Auctioneer Wayne Mefford glances at one of many books among the items to be auctioned at the former J.J. Kelly High School on May 3. Mefford said he, his wife and his daughter attended J.J. Kelly. Photo by Stephen Igo.
WISE — The halls and classrooms of the former J.J. Kelly High School in Wise are quiet now, but the bustle and buzz common to a school in session should heat up quite a bit come May 3.
Renamed Central High School during the transitional period of consolidation, the students and staff moved wholesale to the new CHS built on the other side of town in January.
While the school division distributed useful items to other schools, there remains an amazing array of surplus furnishings, equipment and a host of other items, small and large, to be auctioned off on May 3 by Wayne Mefford Auctions. The auction will begin at 10 a.m. and "go as long as it takes," Mefford said.
Mefford and his crew is the same bunch that handled the January auction of surplus items at the former Powell Valley High School in Big Stone Gap. Mefford said that auction was a smashing success as buyers flocked to find potential bargains and/or mementos after students and staff, like their Central counterparts, moved into their spanking new Union High School, built directly behind the old and former PVHS.
The old PVHS auction "went great. That was probably one of the best auctions of my career," Mefford said. "It was a tough one in some respects because a lot of people wanted to go through their old school one last time and capture old memories. But it was one of the best, too, because a lot of them were there to take home something if they could. We had 250 to 300 people at that one at any given time."
There was a horde of items at the old PVHS auction, but the collection of items in the old J.J. Kelly surpasses even that one, even with the addition of bus shop stuff that includes four Chevy S-10 pickups.
There are desks galore, from student to teacher size, and many if not most of the latter are of the vintage category. Furnishings and equipment run the schoolhouse gamut, from commercial type kitchen equipment to a nice selection of glass-fronted cabinetry to boom boxes to science lab equipment to globes to books to, well, just about anything and everything one could expect to find in a school.
Including the very last occupant of the old JJK, a member of the CHS staff who was the quiet sort, but dependable.
Mefford said discovery of a human skeleton startled a member of his crew, a big, buff, manly guy who upon opening a metal locker and finding a skeleton hanging around in there — baring that skeletal grin — shrieked to high heavens.
The locker will be up for auction, but not the skeleton, soon to find a new home on the staff at Eastside High School in Coeburn, Mefford said.
Mefford, who grew up in Wise and well understands the attachment of locals to their high schools, said he will share in some of the melancholy at this one. He was particularly proud to show off a space in the girls' locker room where squads of generations of cheerleaders left their mark, and much of their personalized graffiti is quite artistically done, too.
"This one is a little different," he said, because he attended the old J.J. Kelly in the early 1970s. His wife and daughter graduated from J.J. Kelly as well. Mefford recalls walking through the woods to go home from football practice before there was a Lake Street, a town thoroughfare that has long since bordered one end of the old campus.
"This was our family school," he said, and recalled that his own father "carried the brick" when the school was being built in the early 1950s, and that his grandmother's house once stood where the football field resides.
"Now, my grandson will be the first of our family to do his entire four years (of high school) at the new Central," Mefford said. But that's a good thing, too, he said, because the new Central is a beautiful, modern and superbly equipped facility, so his grandson, his grandson's generation and those who follow will have their own memories to build.
"When I started, the baseball field wasn't here," he said of the old J.J. Kelly, then pointed to the stage in the auditorium where a portion of the May 3 auction will be held. Surplus to be auctioned off will be pretty much scattered throughout the building, including the cafeteria.
"I played my first guitar solo on that stage. School talent show," Mefford said. "And years later? My daughter won the talent show on that stage."
Just about anywhere one looks, the remnants of decades worth of scholastic-related stuff are gathered for the auction. A seismograph. A collection of microscopes. Science lab gear and related glassware. A rock collection. Scales. Stools. Clocks. Video cameras.
Just a veritable schoolhouse flea market.
"A lot of the items the school division could still use went to other schools, but this is what's left. True surplus," Mefford said. "An auctioneer's job is to find a repurpose for things, no matter how worn or old it might be. Whether it's for nostalgic reasons or something for general reuse, to repurpose is what auctioneers do."
Bidder registration for the May 3 auction will be in the old administration office, immediately within the main entrance. All other entrances will be secured. For directions to the former J.J. Kelly High School in Wise, or for more information on the auction, Mefford said folks can go online to auction szip.com and enter the Wise zip code (24293) in the appropriate spot, or just Google Wayne Mefford Auctions.
"Anyone who has accessibility needs, just let us know and we will make accommodations for them," he said. "Folks can just call me (276-275-2906) if they want. I'll be happy to give directions or answer any questions."