BUFFALO, Okla. (KFOR) – A long hall of memories trails Dayona Hayden every time she comes to work, and it’s little wonder considering she spent every school day here from 1st Grade through 6th.
Walking down the hall, she points and says, “This was the 2nd Grade room.”
“You know,” she continues, “When you’re in a small town you grown up together and a lot of those same people are still here.”
The room she ate lunch in is now a kickboxing and MMA gym where she teaches classes once a week.
Instead of the daily menu, her old fighting promotional posters are on the wall as a everyday reminder that times have changed at the old Buffalo Elementary School.
“It’s 18,000 square feet,” Hayden recalls. “I started brainstorming and thinking what to turn this place into.”
The building itself was a WPA project in 1939 and served as the town’s only elementary school until the early 2000s.
It was a home school shipping center after that, but sat vacant for several additional years until Dayona moved back in with new ideas about how to use her old classrooms.
Standing in a retail space she calls the Adrenaline Junkie Boutique, Dayona says, “This was the old math room, not exactly my favorite place then.”
Future lesson plans include a coffee shop, maybe another boutique, but she and a few other former students are already pretty busy with the gym, the cardio machines across the hall, and the tanning beds next to the old principal’s office.
“There is still plenty of room left to fill,” she says.
They’re trying not to think of the new Bison Stomping Grounds as a school anymore but that might still take a while.
She smiles and says, “My family still says, ‘we’re going up to the school’. We still call it the school.”
Back when she was a little shorter, Dayona and her friends used to laugh at themselves in the curvy shaped mirror in the girl’s bathroom.
She has to duck to do that now.
It’s true that everything looks smaller in retrospect unless you can re-construct those memories to make new ones.
Hayden remarks, “Look how far we’ve come already.”
Dayona teaches kickboxing every Wednesday evening.