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Please Report to Your Homeroom

Please Report to Your Homeroom

When graduates of the McCaskey Campus return to their alma mater after many years, the word “homeroom” is usually mentioned. Either they request to see that particular subset of McCaskey East or J.P. that they reported to every morning when the first bell rang, or, out of the blue, they become excited when they turn down a particular hallway: “I think this was my homeroom!” they suddenly say.

“Nostalgia (noun):

a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time.”

Most everyone derives joy from seeing his or her “old homeroom.” But this joy is almost certainly coupled with a bittersweet “yearning” for the past.

What most alumni never consider is that they still have a homeroom on the McCaskey Campus. I am no longer referring to your “old homeroom” but to your present one—a homeroom that is forever new. Yes, I am telling you that you have a prevailing homeroom where you can be a current participant in the life of McCaskey High School. Best of all, you can report to it however often you like and at any time during school hours without having to stop first at the attendance office. It’s the best-kept secret at McCaskey.

“Attention McCaskey alumni. Please report to your homeroom—Room 265 of the J.P. building, also known as the Alumni Center.”

The Alumni Center (your homeroom) emerged out of a renovation of McCaskey’s original library, just inside the second floor doorways in the tower stairwell. Thanks to generous donors, it was dedicated on October 26, 1998.

When you step inside your homeroom, it is easy to believe that you are now inside the J.P. McCaskey tower, as the ceiling is towering. Three tall columns of sunlight glow through vertical blinds. The room is encircled by group photographs from McCaskey and its predecessors, Lancaster Boys High School and Thaddeus Stevens High School, which the girls attended separately before the 1938 opening of J.P. McCaskey High School and the advent of co-education in Lancaster City. These photographs, dating back to the 1920s, each capture an entire graduating class standing together in front of their high school with a panoramic lens that would—and sometimes does—cause media-savvy millennials to say wow.

You will notice a wooden filing cabinet with many drawers to your left. Possibly a remnant of the old library, it is topped by magazine compartments where lots of reading material about the history of Lancaster and of the high school has been placed for visitors. Open one drawer and you’ll see a collection of red & black tassels from many different graduation years. Open another to find a diverse array of Lancaster and McCaskey High sweater patches (left over from the days of sweater patches). In yet another, you’ll find programs and playbills from student theatrical productions spanning nearly 80 years. You’ll have to report to your homeroom to find out what’s in the other drawers.

As you continue past the cabinet, you will come to McCaskey High School’s Vidette archive, where you can see virtually any issue of the student newspaper beginning with its first printing. Below that, you can peruse our collection of the Burning Glass. We even have copies of Generation, the student literary journal that preceded it. And as you continue on to your right, you will see an entire wall of yearbooks, dating back to the 19th century. This is a part of our homeroom that has proven a favorite spot to invade by current students who take great delight in seeing their parents in that most awkward of contexts: the senior photo.

The shelves above the yearbooks are filled with memorabilia. There are autographed pictures of Olympic Gold-medalist Barney Ewell and DVD copies of films by Oscar-winner Franklin Schaffner (Ewell and Schaffner graduated together in the Class of 1938) juxtaposed with all sorts of fun trinkets tailored for specific class events: commemorative footballs, goblets, and candles that look like flute glasses, given out at the senior prom.

Continuing on is a video and film archive, chronicling everything from graduation ceremonies to sporting events. Below it are piles of summer supplements (paperback additions to the Echo) and old football programs. Situated nearby is an old card catalogue containing individual files for every McCaskey class. That’s right: you can stop into the Alumni Center and have us show you your own class file. It’s a bit like an FBI file, I suppose—but more fun.

You will then find yourself standing over a small bookshelf holding binders that catalogue much of the theatre and music department history. Next to this shelf is a round table where numerous books written by McCaskey graduates are displayed—Books like Midnight in Siberia by NPR’s David Greene ’94 and The Check is Not in the Mail by marketing guru Leonard Sklar ’52. In the next corner of the room is a kind of McCaskey vintage clothing station, featuring a rack of t-shirts and other apparel from bygone eras. Along a nearby wall, numerous individuals who served as McCaskey’s principal over the years are pictured.

Obviously, like your “old homeroom,” your ever-new homeroom called the Alumni Center will invoke nostalgia, a “yearning” for the past. But it will also invite you into the present through active membership. Membership to the Alumni Association costs only $25 per year, a modest amount when we each consider how much our McCaskey Pride is worth, and it helps to enrich the McCaskey experience for current students through a variety of scholarships and programs that you can research on our website:

Reporting to this homeroom is optional. Alumni (meaning “foster children” in Latin) are free to leave behind their alma mater (meaning “nurturing mother”). But McCaskey students for 80 years have sung, “Hail to thee our alma mater! Help us now to prove our worth.” The McCaskey Alumni Association takes pride in answering this call that has echoed for the better part of a century. We ask each of you to join us. Please—Report to your homeroom.