Regarding the newly renovated Minneapolis Southwest High School, unfortunately one can find little good to say.
Aesthetically, it appears an architectural abomination ― the ill-thought-out, incoherent gutting of a 76-year-old neighborhood landmark. For example, what was once the school’s front is now its back (is this even possible?), and the building’s original entrance was extensively excavated and hammered out, replaced instead by tiny grass swatches amidst a small-square, cemetery-like layout.
Down the hall from Oscar Dahle’s old choir room (still intact, thankfully) now stands a strangely guitar-themed music rehearsal room (hey! ― Walt Williams’ old room) featuring two-dozen or so garishly lacquered acoustic guitars tethered tenderly to its walls. (Len’s Guitar City, it’s not.)
The school also appears to have morphed into a pseudo-performing arts high school of sorts. Hail the High School Musical! Hooray for the Spotlighters! Full-bore Broadway musicals performed here nearly year-round to great aplomb, yet the school band today can barely toot out the school rouser.
Southwest High School, with its newly designed “linked” thruways, now possesses all the whistle-and-bell ambience and preordained atmosphere of a cheap community college campus. Forget about subsidized lunches. This nationally recognized high school is now commercially its own brand, its ubiquitous Anchor apparel selling at $20 to $60 a pop, its Anchor-branded lanyard a mere $4 more. (Chip in, won’t you?)
Most despicably, though, whatever Southwest High School history there is or was (of course, does anyone really care?) has been ignominiously stripped away. The 1940 student-designed Southwest seal (or “Indian” insignia — forgive us!), a heritable imprimatur that was the gift and legacy of the Class of 1970 following its state high school hockey championship, was unconscionably destroyed. No guilty mentions made, no apologies ever offered.
Added to this endless list of heretical debasements, the school seemingly remains completely devoid of its previous plethora of 20th-century plaques, trophies and other ephemera — there being no explanation, as yet, to their possible current whereabouts. (Packed away in scratchily designated cardboard boxes, let’s hope.)
The new-and-improved Minneapolis Southwest High School, 2016. Unquestionably a high-achieving high school — and, for all its 76 years, peerless in Minneapolis. None of this is debatable. But an unreflective cultural confluence of self-administered entitlements? Undoubtedly just as much so.
At least, perhaps, until its next tawdry renovation.
G.L. LaLonde, Southwest High School Class of 1967