By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Aside from the jokes about what they used to hide inside of them, school lockers remain a treasured memory for most former students.
“It was the water cooler for high school,” said Kristy Luse, who graduated from Benton Academy in the late 1980s.
Today she serves as principal of Tupelo Middle School, where lockers continue to grace the hallways. But other campuses across Northeast Mississippi are phasing them out.
“I just can’t imagine high school without lockers,” Luse said. “It wasn’t just a place to store your books, it was the hub of social interaction. My best friend and I had lockers near each other, and we’re still best friends today.”
Tupelo resident Kelly Kenney also remains close with her locker buddies. Because her Memphis high school spanned three floors, she formed an alliance with girls on each level to share space and reduce hallway commutes.
“My group spent so much time every summer planning the decorations, and finding the latest gadgets,” Kenney said. “One year my mom got us locker answering machines. This was in the late ’80s, so the technology was brand new.”
Former Tupelo High School student Tony Caldwell once used his locker as a prop to thwart a group of bullies headed his way.
As they approached, he banged his “head into the locker, wrestling style, with my hand between my head and the locker at an angle they couldn’t see while giving a kick to the bottom of the locker for added sound effect,” he said. “And it worked. They all scattered.”
Tupelo resident Scott Burden remembers decorating his locker with a group of friends at Christmas: “We ran an extension cord to an outlet in the hallway. We had Christmas lights, and a sweet boom box plugged in. In between classes, we would blast ‘A Very Special Christmas’ cassette and turn on the lights.”
Karen Kenney had a secret admirer who left her love notes and flowers in her locker at Kosciusko High School. She recalls the mix of flattery and fear that accompanied each stop to exchange books.
“He started off with notes signed ‘secret admirer,’ then he eventually started signing his own name,” Kenney laughed. “Seriously, every time I see a locker, I think of that guy.”