It’s prom season once again in East Tennessee. This long-honored tradition of having the Junior class organize and decorate a formal event for the Seniors goes back over a century. Starting out as a collegiate event, high schools were quick to adopt “Junior-Senior Banquets” and Proms by the 1920s.

The decorations can almost be visualized in this 1929 report. “The Senior class of Watauga Academy was delightfully entertained by the Juniors in the dining hall of the girls’ dormitory Friday evening. The dining hall was beautifully decorated with pink, white and green combining the colors of the Senior and Junior classes.”

We have similar reports from over in Kingsport in 1924. “The Juniors entertained the Seniors of Kingsport High School at the Country Club Thursday night, May 1. The party began at 8 and lasted until 12. Games of different kinds were played dancing was enjoyed throughout the evening. At 11 o’clock ice cream and cake were served.”

We are reminded of “no-break” and “girl-break” dances in this mention from 1935. “The Junior and Senior classes of Science Hill High School entertained with a “prom” at the Johnson City Country Club Wednesday night. This is the first time for several years that a Junior-Senior prom has been given. A grand march was led by Miss Mary Catherine Dyer, Science Hill’s most beautiful girl, and Mr. E.B. Hale. The evening was featured by “no-break” dance and by “girl-break” dances.

Popular locations for proms included the Johnson City Country Club, the John Sevier Ballroom, and eventually the high school gymnasiums. The ordinary gymnasiums were transformed by the hard-working Juniors in themes such as “Davey Jones Locker” (1950), “April Showers” (1951), “Treasure Island” (1959), “A Night on the Town” (1963), “Roman Holiday” (1964), and “A Summer Place” (1967).

So while dress styles, music, and transportation to proms may have changed, many prom traditions from the past hold fast.

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“Last Friday night, the pupils of Martha Wilder School, under the supervision of of the teachers, gave one of the most delightful and successful entertainments of all the spring festivals.

“The program opened with a glad welcome song by the children of all the rooms and was followed by a cunning folk dance by eight little girls dressed in snow white of Miss Williams’ room.

“The Train To Mauroö was the dramatic feature of the evening in which little Miss Dorothy Remine played the role of Mrs. Buttermilk, a country woman who believed “charity to all with her herbs and rootsö and and who had advice to spare to everyday.

“Little Buster Barlow as Johnny Buttermilk had come to the conclusion that nothing on earth could keep his mother from talking, especially when he was starving to death for a piece of ginger bread. The station clerk, played by Elbert Whiteside, did not appreciate Mrs. Buttermilk’s advice and was greatly irritated by her insistence on going “To Mauraö today.

“Springtime was beautifully represented by Millicent Fflollett, who was clad in a dainty white frock, wearing the fairy crown and carrying her magic wand. By the wave of her wand. By the wave of her wand, she called forth the lovely spring flowers, which were represented by little girls dressed in exquisite frocks of all colors.

“A bunch of small boys in white suits slipped in behind Springtime and played  the spirits by sprinkling frost over the pretty flowers which withered and died. Seeing the death of the flowers, the Queen of Sunbeams, acted by Doris Serl, appeared with her magic wand and put to flight the little spirits and smiled so warmly upon the flowers that they again raised their graceful little heads.

“The teachers of Martha Wilder are to be commended for such a delightful program. So happy were all that they joined in and sweetly sang “Springtime.ö

“The Sick Doll,ö a clever dialogue, and the “‘Swing Songö by Ida Mae Walker were greatly enjoyed. The last number of the program was a reading my Miss Kate Remine which was a fitful climax for the whole affair, as the most delightful gave “Naughty Zell,ö impersonating a charming little naughty girl.ö

Martha Wilder Funeral Notice

On a further note, I came across a funeral notice of Martha Wilder, noting that the city founder’s daughter had passed away:

“A funeral was held yesterday at Chattanooga for Martha Wilder, 88, for whom one of Johnson’s City’s oldest schools was named. She died Sunday at her home in Media, Pennsylvania.

