1916 SHHS Annual “The Argonaut” Offers Glimpse of Student Life

Louise Bond Alley, who previously shared a remarkable story about the Rebecca and Magdalena Sherfey Civil War hospital that once operated in Johnson City in the east section of town, provided me with copies of three old Science Hill High School annuals for years 1915, 1916 and 1917. They once belonged to her mother, Edith Bond.

This is the first of three feature articles that describe one of these valuable old books. The first one is a 43-page paperback book from 1915 titled “The Argonaut,” said to be the first volume issued.  The first page shows the Honorable Frank Blair St. John as President of the Board of Education and Acting Superintendent of Johnson City Public Schools. The publication was dedicated to the principal, Mr. T. E. Utterback.

Teachers that year (and subjects) included J.L. Gilbert (Commercial), Miss Hale (Algebra), M.A. Crary (Manual Training), Miss Lucy Hatcher (Mathematics), Miss Jones (Modern Languages), Miss Harris (Latin), Miss Mills (Domestic Science), Joe D. Clark (English), Miss Cherrie Mae Preston (Music), Miss Mildred Eager (Science), Miss Louise Cooper (Domestic Art)  and Miss Carr (History).

Page 5 contained a concise history of Science Hill High School since its humble beginning as the Science Hill Debating Society in the Oak Grove community of Boone’s (Boon’s) Creek.

The editorial staff was comprised of Edward F. Peoples (Editor in Chief), Morris Cooper (Assistant Editor), William Earl Hotalen (Business Manager), Howard Clark (Literary Editor), Sam C. Smith (Editor of Wit and Humor), Mae Ross (a familiar name, Society Editor), Martha Goode (Alumni Editor), Edna Vance (Art Editor) and Max Lusk (Athletic Editor).

The senior class consisted of 52 students. Louise Avery St. John was Valedictorian; John Campbell Parsons was Salutatorian. The Senior Class’s motto was “Non summo sed ascendeus”; the class colors were green and white; and the class flower was a white rose.

A popular school cheer was “Strawberry shortcake, Huckleberry pie; V-I-C-T-O-R-Y. Are we it? Well I guess; Seniors, Seniors, Yes, Yes, Yes.” Class officers were Gerald Good (President), Louise St. John (Vice-President), Helen Vance (Secretary) and Martha Good (Treasurer).

One page identified as “Horoscope” listed five facts about each senior. Examples are “Better Known As” (Linoleum, Lowbar, Boo, Jug Head, Dimples, Fatty, Piggy and Slimy Mirah), Favorite Expression (Ain’t I cute?, with graveyard solemnity, land-a-mercy), “Favorite Pastime” (reading magazines at Crouch’s, snipe hunting, playing roly holy, going with the girls and quarreling), “Wants to Be” (black headed, noticed, let along, court reporter, governor, a second Ty Cobb and a farmer) and “Will Be” (a suffragette, married, satisfied, spinster, hobo, maker of false teeth, heavyweight pugilist and an old maid).

The Junior Class had separate colors – black and gold. The class flower was heliotrope. Their motto was “Multum in parvo” (“Much in Little”). Their unique sporting yell was “Yea 1, Yea 9, Yea 1, Year 6. Yea, Yea, 19, Yea, Yea 16. Yea, Yea, Yea, Yea, 1916.”

A clever poem from the Junior Class offered 15 stanzas each with four lines similar to Ten Little Indians. Examples are “Fifteen little juniors, At the High School were seen, Edith took her violin to Germany, Then there were fourteen. … Seven little juniors, Still Alive, Helen planned her trousseau, Then there were five. … Four little Juniors, Waiting to be free, William paged for the Senate, Then there were three. … One little Junior, Was having loads of fun, Until Fitshugh sneezed, Then there were none.”

The Sophomore Class containing 71 students chose class colors as sky blue and white. Their motto was “We launch tonight, where shall we anchor?” They apparently did not know Latin. Their cheer was “ Happy Hooligan, Gloomy Gus; What in the dunce is the matter with us?; Strychnine, quinine, power and dust; Sophomore Class will win or bust.”

The Freshman Class that year boasted of 137 pupils with class colors of pink and green. Their adopted flower was the pink carnation; and their motto was “Green but Gay.”

A witty transfixing article written by Frances Byrd titled “Class History” reviewed the events of their long didactic journey: “The road to knowledge is indeed long and irksome. Reflect upon the pleasant hours spent resting in the groves of summer vacations and in the ‘shady’ dells of cut recitation hours. Think of the joyous companionship of kindred spirits marching shoulder to shoulder along this educational highway and remember the glorious brilliance of the great intellectual lights, which have burst upon their visions in the persons of some of their splendid teachers.”

Sam Smith, the class poet, penned an eight stanza, four line poem titled Class Poem. The first and last verses read, “We’re not an army of visitors, As the Greeks at Thermoplae Pass, But we assemble tonight for the last time, Just an old and worn-out Senior Class. We give each other a word and a smile, And to each a parting handclasp, Goodbye to this body forever, This old and worn-out Senior Class.”

At the request of the senior class, Bryan Woodruff inscribed the Class Song comprised of four stanzas, each with four lines. Two verses read “Should our dear school days be forgot, And cast aside until, Our old acquaintances are forgot, And days at dear Science Hill? So here’s a shout and here’s a tear, All given with a right good will, Three cheers, three cheers of memory yet, For dear old Science Hill.”

Ed Peoples, class orator, could feel the looming World War in aserious well-written composition titled “War is Hell”: “Not in the history of the world is there such a time as the world not witnesses. In its whirlwind of destruction, it carries death in its broad pathway, cutting as with a scythe a multitude of men in the prime of life and is now ready to envelope in its merciless sweep those just emerging from childhood and those who have passed far beyond the meridian of life’s day.”

Other sections of “The Argonaut” were Class Prophesy, Giftorian (puns, jokes, and takeoffs issued to seniors as they depart), Class Will (things to be left behind by graduating seniors) and several student organizations: YMCA, Landon C. Haynes Literary Society, Der Deutsche Spachuerein (The German Club), Officers Jeffersonian Literary Society and the Daniel Webster Literary Society.

Notably absent from “The Argonaut” of 1915 were advertisements at the end, so familiar with most school yearbooks. This profitable tradition would not commence until the 1917 annual.