September 9, 2004
Miller County-- You occasionally see abandoned school buildings falling down from neglect. Many counties consolidated schools years ago, and the community schools suffered, no longer needed, too expensive to maintain.
Don't put the old Enterprise School near Colquitt in that category.
Besides surviving years of neglect, it thrives, but it won't let one of its students graduate after more than 40 years. Sometimes the door of life doesn't open both ways, as Billy Roland knows all to well. "You never know what the future holds for you," says Billy, a former student as he walks up the steps of the old school.
But he knows what the past held when he attended Enterprise School more than 40 years ago. Young minds frequently gathered in the school's auditorium. "I can remember that real well," remembers Billy.
The days of school plays, spelling bees and sing-alongs, memories never forgotten. "Best memory was recess," says Billy, walking out of a school door to the old playground, where they had their own field of dreams long before the movie was thought of. "Somewhere right in here, we had our ball field," remembers Billy as he stands in a bare spot on the ground.
Billy pitched a sponge ball, and batters tried to hit it with an old broom stick, all the way to the trees. "We thought we were good," says Billy. They were seventh graders.
When not playing baseball, Billy was known to join his classmates under the school building. The entrance hole remains. "We crawled up under the school building and played," says Billy pointing to the door that covers the entrance to the crawl space.
They didn't' t get to play long because the school's principal would find them and make them return to class. The huge old oak tree out front left its mark on many students who would frequently stub their toes on the tree's roots. They didn't have air conditioning, of course, when Billy went to school. So, all they could do was raise a window and hope a breeze would blow through.
Memories about those good ole days at Enterprise School linger. Sometimes Billy recognizes the voice of Mrs. Thelma Davis, the school's principal who died several years ago. "You can hear Mrs. Thelma right on. You could hear her," says Billy. Her voice continues to bounce from wall-to-wall.
Eloise Bowen was a classmate of Billy's who remembered punishment could be a walk. She remembered fellow students having to walk about 50 yards to another group of oak trees. It looked like a long way back then, she remembers, but it really wasn't.
Enterprise School has a way of surviving. It burned one time and was re-built, remodeled twice, survived as a summer youth camp and an apartment building. "It's hard to imagine people living day-to-day in an old school." The old school has hosted two restaurants.
What is it about an old school that won't die, that somehow keeps one of its students close-by? "Can't put a finger on it," says Billy as he sits in the old auditorium. One day the old school's grip on Billy Roland will let go. "We're going to graduate one day," says Billy.
The old Enterprise School continues to live up to its name, converted to a fine restaurant called LAPD, which stands for Leslie and Phillip Daniels who own the old school. Many people will recognize Phillip Daniels' name since he plays in the NFL for the Washington Redskins.
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