Teachers’ lounge mural removed, remembered

Behind the closed doors of the teachers lounge once was a mural consisting of nearly 40 teachers, most of them retired. This year, however, select teachers joined together on Aug. 10 to begin painting over the 34-year-old mural.

Teachers included in the mural portrayed characters one would see in the wild west. Part of the western theme included aspects of gambling and alcohol-related content one would not expect to see in a school in this day and age.

“There were teacher lounges where teachers could go in and smoke and have a cigarette. Then, the rules came that now you can’t smoke in the school,” said art teacher Raymond Olais. “Those times have changed. When you’re looking at a teachers’ lounge, it is an adult situation. It’s only for the teachers. That’s why they had that kind of humor involved in that, but it was all just in fun.”

The idea to paint over the mural was not something that came about suddenly. For years, teachers had expressed their desires to cover the western-themed mural, so principal Lisa Moore asked the teachers for their views.

“I got mixed opinions, some in favor and some not in favor,” Moore said. “I think the only word that I have from them to describe it is ‘creepy.’”

Olais oversaw the painting of the mural. Despite sharing a connection with Patrice Olais, his wife and the last teacher to be included on the mural, he favored covering it.

“I think it served its time and it fit the teachers’ lounge, but I think, like all murals, they kind of serve their time. Sometimes they get faded; sometimes they get beat up. This one just served its time by being in a certain time period and that time period is now gone,” Olais said.

Although the ultimate decision was to paint over the mural, teachers suggested ways to preserve it. Kim Stahly, a former student that helped paint the original mural and a Newton photographer, was asked to take pictures. The photos will then be placed on canvases to hang on the repainted wall. While capturing pictures, Stahly reminisced on her high school years.

It is just really cool to come in here and go, ‘I had that person as a teacher’,” said Stahly. “It brings back some of the memories of the things that they did and how great many of them were as teachers.”

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