If you've spent much time in East High's auditorium, you know those old seats don't have much going for them.
They're old. They're small. They're hard. They're awfully uncomfortable.
What they have, though, is history. Nostalgia. Sentimental value.
A booster club hopes that's worth something as they ready nearly 1,900 chairs for public sale next week.
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East High Friends of Performing Arts — which supports band, orchestra, vocal music and theater programs at the city's oldest high school — will sell the old auditorium seats May 22 to raise money for fine arts programs.
"We've had a lot of interest in them," said Amy Menas, the booster club's president. "East High alums are very proud of their high school, and we think some of them might want to own a piece of it."
Later this month, crews will begin renovating East High as part of the school district's $370 million bond issue. Much of East's $8.1 million share of the bond issue will fund a new fine-arts suite and renovations to the auditorium.
The old wooden seats will be replaced by wider, cushioned ones set farther apart to provide more legroom and more room in the aisles, allowing the auditorium to be handicapped-accessible. The new chairs, though modern, were designed to maintain the historic look of the auditorium.
Rather than trashing the old seats right away, officials are inviting people to buy them for homes, offices or other settings. The seats don't stand on their own and must be bolted to the floor.
"We really don't know how much of a market there is out there for them, but I guess we'll find out," said East principal Ken Thiessen.
"We certainly hope they're a hot commodity because the hotter they are, the more we'll make. And the more we make, the more we'll have for music and theater programs."
During the May 22 sale, members of the public will be able to reserve and pay for chairs, in sets of two or four, for $25 per chair. The chairs will be available for pickup two weeks later.
A limited number of unclaimed chairs — about 200, also in sets of two or four — will be available for sale on pickup day, June 5.
"They're the original chairs from the 1920s, so there's a huge amount of history there," said Menas, the booster club president. "In some small way, we're hoping this keeps that history alive."
Some of the money raised from the sale will help pay for a new piano to replace one that has been at the school "since World War II," Menas said.
East's drama and music programs are highly regarded throughout the state. In December, East's orchestra will travel to Chicago to participate in the Midwest Clinic, an international band and orchestra conference.
"It's a terrific honor for them to be accepted and to perform," Menas said. "Money raised from these chairs will go into our account to help pay for things like that."
Chairs left over from the sale will be discarded by renovation crews, she said.
Thiessen, the principal, recently tested the old chairs' adaptability by installing a pair in one nook of his school office.
"I didn't really put them there as seats, but people have sat there on a couple of occasions," he said. "They seem to work fine."