View from the Carnegie: the longest view
This is the sixth of a multipart series on the Carnegie Library. Note: Lincoln’s Carnegie Library is currently closed, due to budget cuts in the city of Lincoln’s General Fund.
From the top of the Carnegie steps, it’s a short view across Fifth Street to our venerable Veteran’s Memorial Hall, its entrance guarded by Lincoln’s war memorial for those who lost their lives in World War Two.
It’s a short view from the Carnegie but it was a long and final journey for those young men, all of whom surely climbed the Carnegie Library steps in their youth, unaware of the memorial that was to come.
I have seen the names on the plaque listed twice: In bronze on the Veteran’s Memorial, and even more memorably for me, written in chalk on the blackboard in my sixth-grade class.
Mr. Bayless was our sixth-grade teacher. He dressed formally in a brown suit and vest. He had been our former principal and we had been used to seeing him once in a while over our first five years in school. Now he was our teacher, in front of us day after day.
But this was a day, 65 years ago, that I have never forgotten.
On this day, in 1948, Mr. Bayless stood at the blackboard. He was telling us about the young men from Lincoln who had died in World War II. His back was to us. His voice wavered as he spoke but his hand was sure as he wrote each boy’s name, one by one, first and last names, one after another. We had watched the long list with growing dread, waiting to see if the name Bayless was to be included with the others. It was not.
Mr. Bayless dropped his piece of chalk into the trough below the blackboard and turned to us. He straightened himself, strengthened the waver out of his voice and began to tell us about the boys who had been lost, boys who had been his own son’s friends.
There was so much sadness in his voice that there was no trace of happiness that his own son had survived.
At the end of that hour, our class was to be occupied by another class. The teacher of the incoming class was Mrs. Sanstead.
As we filed out of the door with Mr. Bayless following close behind us, my friend, Jacquelyn, and I held back.
It was a testimony to the effectiveness of his emotional lesson: “Mr. Bayless,” we said. “Mrs. Sanstead is coming in with her class. And her son’s name is still written up on the blackboard.”
The fine gentleman was so stricken that he could not respond. His face turned away from us as he stepped back to the blackboard, erasing the name of Elton Sanstead, Mrs. Sanstead’s son. He went on to erase the names of all those boys who had been his students, his son’s friends.
All those boys who still seemed so alive and so familiar to him that day, as he paid his respects, taking the time to tell us about them.
Decade after decade, I have paused at the top of the Carnegie steps, my arms full of books. Looking across at the war memorial from the Carnegie, those names have echoed back to me, year after year, as I remember the day that the honorable Mr. Bayless brought those boys to life.
April at the Twelve Bridges Library:
Free for kids! Mother Goose on the Loose: 10:30 or 11:30 a.m. Thursdays
Storytime: 3:30 p.m. every Wednesday
Friends of the Lincoln Library’s public board of directors meeting is at 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 9.
Friends of the Lincoln Library book sale from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 13.
Events are sponsored by Friends of the Lincoln Library. The Twelve Bridges Library is at 485 Twelve Bridges Drive.
This column is part of a Friends of the Lincoln Library series. To reach the nonprofit Friends, write to Box 1177, Lincoln CA 95648, contact 434-2404, or friendsofthelincolncalibrary.org. Jane Tahti is the Friends of the Lincoln Library secretary.