Dyslexia from The Boston Childrens Hospital.
Dyslexia is a “disorder involving difficulty in learning to read or
interpret words, letters, and other symbols.” so says the Oxford
So I fix right in the group of misfits.
Our class was made up of some real charterers like John Bernbaum,
was dumb as a wipe but funnier than a bull. We would be friends off on
on over the years and would fight all the time. To this day I cant
remember it I liked him or hated him but his sister was a fox, well at
least, for a few years. Robert Reno who love to build model cars, truck
planes and what ever. John and I once played crach up derby with two
of his cars he bright in to show off. I guess he didn’t use the right glue
because when we smashed them into each other over and over again
all the part would just snap off. By the end of the day he had just one
pile of broken plastic. But Robert was more like me then I wanted to
admit... You see he was a “Project Rat” just like me.
Curse of the Project Rat
I was part of a group called the many called the “project rats”. We
where no gang or thugs but rather the low income families from the
Newland Street project development. Established in 1952 the Newland
Street Development had 250 units ranging from one to four bedrooms.
It was consider the rough part of town in it’s day. A title many of the
kids where proud of and even fought for the right to be the worst
project in Malden. I guess it was the being bad made it a good thing.
Even though there was only one other real project development in
Malden, that being Linden Street Projects. Our place had to be the
worst to be the best. You see that was and is the Project Rat mentality.
As for projects go we had it good, the neighborhood townhouse style
homes, housed four families each and all looked the same, even after
they updated them in the 80's. The covered up the rotting wood and
lead paint with brown or grey plywood siding. As for the community it
was very divers. Black, white, yellow it did not matter, we where all
there. The color of our skin was not what separated us as project rats,
rather up but size of our bank account that did.
Now that Danials school was closed now all the students from the
project would now have to attend Lincoln School . The school did not
know what coming into, each day after school fights broke out, the
teenagers from Newland street projects formed then own gang. Via the
movie “the west side story”, Called The Jets! Headed up by the self
proclaimed toughest guy in our hood, Chris. Now that I think about it, it
is kind of funny that a tough guy would be modeling his gang after a
musical. Later they tried the name The Warriors after the 1979 movie,
but I think the damage was already done.
I would never join his gang, if you even want to call it that, remember
this was the 80's, local kids did not have access to guns, not like
today, we used broom stick and bats and a knife or two in our rumbles
and it was mostly all name calling and no action.
Even thought I was not in Chris’s gang, I was use to get his weapons of
choice... broom stick poles. I would steal them for him from the back
porches of the peoples homes, but that only lasted a few weeks. I was
young and so was he but our path would be interchange over the
I bright up Chris because in Lincoln it was to him many of us look to
for help. As a project rat, we where the out casts at the school and all
the local tough kids set out to make our new school days a living hell.
Chris help make you think twice before you picked a fight with you. I
still remember this one fight, it was the type of fight that kids would
talk about for years. Richard Dicks, Chris right hand man was squaring
off against this kid. Richard was getting hammered, this kid was a
boxer and took martial art. He was confident in his abilities and Rich
was no match for him. Chris called him in a huddle, when rich turned
around he had this smirk on his face. The smirk all us project rats
would have on our face one time or an other... Something was up, did
Chris give him a knife or brass knuckles? Rich, squared off again, put
his fist up and then stepped back, the other kid took this as a sign he
was scared and charger forward. He took two steps forward then Chris
came out of now where and sucker punched him. He continued to
punch him over and over again in the face while the kid was just
standing there... The first punch knocked him out but Chris did not
stop, it was to make a point, if you me with one project Rat you mess
with us all. That was the end for this bully, he left the project rats
alone we ran amuck of the school.
Even at a young age I was learning the power that even fear of action
can have on people... I would use this to my advantage as time when
on... And it would come back to hunt me. You see even among the rats
there are always some one looking to take you down. I never fit
there... I was the outcast among outcasts. In time this would be made
very clear to me... Lincoln school would play his part in what would
save me from the easy path...
******* The rest will be posted as I go