Once upon a time Uptown had a high school of its own. In 1908, local high school students first entered the halls of a brand new school. West, located on Hennepin and 28th, housed students in grades ten through twelve. The school thrived, and at one point it was the second largest high school in the Minneapolis system. Its students, clad in their green and white letter jackets and sweaters, swarmed the streets of Uptown. After school let out for the day they'd head to the library, to the soda fountains, to their afternoon jobs, or back to their nearby homes. West was, up until its closing in 1982, an important center of neighborhood life.
Today's local high school students don't have the luxury of a neighborhood high school. They go to Southwest or South or perhaps Blake or Breck or some other private school. And Uptown loses something in the process.
A neighborhood school does more than simply educate its students. It boosts the sense of community. Residents, with or without kids at the school, can attend student theatrical productions, cheer at the homecoming game (or just watch the parade) and help nurture the development of teenagers into fullfledged adult members of society. High schools have some downsides, too - lots of bad drivers floating around, probably an increase in litter and petty vandalism, cigarette butts on the street. But overall they're pretty good places to have around.
It's been more than a quarter of a century since our high school closed. Realistically there's no going back. For those that attended West, it must be a bittersweet experience to walk past the site of the once-grand school and its many years of good (and bad) memories. For those that came of age in Uptown post-1982, it must be difficult to imagine a time when one could walk to school quickly and easily. The next time you walk along Hennepin by 28th Street take some time to reflect on changing times and the ups and downs of neighborhood life.