As North goes south

A lesson learned from what’s about to be history


North Intermediate School. Photo by WSGW

Within a few weeks, crews will begin demolishing Saginaw’s North Intermediate School. It was opened, along with its sister school, South Intermediate, in 1922.

I’ll not rant (here, much) about the almost criminal tragedy this demolition represents. The school was closed in 2008 after serving several years as the site of the Handley PCAT program after the original Handley building was razed to build the new $23-million Thompson Middle School, part of $70 million in facilities upgrades (much of that on facilities now closed).  This was largely because, of course, “Oversaw $70 million in facilities upgrades, including the construction of a new $23-million facility” looked a lot better on the former superintendent’s resume than “Oversaw major improvements in students’ AYP.” Or it was at least more achievable.

Either way, that plane has started its takeoff roll. People in Saginaw lose one more of the touchstones that make the city “home” to them. In this case, I’m one of them. The loss of the school has really made me think about what the memories of North represent to me.

For the most part, my memories of the place are not particularly pleasant ones. I spent a lot of time there afraid – largely because as a smallish, glasses-wearing nerd of the late ’60s, I was a ripe target for bullies. That’s another post.

What North School did most for me, though, was one of the most important, life-altering lessons I learned – in Don Schiesswohl’s seventh-grade civics class.

This was in the fall of 1968, and our class had its own presidential campaign to mirror the ’68 race. In preparation for this campaign, Mr. Schiesswohl had us read up on the candidate’s positions. Then he chose the students to represent each of the candidates. I believe he picked Jim Foulds to be Richard Nixon and Bob Morrison to be Hubert Humphrey.

And he picked me to be George Wallace.

Even in seventh grade, I knew I didn’t – couldn’t – like what the man stood for. And I said to Mr. Schiesswohl: “I don’t agree with anything he believes. I hate him.”

Of course, he already knew this. And he said: “You don’t understand an issue until you can argue both sides of it equally well. You’re going to argue Wallace’s side.”

As I remember, Humphrey actually won in our classroom, and I finished a distant last. But I’ve learned – and had it reinforced countless times – that you don’t belong in the debate if you don’t fully understand the opponent’s position.

I am extremely sad and angry that Saginaw will be losing this beautiful landmark neoclassical brick and stone building. But whether it should or it should not come down, I can argue both sides. And that’s the part of that building I’ll carry with me forever.


21 thoughts on “As North goes south

  1. I have many fond and not-so-fond memories of North, too.
    A few years later of course… Glad to see the new blog. I’ve been thinking I should dust off one of mine.

  2. why would convent buy this an said there gonna redo it an not tare it down I Know i wouldnt do after pay this 11/12/2013 $325,000.00 OTH SCHOOL DISTRICT CITY OF SAGINAW COVENANT MEDICAL CENTER INC 2753:396 2 PRCLS SALE; SCAN IN 14-0089

  3. I went to North in the late 80’s. I had Mr Schiesswohl as an science teacher. For me, North will always hold many great memories.Although my stay at North was brief, the teachers I and thought were out to get me were in fact only looking out for me. I later returned to the district as a computer field tech and managed to talk to a lot of the teachers that taught me. And to my surprise, not one of them forgot who I was. Although I will say, most of them NEVER expected me to work at the schools.

  4. I am so sad to read that Saginaw will be destroying yet another monumental building! I remember when they tore the beautiful Court House down….what a shame!! “Where there is no vision the people will perish!”

  5. I spent 3 years at North School completing the 7th. 8th and 9th grade at North School. I had a open period in the 9th grade. They gave me the spot of sitting in the office and run any errands for the principle and secretaries. I got to work for Principle Ruffin which was to me very cool. Principle Ruffin was very cool with me. Met a lot of cool classmates at North School in the three years there. North School when we drive by. it pops up lots of memories.Going to be sad seeing it go. John Gardyszewski.

  6. 4 generations of my family went to North. My Grandmother attended the year it opened, then my Mother, myself and my children. Nice memories. Times change.

  7. I was there in the 80’s. So many mentors went there and guided us. North was the center of life for us. It was fun and vibrant then…much like Saginaw itself. Much like Saginaw now, it is being torn down. I helped paint a mural in the gym there, ran sprints down the hallway for track, practiced throwing footballs at lunch, remember being a part of the Junior National Honor Society, having “thriller” and “eye of the tiger” blaring out at some of the assemblies. Even more so than Arthur Hill, North was something that was just so much a part of our lives. There was even a bakery across the street we’d sneak off to when we could. Football practice and games at the park. People like Mr. Garcia and Mr. Schiesswohl (I cut his mothers grass too), I remember my church playing volleyball and basketball games there. Just so much of the community. I used to have some visions or dreams of taking over the school and having it as my home. Anyone know what will become of it other than just demolished? Such a shame.

  8. Another piece of our childhood gone. As a student who attended North from kindergarten through the middle school I’ve watched the building sit unused for all these years. My neighborhood disappears house by house. They can’t take our memories or our friendships made during those years. You will be missed.

  9. I went to north had a lot of good memories as well as bad ones
    Too,I’ll never forget Mrs Litel Music course werevi played a corenet I remember several. Concerts were our band had standing ovations its to bad this area depleted so that they closed this jr high I will never forget the many memories of times spent at north

  10. Having served just one year there as Assistant Principal (Tom Sharpe was Principal and were to be forever “confused” in the minds of students and parents because of the similarity in our names), I can agree that the loss of that school is sad and disheartening. It is, ruefully, one small reflection in what has become a mirror full of losses in Saginaw over the past 20 years.

    Where we could once “thank” General Motors for keeping us afloat, we now see their pull-outs as being an immovable anchor on our boat. We are not alone (Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids), but that makes us no less lonely.

    While some hope is on the horizon, Saginaw will be changed forever by the losses of institutions like North Intermediate, Daniels’ Middle (Central Junior High), and so many of our once bustling elementary schools.

    Great post, Mr. Mayor “emeritus”.


    Dr. Bill Scharffe

  11. So incredibly sad. Another empty lot in my neighborhood. My mom went here, as did I. I really want to pick up a few loads of bricks for landscaping my home.

    So many memories of mine have been tore down. Right up to the cottage bakery across the street where we would get hot cocoa and peanut butter cookies before school every morning in the winter. *sigh*

  12. Remembering hateing the green gym clothes we had to wear, while running to Bliss Park..Still it is sad to see it be tore down.

  13. Tom Trombley has don an excellent job with the display of the Lincoln statue and with “recapturing” the old trophy case.

    Looks really nice.

    Sent from my iPad Dr. Bill Scharffe Saginaw SeniorTech sm 989-284-8338


  14. Tom Trombley has done an excellent job with the display of the Lincoln statue and with “recapturing” the old trophy case.

    Looks really nice.

    Sent from my iPad Dr. Bill Scharffe Saginaw SeniorTech sm 989-284-8338


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