Former fire chief restores mason work he  performed at his old high school 50 years later

LCHS students hear from Lyndon Blaxton, who built and restored the 50-year-old brick planter that also serves as a popular sitting area for students on campus. The students were the first to sit on the structure since its restoration this summer. Pictured standing from the left are Lawrence County Board of Education Chair Beth McCulloch Vinson, Lyndon Blaxton and Keith Vinson. Seated from left are LCHS students Braiden Fountain, Zachary Terry, Vanessa Treadway, Carington Mardis, Cameron Gholston, Emma Chavez, Hayden Reeves and Peyton Ledlow.

A Lawrence County High School graduate who did the mason work for a raised brick planter on the school grounds during his senior year 50 years ago is pleased to see his work still standing intact today.

Lyndon Blaxton, who also served as Moulton’s Fire Chief and later retired from the Alabama Fire Marshal’s Office, graduated from LCHS on May 12, 1969. He had married his lifetime sweetheart, Linda Parker Blaxton, the day before.

During the summer of 1968, Blaxton worked as a laborer and assisted skilled brick-masons by running supplies and setting up scaffolds, he said. His work that summer inspired him to do something of his own that would also benefit his high school alma mater.

“I had worked assisting brick-layers, but I just wanted to make sure I could lay brick myself,” Blaxton said. “I wanted to do a project that would benefit the students for many years after I had graduated.”

The young senior did not have to look far for the supplies needed to complete his vision. He had found some leftover brick that was cast aside on the school grounds after the school building was finished.

Blaxton said he had seen brick laid before, but the first brick he laid in constructing the raised planter was the first brick he had ever laid.

“I worked on this project after school hours. I remember a Vo-Ag teacher coming by and asking me how long it was going to take me to finish it. Since it was my first solo project, I couldn’t give him an answer. But, he was really interested in seeing me finish it,” said Blaxton. 

Though his project was built to hold plants, many students adopted it as a resting area. Blaxton’s work soon became a welcomed gathering place for students who had no other place to sit in front of the school.

Fifty years later, the raised planter still serves as a hot congregation spot on the school campus.

“Through the years, I’ve seen students sitting on it. I’ve glanced at it, but have not really gone up to inspect it closely,” Blaxton said. “When I walked up to it a few weeks ago, I first noticed that the only problem was the missing brick at each corner. It humbled me to see that this first brick-laying project I constructed over 50 years ago, as a senior at this very high school, was still standing in such a solid condition.”

Blaxton said when he saw the few missing stones, he was immediately motivated to fix it before the start of the next school year. He reached out to Dr. Beth McCulloch Vinson, who represents District 3 on the Lawrence County Board of Education and was also an LCHS graduate of 1982.

Vinson and her husband, Keith, a graduate of the school’s class of 1981, also became involved in the brick planter’s restoration.

After contacting Superintendent Jon Bret Smith and receiving permission to move forward with the project, the three met at the high school to repair Blaxton’s lasting monument.

Blaxton found brick from his home that matched the color and texture of the existing brick perfectly, Beth Vinson said. He then sawed the four bricks down to size.

“I got to help lay brick for the first time. I learned that it’s heavy work, very difficult and extremely precise,” said Vinson, who also took photographs as Blaxton worked repairing the structure.

While viewing the photos, Vinson noticed a fire hydrant in the background. She said the symbol’s appearance in her photos was a significant occurrence for Blaxton, Vinson and her husband, who had also served as fire chief for Moulton.

“Having a fire hydrant in the photos of this school restoration project pulled together important things for the three of us: the high school where we each graduated, my job with the school system, and their careers with the fire service,” she said.

Blaxton agreed that the fire hydrant served as an interesting connection for the three who not only graduated from the same high school in different years but are also connected in that Keith Vinson served under Blaxton while he was Moulton’s fire chief.

“As it turned out, my early years in brick and block laying provided me with background knowledge for fighting and investigating structure fires,” said Blaxton.

After restoring the brick, Vinson contacted LCHS Principal Thomas Jones to arrange a photo opportunity with Blaxton and some of the students who have congregated on the brick planter most recently.

Vinson said they arrived at the school to meet with the students to find that the Principal and Cody Wilkerson’s entire class were eager to hear Blaxton’s account of building the planter and of its recent restoration.

“It made me feel satisfied to have fixed the planter for them, and that I could tell them the history of it,” said Blaxton. “After all, for now, it’s their school and their planter, but in my heart, it will always be mine.”

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