Monday, June 13, 2005

R.I.P. Judson School

Discovering through Google that Judson is no more made it a sad afternoon, as much for another reminder that I'm getting older as anything else. As one alumni noted: "what does it mean when your school closes the year of your 40th reunion?" I'm not a Judson alumni. I boarded at the school from 1967-69 before my family moved completely to California for a few years, and I finished high school at Chadwick. But generally I have fond memories of the place, as much as anyone has fond memories of their freshman and sophomore years at any high school.

Let's see: My roomate, Jamie, and I were strolling past the admin building one afternoon and parted to let a middle-aged (to us, back then. He must have been all of in his mid-30s) long-haired man wearing (please remember the times), a Nehru jacket and love beads pass us.

"Hey," I said after a moment of reflection. "Was that Robert Culp?"

And yes it was. Who turned when he heard me, and smiled and let us catch up with him. He was considering sending his son to Judson and asked us what we thought of the school.

One of my other roommates for a time was Brett Barris, son of George Barris, designer of, among other things, the Munster cars and the original Batmobile. Brett was known as Mouse those days, a nickname he'd probably prefer to forget.

Judson was a semi-dude ranch place, and for the mandatory phys. ed. you could choose horseback riding. I'm Woody Allen-ish about most animals, especially those larger than me, and had no particular love of horsies. However my roomates, and most of my Judson peers, were either from the mid- or Deep West, and it was kinda the thing to do to ride. So, I did for a bit in my freshman year.

That ended the day one of the hands, distracted by something else, pointed me to a horse and told me to saddle up. Unlike the regular mellow nags the cowboys - recognizing my complete lack of horsemanship - usually sent me to this ah, creature, looked big, red, mean, and not particularly happy to see me. But I followed orders, got the stuff on the horse well enough that I felt I had a better of 50 percent chance of making it through the half-hour ride, and mounted up.

Old Big Red stayed quiet enough as we filed out of the corral, crossed the road, and headed into a patch of desert, but quickly realizing that there was no one of concern at his helm, decided to make a dash for freedom as soon as he was able. Unfortunately, I was still on his back when he decided this.

Riding a horse at full gallop is actually more comfortable than riding one trotting. It's a bit like being seated in a fast-moving rocker. After a couple of futile attempts to stop Big Red by pulling at the reins and mumbling, "Whoa!" I gave up, grabbed the pommel with both hands and watched the passing scenery in the hopes that wherever I hit would be soft.

The head hand, however, came charging up - looking exactly like the Marlboro Man to the cigarette caught between his teeth, grabbed the reins and slowed Big Red to a stop. I was surprised to see we were only about a football field away from the rest of the riders.

"Boy," said the cowboy, as he led me back. "What are you doing on this horse?"

"I don't know," I answered quite honestly.

"Well, you shouldn't be," he said. He handed the reins over to another cowboy chaperone, who looked as pained as the head cowboy did, and said, "Take him back to the stables. Slowly."

I changed my phys. ed. class to swimming the next day.

One of the things I loved about Judson was the grapefruit tree growing outside our dorm. I used to pick a grapefruit a morning and have it for breakfast. The first time I ever had sun-brewed ice tea was at Judson, although not at the school itself. There was a hamburger shack in Scottsdale I used to frequent that offered bite-sized - similar to White Castle - burgers for a quarter each. I used to buy 4 and wash them down with the home-made ice tea that was brewing in jugs in the rear. I still have a leather belt that I purchased - and helped make - from a small shop in Scottsdale. And no, it doesn't fit anymore.

Paradise Valley, and Scottsdale itself, were still so rural in the mid-60s that I can remember cowboys riding into the town, and not thinking it an unusual sight. I'd take Peggy to Scottsdale in the late `90s, a disappointing trip for me after 30-odd years. Phoenix reminded me of L.A. and Scottsdale had lost all the charm I remembered. We'd wander up and down a batch of confusing Mockingbird Lanes until finally finding Judson. Like Chadwick, the school that I remembered surrounded by desert was now surrounded by housing. Unlike Chadwick, it was also obvious Judson was on its last legs. It had stopped taking boarding students, and the remaining dorms were decayed, closed buildings.


Judson School

In 1928, Judson School opened with seven boys as students. Judson was the state’s oldest independent college preparatory school. Henry Wick, who had been teaching at Judson School since 1938, purchased the school from George Judson in 1945.

In the late 1940’s, Henry Wick began offering classes in English as a Second Language. This brought students from all around the world representing, at times, 30 different countries. Girls were admitted to Judson School for the first time in 1956.

Henry Wick sold the 55-acre Judson School property to Cachet Homes in the fall of 1999. In the summer of 2000, the campus buildings were demolished to make way for a gated community of 34 luxury homes. A small structure has been built on the property as a memorial to 72 years of Judson School history.


Anonymous said...

Oh, this was a good one...Judson trained you well. And you've still got it, buddy. :-)!

Get-A-Free-House said...
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