“Miss Wilder was a daughter of the late General John Thomas Wilder, one of the founders of Johnson City. He gave the land for the school, now used for vocational training and for other public buildings here.

“Another school, Annie Wilder Stratton, was named for a sister who married Frank Stratton.

“General Wilder, a Union Army officer, came here from New York shortly after the close of the Civil War. He moved from here to the Chestoa section of what is now Unicoi  and built several hydro-electric power dams.

“He also operated two blast furnaces at Rockwood, Tennessee and had extensive business interests in East Tennessee. He was a former mayor of Chattanooga and was the officer who led the Union forces against Chattanooga in August, 1863.ö

“Old-timers will recall it was General Wilder who built two hotels on Roan Mountain, the first being a log building. The large frame hotel built in 1885, was destroyed by fire.ö

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Today's column pertains to Johnson City being rewarded one of the three normal schools in the state of Tennessee in 1909.

A bold headline from the Comet newspaper read: “Board Makes Statement and Gives Reasons for Selection of the Normal Sites in Johnson City, Murfreesboro, Memphis.”

A smaller caption further revealed: “In East Tennessee – The Board of Education Reaches Its Decision After Three Days Deliberation. The Awards Are Conditional on Each City Complying with All Promises Made in Its Normal School Application.”

State Normal School Award

The State Board of Education selected the three cities for the State Normal Schools for the three grand divisions of the State. The decision was reached after three days of careful deliberation on the part of the Board. Believing them to be the logical and proper sites for the schools, a final session was held in which a lengthy statement, signed by each and every member, was issued, giving reasons for the action.

Although 22 towns submitted bids for the schools, later Trenton and Milan withdrew their bids, leaving 20 towns from which to select the three sites. Realizing that 17 of the 20 proposed locations would be rejected, the board accepted the bids of the three towns making what they believed to be the best offers. 

Competition Heats Up for the Schools

Since the passage of the general education bill by the previous General Assembly, a great deal of interest was manifested in the location of the new schools. A high spirit of generous rivalry was shown by the various towns, which grew more intense as the day of selection drew near.

In some instances, this rivalry even approached bitterness. However, when the decision of the board was made public, the delegations from the various losing towns had little or nothing to say about the matter. Of course, the delegations from Johnson City, Murfreesboro and Memphis were gratified at their triumph.  

Reasons For Choice

Individually the members of the Board expressed various reasons for their choice. In addition to making the most liberal offers, the three chosen cities were considered to be the best geographically for Normal School purposes.

An examination of a map of Tennessee revealed this fact. It was noted that if a ruler was placed on a map of the state with one end on Memphis and the other on Johnson City, it will fall directly over Murfreesboro. Of course, the board took into consideration the accessibility of all the towns and concluded that the three chosen could be the easiest reached from all points and sections.

Johnson City's Offer

According to the opinion of the Board, Johnson City made by far the most liberal offer of any other East Tennessee town. They considered the thriving Washington County city to be the most accessible and best for the state institution.

The location of the middle division became a bone of contention. It was the general opinion that Clarksville would be selected. It's offer was $185,000, a free site and free water. Murfreesboro offered $180,000 and a free site. But when the board selected Johnson City for the Eastern and Memphis for the Western division, they considered Murfreesboro the proper place for the Middle division from the standpoint of accessibility and geographical location.

In each case, the board reserved the right to reconsider its actions taken if the provisions of the bids were not fully carried out as promised. Many telegrams were received by the Board expressing appreciation at the selection. “God bless the State Board of Education” was wired from Murfreesboro and “Our stock is above normal” came from Johnson City.

Statement of the Board

The Board of Education issued the following statement concerning the normal schools and their location:

“Under the act of 1909, the state board of education was charged with the duty of selecting sites for three state normal schools, one to be established in each grand division of the state, and pursuant to House Bill No. 212, Chapter 261 of the acts of Tennessee and of State Bill No. 609, chapter 580, of the Acts of Tennessee, authorizing counties and municipalities to make donations of money for the purpose of establishing and equipping the normal schools. The board advertised for bids and received propositions from 22 counties and municipalities in the state.”

