School is off to a rocky start again this year, and everyone has an opinion about the best way to do it. All who are involved were so in hopes we could get off to a “normal” school, whatever that is. If you are a believer, continue to pray with me for our country and for wisdom to do what is best concerning this virus.
There are many people who remember simpler days at their school, and as they share, I hope you can remember, too. Brenda Teaford remembers some good times at B.B. Comer Elementary where May Day meant all the girls in her class had the same dresses, and dancing around the May Pole was a beloved tradition. She and Linda Bice remember the good bake sales back in the day when students were allowed to bring baked goods from home for other students and teachers to purchase to make money for school projects.
Very few schools have the good fortune to serve their students on marble tables, but Virginia Francis remembers eating on them at Gantts Quarry School. Kitchen tables were also marble, and the principal’s desk had a marble top. According to Ruth Cook in her book, Magic in Stone, Gantt’s Quarry School was a Talladega County School built in 1917 and housed grades one through eight. Several people remembered the lunch ladies, Mrs. Glenda Kinser and Mrs. Jewel Lessley at Gantts Quarry School and the wonderful meals they served. Bobbie Kinser remembers those first meals were prepared at home and brought to school. In her book Cook quotes former teacher, Mrs. Mabel Carlton, “These ladies brought things out of their freezers and they made the best vegetable soup and cornbread.”
School personnel whose names you might recognize were G.D. Jarvis, principal in 1920, and records indicate there were some 200 students. Later Robert Vawter, Charlie Vawter’s uncle, was principal. It was not a white shirt/tie job in that day, and Principal Vawter had to stoke the coal furnace in the basement on cold winter mornings to get the school warmed up for students. Other people remembered who were associated with the Quarry School were Mr. and Mrs. W.A. Lovvorn, parents of Nance Lovvorn, Pat Lovvorn Bivin, and Anita Lovvorn Dark. Mr. Lovvorn was Principal, taught eighth grade, and coached the boys’ basketball team. Mrs. Lovvorn (Lila) taught first grade. Nance remembers that rules were simple; if you broke the rules, you paid the consequences.
Virginia Frances remembers how the school would shake when they blasted at the Quarry. School was not only for classes, but also for community events and activities. Gospel quartets, country music entertainers, 4-H Club, Boy Scouts, and Donkey Basketball were all held at the school.
Ruth Cook reports that there was a separate Black school building in these days before integration. Outside this location was a big bell attached to a stand, and the bell was rung in the morning for school to begin and at the end of the day when classes were over. It was nothing fancy, but as in all schools, good teachers made a difference. JessaLee Miles, Ethel Stubbs, and Otis Helen Hughes guided students to work at their own pace. A reunion held in 2005 at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church was attended by former Black students who came from eighteen states and Washington, D.C. Many of these students made better than average contributions to the world including Dr. Lee Shefton Riggins who became a surgeon at Baptist Princeton Hospital. Our own beloved Harryette Johnson Jackson, after completing work at the Quarry School, walked with other Black Students to Ezekiel’s Grocery to catch a bus to finish high school at East Highland School. Harryette attended Talladega College and then Atlanta University, and was a much sought after teacher at Pinecrest School for more than thirty years.
I cannot forget to mention South Highland Elementary School on the Old Rockford Road. I rode out that way to see if anything remains of the school building, and only the foundation of the school is there, behind a nice brick house built on that lot. Like many of the things we treasure from our youth, memories are still strong. Mildred McKinney, who was once a student there, came back there to work before the school closed. Mildred recalls the simplicity of life then, and how children’s lives consisted of school, church, and home; so most of the students loved coming to school to be with their friends, eat those good lunches , and learn from a group of great, caring teachers. Mildred went on to be a school secretary there and at Mountain View School, and my son always had great things to say about the kindness of this lady in the office. Mildred continues to serve Sylacauga as a Pink Lady at Coosa Valley Medical Center. If you have not guessed it by now, she has that same pretty smile now that she had as a little girl at South Highland School.
Making memories and learning from them makes good men and women, citizens who make the world a better place. Prayerfully, as we begin a new school year under adverse circumstances, we can join our hands and hearts to give the children who are going off to school in 2021-22 every chance for a good year.
Speaking of good teachers, thanks to Charlie Simmons for remembering Mrs. DeShazo’s kindness to him. Charlie did not miss a day of first grade, and Mrs. DeShazo gave him a swim suit at the end of the year. Talking about an appropriate reward!!! What an encourager!
School is out for us, but we have wonderful memories. We can still support our schools with our monetary contributions to school projects and most of all with our love, kindness and prayers as we remember when we were in school, and not so long ago at that.