One of my first Haunt Jaunts blog posts was about Cheeseman Park in Denver, Colorado. Of the 740 plus posts HJ has published, that one now has the most comments.
True, some of them are mine. Replies I’ve made to comments left by others. In most cases, the comments were made by others who also attended the small, private school that used to sit on the park’s edge. Some knew it as the Peter Pan School for Boys and Girls. Some, like myself, knew it as Cheeseman Academy.
The post sparked an impromptu reunion of sorts. Old classmates reconnected. Memories were shared.
For me, the best thing was the pictures. I never thought I’d see the school again. I used to dream about it a lot. Of the park, the front entrance, the gymnasium, and the place in the school I dreaded above all others: Mrs. Mitchell’s office. She was the vice principal and the scariest woman I ever met.
But sometimes the dream would turn from happy recollections of my bygone youth into nightmares of a benevolent force that haunted the attic. In my dreams, as it had been in real life, the third floor was off limits. But in my dreams I’d be chased by unseen phantoms to the lower level, or out of the building entirely.
It’s been years and years since I had any dreams involving Cheeseman Academy. The last dream I remember vividly. It had a final feeling to it. It was also so full of sadness. And the specters that had always tormented me when they’d appeared before seemed to want my help.
Instead of chasing me from the building, they kept pushing me in. Almost herding me to another room us kids spent a lot of time in, the lunchroom. Others were gathered there. Old teachers I hadn’t ever dreamed of before, much less thought about in years. Parents. Other kids.
It perplexed me until one time when I was home for a visit in the 1990s and we were driving near the park.
“Oooh! Can we drive past Cheeseman?” I asked my sister.
Knowing I meant the school not the park she said, “It’s not there anymore. They tore it down.”
“I don’t know exactly. It’s been a while now.”
I was devastated. Heart broken in fact. I felt like I’d just learned a cherished friend had died.
I instantly thought of the last Cheeseman dream I’d had. Had the school and its ghosts been saying goodbye in a way?
Then it really hit me. I’d never get to go back and walk the halls as an adult. I’d never get to see it one last time. I was grief-stricken.
I hoped maybe I was mistaken. Maybe I would dream of the school again someday. At least I’d be able to visit it that way and see it again.
It still hasn’t happened.
However, the alum of Cheeseman have pulled together and created a group on Facebook called, what else? Cheeseman Academy Alumni (formerly Peter Pan School for Girls ad Boys).
In addition to tons of memories, people have even shared something I find most precious of all: pictures of the school. Like this one:
Shelley scanned it from an old brochure she had. It looks slightly different than when I attended. By the time I got there the right side had been added on to. That’s where the gymnasium stood.
On Facebook an alum named Scott shared a pic he took of the school before it was demolished. Even though the trees were unkempt and the lawn overgrown, it was the school I remembered.
Seeing it again has made my heart both happy and sad. Happy because I can see it again. It’s brought back a flood of memories.
But that’s what also makes me sad. That it’s gone and all that remains are our memories.