Board Reviews Applications for School

The Board followed up by visiting each location submitting a proposition with the exception of two, which withdrew their bid and heard the arguments of speakers advanced in favor of each locality and, in addition, examined the written briefs which were filed.

The interest manifested over the state in establishing these schools far exceeded expectations, and the arguments offered for each one were strongly presented. Each had its merits considered, and the responsibility of deciding between rival claimants was quite thorny. Every competing place possessed varying degrees of merit and all were intensely interested in obtaining the school.

There had been differences of opinion among the members of the Board as to where the normal schools should be located. The final decision was reached after full consultation and consideration, and after each member had expressed himself fully as to the merits of the places applying. This was necessary in order to reach an agreement. Members of the board acted in a spirit of harmony and compromise.

With a few difficulties and some embarrassments under which the committee labored and appreciating fully its responsibilities, the following decision was reached by a majority of the members:

East Tennessee's Bid Details

“The majority of the board had decided that Johnson City in Washington County was the proper place for the location of the East Tennessee Normal School. It offered the proceeds of $100,000 in bonds, free lights, free water and a free site to be selected by the board. The municipality of Johnson City further obligated itself to build a streetcar line to the site selected and to lay granite rock sidewalks to the school.

This bid was larger than the bid of any other place applying in East Tennessee, and a majority of the board had considered that it met, as fully as any other, the essential requirements of the act under which the normal schools were being created.

However, the selection of Johnson City as a site for the normal school for East Tennessee was conditioned, like the others, on the faithful performance of all the guarantees and offers made, and the selection of a site, which would be suitable for the purposes of the school. If any of these guarantees or offers were not carried out in full, the board reserved the right to reject the bid of Johnson City and select another site for the normal school if, in its discretion, it was deemed necessary.

The board regretted the disappointment that came to so many applicants for the state normal schools, but congratulates them upon the educational spirit which had been so manifested everywhere they visited. Out of the agitation and generous rivalry, much good resulted to the cause of education.

The personal acknowledgment of the board was hereby tendered to the people of all the places visited for their hospitality and kindness.

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The evening of May 9, 1947 was an eventful and much-anticipated occurrence for Science Hill High School's ROTC program that was comprised of several young men and eight young ladies who served as sponsors. The required “military appearance,” as specified in the military manual did not just spontaneously occur. It was carefully orchestrated by some rather stiff drill work by the school's training staff.

The military instructors were Lieut. Col. Walter L. Sherfey (Infantry, Professor of Military Science & Tactics); 1st Sgt. Paul H. Hicks (Infantry, Military Instructor), Sgt. William C. Salter (Signal Corps, Military Instructor).

Student officers and (corresponding sponsors) were Cadet Major Gene Arnold (Jo Anderson), Cadet Captain Max Morritt (Jean Chalker), Cadet Captain Hal Youngblood (Amy Winston), Cadet Captain George Johnston (Martha Gene Speed), Cadet 1st Lieut. Frank Larkin (Annette Marshall), Cadet 1st Lieut. Louis Copp (Jane Dance), Cadet 1st. Lieut. John Ryan (Joan Carter), and Cadet 1st Lieut. Jack Sausman (Nancy Jane Kiser).

Those cadets without sponsors included Cadet 1st Lieut. Tommy Vance, Cadet 1st  Lieut. Jack Fulks, Cadet 2nd Lieut. Lee Wallace, Cadet 2nd Lieut. Charles Swain, Sgt. J. Max Scott (National Color Sgt.), Sgt. Bill Rushing (Battalion Color Guard Sgt.), Cpl. Elmer Baine (Color Guard) and Cpl. Freddie Barnes (Color Guard).   

