April 1, 2019, of course
As set as the plan was, it needed a pinch of spontaneity, so as I gathered two students who had been doing some research on the history of our school, awesome kids who had the background to really appreciate a trip upstairs, I walked out to the film room to see if anyone would be willing to record what we were seeing.
An intrepid young filmmaker was walking up the stairs as I got there, still carrying his camera from a project he was working on in the PAC. He agreed to join our expedition, explained to him as reconnaissance to measure some large wooden beams we would try to salvage for our new building. (There really are some great old beams upstairs and we do hope to be able to make benches out of them and bring them to our new construction in 2021.)
Together we climbed through a hatch in the ceiling of the library, up another wooden ladder, and into the attic. After a dusty, cramped crawl, we found ourselves crouching beneath the wooden roof, looking up to see the nails poking through the wood, squinting into the darkness to find a way to measure the long beams.
Working together, the students stretched out the tape measure and began plotting lengths, and then the call:
There’s a book up here!”
“There’s two of them!”
Tucked between the slanted roof and a smaller support beam was the journal and the copy of Walter Scott. Covered with dust it looked like they’d been there for decades.
They pulled them to the floor and dug into the books, startled when a key slid out of the journal, and then noticed the date on the final entry.
“Oh my god. April 1st, 1952!”
They read through the final entry, Clement leaving a message about his daughter, calling out that it was sixty seven years ago “to the day.”
Adrenaline took over and for the next quarter of an hour they poured over the journal, discussing the story, piecing together who was who, and beginning to think about how the key might fit into what they had found. They leafed through the copy of Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley novels, and took a detective’s eyes to the entire trove.
Crouched in the darkness, reading by the glow of a flashlight, they reminded me of my fondest memories of the Hardy Boys, intrepid sleuths discovering something strange and unaccounted for. Their energy and curiosity were astounding, and I will always cherish the excitement of discovery with which they filled the attic. These young detectives were standing in a part of the school I’ll wager no student had ever visited before, and they had collectively set into motion a treasure hunt for the entire school.