Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Hughes High: The Art of History

The Muellerburg Art Museum was once the gateway to Hughes High.

When people find out where I am from, they ask me one of three questions:

"Do you own a cheesehead?" No. But I often rent.

"Are you related to The Fonz?" Contrary to popular belief, he was a fictional character.

"What high school did you go to?" Miranda Hughes High, of course. Go Heroes!

This one stops them in their tracks. They wait for me to crack a smile, or possibly leap over a tall building in a single bound. I usually just sip my drink and wait for them to explode with more questions. A few people still believe it. In the interest of journalistic integrity, I will come clean. I went to a Catholic High School near Wautosha. I never ran into anyone of note at Glitterdance, nor did I ever date Savior Flare. I was just a normal kid with the usual problems of a teenager in 1985.

But every kid I knew at my school (and, I suspect, in Muellerburg) wanted to go to Hughes High. Who wouldn't? It meant you were special as well as cool. It meant that you had powers beyond those of mortal man, which is probably one of the things a sixteen-year-old wants more than a car. It meant that you had a chance to become part of a superteam like the All-Stars or Galactic Guardians. It meant that Madonna and Michael Jackson wanted to meet you.

Of course, it was never that easy. As I grew up and started following the cape and mask beat, I realized how hard it must have been for those kids in that shining chrome castle out on Lake Michigan. They must have had their own share of bullies, breakups, and bad school pictures.
Add on top of that things like the VIPER Identity Scandal, the coming of Dred, and the closing of the school meant that these kids weren't just dealing with strange powers, but a lot of other things as well.

These days, the small reminders of Hughes High are barely remembered for what they once were. The man-made island has long since disappeared beneath the sea. The orange Steel Sunburst is often thought of as an eyesore, rather than as a reminder of the tragedy of Graduation Day. And the Muellerburg Art Museum has moved into the shell of Sentinel Station, recently hosting an exhibit by Darla Kinney, once known as a student by the name of Material Girl.

Hughes High has been closed for almost 10 years, but the ideas behind it are very much alive. The Event changed the world five years ago, and there is a generation of young heroes without guidance and without the wisdom of the heroes the disappeared at Ayers Rock. With the help of the Muellerburg Sentinel, I have been in contact with many of the people that made Hughes High what it was, for good or for ill. In the coming weeks, I will speak with these people about that special moment in time when Muellerburg wasn't jokingly referred to as the northern most suburb of Chicago. When people bragged about being from here. When, in my dreams, I was the most popular kid at Hughes High.