The sponsors that year were anxiously anticipating new uniforms, which was graciously presented to them that same year by the Johnson City Optimist Club.

Identification of those in the collage photo can be determined by moving counter-clockwise from the top left photo. The names of the individuals in each photo are shown left to right.

Photos of Sponsors from the 1947 ROTC Program

Photo 1: Martha Gene Speed, Amy Winston, Jean Chalker and Jo Anderson. They were allegedly discussing the prospects for new uniforms.

Photo 2: Amy Winston and Annette Marshall as they soothe their aching feet after a period of heavy drilling.

Photo 3: The left squad (front to back) shows Jane Dance, Nancy Jane Kiser, Martha Gene Speed and Amy Winston. The right squad discloses Jean Carter, Jean Chalker, Jo Anderson and Annette Marshall.

Photo 4: Nancy Jane Kiser, Jane Dance, Jean Carter and Annette Marshall.

Photo 5: Lt. Col. Walter L. Sherfey (on the right facing the sponsors). As Professor of Military Science and Tactics (PMS&T), he is putting the group through a rigorous inspection.

The photos were supplied by the late Johnson City Press-Chronicle photographer, Jimmy Ellis.


The ROTC Ball Program that May 9, 1947 evening was as follows:

“National Anthem by Drum and Bugle Corps.

“Presentation of the Battalion to the P.M.S.&T. (Entire unit with Cadet Major Arnold in charge).

“Sponsors Drill (Cadet Major Arnold in charge).

“Company A Drill Squad (Cadet 1st Sgt. Fred Booher in charge).

“Company B Drill Squad (Cadet S/Sgt. Bob Fields in charge).

“Company C Drill Squad (Cadet S/Sgt. Gene Gross in charge).

“Awarding of Metals (Lt. Colonel Walter L. Sherfey in charge).

“Exhibition by Drum and Bugle Corps (Cadet 1st Lieut. Jack Fulks in charge.)


“The Grand March (music furnished by The Blue Notes(.

“Dancing until midnight.”

  I hope my readers will recognize someone from their past and share their memories with me.

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I occasionally come across school plays that were performed by area students. My recent one is dated Feb. 22, 1930 for Sulphur Springs School. Three dramatic productions were given as chapel programs at Sulphur Springs on Jan. 14, Jan. 23 and Feb. 5.

Third Grade

Third grade presents “Pandora” (dramatized): Eplmetheus (Ruth Brabson), Pandora (Florence Keefauver), Hope (Lorene Barry), Reader (Blanche Murray), Troubles (G.C. Armentrout, Anna Dale Deakins, Junior Hunt, Maz Williams).

Fifth and Sixth Grades

Fifth and sixth grades presented “Little February”: January (Edith Price), February (James Ferguson), March (Otis Combs), April (Edna Green), May (Dorothy Gray), June (Willie Jordan), July (Viola Barry), August (Nola Jenkins), September (Harry Keys), October (Stella Stafford), November (Ruth Luster), December (Elmer Moore)…

Father Time (Fern Cox), Love (Mae Black), Peace (Little Jordan), Culture (Ida Payne), Freedom (Louise Cox), Courage (Frances Williams)…

George Washington (Richard Deakins), Abraham Lincoln (Reamer Bacon), Daniel Boone (Horace Gray), Emma Hart Willard (Olivene Murray), Mary Lynn (Bertie Hale), Mark Hopkins (Hal Sherfey), Henry W. Longfellow (Robert White); James Russell Lowell (Lester Jones), William Tecumseh Sherman (Dean Hunt), Susan Anthony (Ruth Walker), Charles A. Lindberg (Howard ?), Thomas A. Edison (Hugh Price), Alice Freeman Palmer (Helen Walker), Valentine (Elizabeth Barnes), Honor (Beryl Stafford).

