One of the nice things about living on the west side of Henry County is that it is very close to the Spencer Penn Center. The Spencer Penn Center was an area school until sometime around 2004 when it was slated to be closed and was instead converted into a community center by local residents and alumni.
It really is a beautiful place with a baseball field out back, a paved walking trail, a “wild” walking trail, pretty gardens, lots of arts and exercise classes and a library.
There’s even a little free library out back by the playground and the baseball bleachers.
The walking path runs around the Mary Jordan Ball Field and is a good, level path. This is a safe area where anyone can walk without fear and the quiet country surroundings mean that you are more likely to hear birdsong than cars.
I’ve already blogged about the Charles & Rose Hylton Library there, though I didn’t mention that it has a active reading program for kids.
And something else that rarely gets mentioned is their collection of beautiful murals. Per Mary Jordan, Director of Spencer Penn, the murals are the work of Mt. Airy muralist Roger Carroll. The longest stretch of murals is a chronological storyboard that begins shortly before the office and ends at the end of the hallway just outside the auditorium.
Light conditions in the hallway are not optimal for photography, so I’ve brightened these photos considerably.
If there is a trick to getting better photos in a hallway with light constraints, I’m all ears. I wouldn’t mind taking these photos over and over until I do them some justice.
I don’t remember what was on the walls of the schools that I attended. I grew up in Texas and I’m fairly certain that we just had single color brandings of our football team’s logo.
The history does end at the Civil War but, in fairness to Spencer Penn, the wall space ends there too. I love the idea of the murals and I wonder what pieces of our history would have been selected if there had been room for more. The Spanish American War, maybe. Henry Ford, almost undoubtedly. The moon landing. Would they have nodded to the tobacco industry? The textile or furniture industry? Which wars … WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf Storm, Iraq? Which people? Martin Luther King, Jr. is an easy choice. What about Jonas Salk? The Suffragettes? Hemingway and the Lost Generation? It’s fascinating to me to think about. What and who contributes to the definition of “American” after 1864?
But there is one mural at Spencer Penn that is my absolute favorite. The mural below of Spencer Penn “back in the day” is in what they call Alumni Hall. Mary tells me that this is from a photo in the 1940 school annual. The school kids and cars were possibly added. There is a lot of love in this painting and you can feel it. This is a big mural – maybe, say, eight feet tall or more.
Spencer Penn is a vital community center and I hope that you give it a visit, even if it is just to their website. There is always a membership drive on and they can always use funds.
For more information, please see the following links:
- The Spencer Penn website
- Mural Maker Follows Calling – Lincoln-Times News (3/16/2007)
- Artist Puts Spirit of School Into Paintings – Argus Press (3/29/1998)