Eight Grade

Eight Grade Presents “Rip Van Winkle” (Dramatized): Rip Van Winkle (Ralph Moore), Mrs. Rip Van Winkle (Kate Jenkins), Their Son (J.B.O. Ferguson), The baby (Mae Williams), Nicholas Vedder (Mack Armentrout), Derrick Van Bummel (C.D. Williams), The Dutchman (Gilbert Ingle). An Old Woman (Lela Hartman), Judith Gardenier (Rip's daughter, Lula Hartman), Her baby (Blanche Murray), Young Rip Van Winkle (J.W. Ford).

Summary: Act 1 takes place in Rip Van Winkle's home. Act 2 takes place in the village Inn. Act 3 takes place on the mountain. Act 4 takes place on the mountain. Rip returns.

Act 1 was dramatized by Gilbert Ingle, Act 2 by Ralph Moore and Act 3 by C.D. Williams. Acts 4 and 5 were dramatized by Kate Jenkins.

These three numbers were chapel programs presented in the Sulphur Springs School on Jan. 14, Jan 23, and Feb. 5.

Papers and discussions on the program included departmental sessions, High School address, “What I Would Do as a History Teacher” (Miss Maxine Mathew), ETSTC.

Elementary reading (Mrs. Orville Martin), Joint session address (Dean W.W. Boyd) of Milligan College.

The meeting was held in the auditorium of Jonesboro (Jonesborough) High School.

 If you recognize a name in the list, please drop me a note to my e-mail address listed below. Many of us can readily recognize the name, Mrs. Orville Martin, who taught us “Occupations: at (North) Junior High School. The name “Stafford” appears twice. Perhaps my friend, Allen Stafford, who is from that community, can identify them.

If any of the individuals in this article had wished to take in a movie in downtown Johnson City, two offerings included cowboy star, Tom Tyler at the Criterion Theatre (second rate) and Bebe Daniels, an American actress, singer and dancer at the Majestic Theatre (first rate). During this time frame, both theatres faced each other across E. Main Street.  

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The welcomed announcement came from C. Howard McCorkle, superintendent of schools and directed to several hundred parents at a special meeting the previous night. The two schools were to be independent of the other, plus have separate athletic programs that would be in competition with one another. 

Speaking before the Junior High Parent-Teacher Association, Supt. McCorkle expressed his hope that all ninth grade students from both schools would eventually be part of the big new $2.5 million Science Hill High School just completed. 

However, by the following fall, it would be necessary to operate two junior highs, North Junior High and South Junior High, as the names they would soon acquire. The boundary line was defined as the Southern Railway and Market Street. Those on the north and east sides would attend North Junior High while those on the other side would go to South Junior High. Exception was made for any eighth and ninth grade boys studying industrial arts because South Junior High would not provide this training.

“Otherwise, South Junior High would offer as complete a program as the present North Junior High, “This program of dividing what was a student body of more than 100 students in the present Junior high was being significantly relieved by the restructuring. It had been so overcrowded that there was insufficient room to work, not to mention inadequate space to allow for growth,” McCorkle commented.

One stipulation was added – When the city much later found it feasible to abandon the present North Junior High building, it was to be “turned back to the city” for whatever use it could provide. That became a reality in 1974.

When a parent questioned the condition of the old Science Hill High School, without hesitation the superintendent described the facility as being one of the soundest buildings in town from a structural point of view. However, the superintendent properly noted one defect in the old high school that was not in the main building but in the gymnasium behind the school. It had been built on shale and had moved slightly. However, he stated that the problem was already in the process of being remedied.

South Junior High would have a complete music department, their own library, a home economics department and other pluses. Much of this was left over from the high school and was perfect for South Junior High School's needs.

Mr. McCorkle further promised that the new school would have its own sports programs, such that its teams would be in competition with those from the existing Junior High School. The present one would then have around 700 students and 600 more would be attending classes in the new school. A big plus for the change was that teachers would go with the students, which meant there was no need for an increased teaching staff.

However, beyond having selected Paul Slonaker to head South Junior High, he indicated that other personnel had not been assigned to a specific building. Mr. Slonaker, at the time, headed the industrial arts program at Science Hill. McCorkle promised all teachers that they would keep their own home room, meaning there would be no more “floating teachers,” which came as welcomed news.

The North Junior High guidance program continued under the direction of Jack McCorkle, who would divide his time between the two junior high schools.

McCorkle assured his well-attended audience that besides providing better overall benefits to students, the program was at once be aimed at providing more benefits for less money. PTA meetings would continue to be held in the massive Junior High auditorium with Mrs. Carl A. Jones presiding.

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On Wednesday evening, November 29, 1905, Martha Wilder Elementary School announced one of its upcoming “treats” of the school year. Teachers and students jointly arranged for an evening of entertainment that proved very pleasurable and “made everyone happier for awhile.”

While no admittance to the event was charged, the school conducted a fundraiser that was aimed at buying a much-needed piano. It was suggested that parents bring family and friends to assist in the effort.

Martha Wilder School as It Appeared in 1905

One attraction was a palmist who agreed to offer her services for a modest fee, which was afterward donated back to the school. Her participation was humorously advertised: “She will tell you what you don't know and say nothing about what you do know.” 

A “fish pond,” which was not described as being real or artificial but was likely the latter, was advertised as follows: “It will have as good a supply of fish in it as those that 'got away,' only these fish won't get away.” When someone hooked, he or she had the option of keeping it or giving it to one of their friends. It was explained that the more hooks someone had in it, the more fish they were sure to catch.

The location was described as “the sweetest place at the gathering” because of all the candy it possessed. One sign said, “There will be candy, and some more candy and then even more candy from the booth, also some home-made fudge in most imposing boxes. The ladies were especially interested in some very nice bits of fancy work that was donated by different persons.

The outing was held on the day before thanksgiving; the weather was possibly so chilly that it required refreshments in the form of hot coffee or chocolate, along with sandwiches and cakes (and of course candy).

The teachers and students worked hard for the success of their special evening and promised to continue their efforts until the  conclusion of the “treat.” They did this to guarantee that each and every one attending would have a pleasant evening. They wanted to do their part to aid one of the city schools in securing the things that go to make school life easier for both pupil and teacher.

While lacking in details, the entertainment was described as being one of the best and everyone who possessed any deep interest and support for the public school lend their aid in every way possible. 

Also on that same date, the school, through it principal, J. Frank Davidson, announced their list of “Star Pupils,” which today we refer to as honor roll students, including their academic scores, all of which had a score of 90 or above:

First Grade, Miss Eiseman: Lona Calloway 92 and Ralph Allison, 90.

First Grade, Miss Campbell: Lethia Moore 92, Guy Smith 92, Pearl Bowman 91, Nannie Weaver 91 and Irene Browning 90.

Second Grade, Miss Painter: Helen Vance 95, Elizabeth Osborne 94 and Mary Osborne 93.

Third Grade, Miss Burrow: Nora Johnson 90, Ethel White 90 and Sallie Wilson 90.

Third Grade, M.E. Brown: Frank St. John 95, Elizabeth Dunn 94, Lottie Carroll 94, Elsie Rose 94, James Blair 94, Whitney Buck 94, Roy Vandergrift, 92 George D. Hardin 91 and Allen Artz 91.

Fourth Grade, Miss Connelly: Mildred Wetherby 94, Marcia Wetherby 93, Charlie Hyder 93, Rebecca Able 92, Anna Phipps 92, Mary Dean Prease 91, Mary Taylor 91, Melvia Taylor 91, Elizabeth Martin 91 and Eugene Taylor 90.

Fifth Grade, Miss Slack: Henrietta Johnson 92, Pearl Hoss 92, Hugh Hoss 92, Joe Ellsworth 91, Pell Vance 91, Stewart Maher 91, Worley Morrell 90, Nettie Gibbs 91, Louise Parsons 91 and Ruby McClain 90.

Sixth Grade, (no teacher listed): Cyrus Lyle 96, Mary Kerp 95, Zeb Taylor 92, Lucy Lee 91 and Carl Bush 90.

I would like to hear from you if you know anything about this long deceased grammar school or can identify a family member or friend in the list.

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In 1927, Miss Lucy Schaeffer, a former teacher at the Dorland Bell School in Hot Springs, NC addressed two missionary societies, asserting the position that no mentally dull or stupid person inhabited the mountainous districts of the Carolinas and Tennessee. Her talk, “The Land of Not Enough,” put a positive spin on mountain folks.

“The Southern mountaineers are a friendly people,” she alleged,” and they are not beggars. They are very anxious to give value received and their sense of humor is especially pronounced.”

Miss Schaeffer bought produce from an elderly farmer. She told the mountaineer that at the 500-acre farm of the institute, only 70 acres were tillable. She was deeply troubled by the presence of garlic and asked the man how to rid the property of it. His unexpected but clever reply was “That's easy. Just die and leave it.”

The speaker acknowledged that they manufactured moonshine up there, but not in the quantities to be found in other parts of the country. She spoke of a man who raised corn and hops and believed that he had a right to do as he liked with his own land. He was hailed before the Justice 11 times, but being a bright fellow, he pleaded his own case successfully and was cleared of the charge every time. When asked how many times he had been found guilty of making moonshine, he replied “11.”

Miss Schaeffer related the story of Jacob Coates, a poor white lad with a noble ambition, who not only worked his way through school, but also assisted in getting his two sisters and one brother educated.

Young Coates, like many others when he obtained an education, turned around and taught school and Sunday School in the back country so that others might enjoy what good had come to him. It was difficult to locate outside teachers who would abandon the comforts of civilization to teach in mountain schools. As a rule, the teachers were young people who had been born in the country district, but gladly returned to help their own kind.

A higher school of education in Asheville, North Carolina, also accommodated many of those seeking more than an elementary curriculum. The support of these schools came largely from the generous church folks of the North. At one time, second-hand clothing was sent to the schools in large quantities, but later the girls learned to make their own clothing from simple materials as a part of their school training course.

Diverse church denominations did not overlap in 1927 as they did 20 years prior, but the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and others laid out their districts and worked harmoniously without disagreement.


Moving a Log Via Horse-Drawn Wagon in Washington County in 1915

In a previous article I wrote about Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and John Burroughs taking refreshing vacations together in summer months.One day the four giants drove through the Tennessee mountains. Since night was fast approaching, they stopped and put their tent near some rustic cabins.

In the morning, Mr. Ford, awakened to gather firewood  to make coffee. He located a dead tree of fair size that had fallen across the road. About that time, he spied a lad, whom he asked to help him by fetching a crosscut saw and working the other end of it. The youngster complied with the request and brought back the tool.

After they had sawed off a few limbs, Mr. Ford asked him if he knew who was at the other end of the saw. He then identified himself, stunning the youngster.

 After waiting a few minutes, the young man replied, “Sir, do you know who is on my end of the saw? I am General Robert E. Lee,” firmly aligning his family's position in the Civil War. Ford, stunned by his unexpected remark thanked the lad and walked off.

Within a few weeks, a brand new Ford automobile could be heard cruising up a mountain road to the Lee family, sent there by the Detroit industrialist, who had humbly learned a lesson from a young Tennessee mountains boy.  

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The sixth grade was to grammar schools what the twelfth grade was to the high schools. We were the “seniors” of Henry Johnson School. Each year, both sixth grades presented a play to the rest of the school. Miss Boring was in charge of the production and wrote all of the plays. She was ably assisted by Miss Gordon Grubbs, the other sixth grade teacher. This production was a big deal for Miss Boring, as she put a great deal of effort into it.

Plaques on Each Side of the Front Door Entrance to the Old School

For reasons I cannot explain, Miss Boring chose me for one of the lead parts in the play. I was certainly no actor plus I was worried about stage fright. I even got nervous during practice. I was, of all things, a traveling medicine salesman dispensing my wares from a little bag that I carried with me.

In addition, I had a crude “magic” act that I performed on stage. Miss Boring insisted I do it, but I preferred to do my recitation of the song, “Life Get's Teejus, Don't it?,” but that was not to happen. Perhaps she objected to song's spelling and grammar.

In addition, several class members danced the Virginia Reel, from Wayne King's hit song, “Josephine.” Before I was assigned a lead role, I practiced dancing with the group. Later, to my delight, Miss Boring pulled me from the dance routine, but, to my dismay, assigned me a part in the play. At the end of the frolic, we all sang “The Ballad of Davy Crockett,” which was very popular then.

We had practice rehearsals for weeks, yet within a week of the performance did not have our lines memorized to Miss Boring's satisfaction. One afternoon, she got rather direct with us, taking out her wrath on us during our “duty time” while I was erasing and washing the blackboard.

Despite Miss Boring's worries, the play went off without a hitch, except for one brief moment when I forgot a line during my traveling salesman routine, and someone behind me whispered it to me. I don't think anybody noticed.

Let me turn the clock ahead about 12 years. I became acquainted with a lady who was kin to my former teacher. I related to her that she was one of my outstanding teachers from the early 1950s. When she offered to take me to her house for a visit, without hesitation, I accepted her generosity. She called and received permission for us to come to her residence at 112 W. 11th Street.

When Miss Boring came to the door, I instantly recognized her. Although she had aged somewhat and moved much slower, she seemed surprised and pleased to see us. I was introduced to her as one of her former students from the 1954-55 class. As expected, she did not appear to remember me.

I figured if I mentioned some of the happenings that occurred in the sixth grade, she might recall me. When I brought up the subject of the school plays that she wrote and directed each spring, she immediately lit up, especially when I told her one of them was centered around Davy Crockett.

Miss Boring noted that she had written a school finale play each year that she taught at Henry Johnson School and had kept copies of each one in her home hall closet but had lost one; she lost the play our class was in. I wanted so much to see it. 

I described the production to her, including my traveling salesman routine, the Virginia Reel, my magic show and the Davy Crockett theme. She still did not remember the play, nor did she remember me.

I called out the names of several of my classmates to her. The only two she remembered were a couple of troublemakers,  Harold and Johnny (last names withheld to protect the guilty), the latter having his own seat in the southwest corner of room near a window.

Although this great lady did not remember me, I certainly knew her and I would not have missed our visit for the world. After a pleasurable but somewhat abbreviated stay, we departed. This was the last time I would see her, but she is permanently etched in my memory. This great teacher passed away about a year later.

If any of my readers were in Miss Boring's class and would like to comment about her, I welcome hearing from you.

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On Dec. 11, 1951, the late Dorothy Hamill, former writer for the Johnson City Press Chronicle, covered a story at South Side School concerning the first Girls Safety Patrol troop in the city.

Four times daily, ten young ladies, from a carefully selected sixth grade pilot group, assisted students cross school intersections. They further directed traffic and insured that signs were positioned in their proper places. Not only were they having a joyous time as patrol girls, they treated their responsibilities with utmost seriousness.

“Perhaps it's the motherly instinct in little girls,” said Miss Nancy Beard, principal of the school, “but instead of merely halting traffic for the little ones to cross, some of the patrol girls guide smaller ones from one curb to another. Impressively, one patrol girl was observed carrying a handicapped child to the bus stop.

Above: Susan Givens and Carolyn Brimer Safely Escort Young Shelia Steffey from Her Car. Two Other Patrol Girls, Barbara Lingo (left) and Patsy Sanders, Also Stand Guard.

According to Miss Beard, being trained under the able leadership of students, Nelson Blackburn (captain) and Bobby Wilson (lieutenant), the Girls Patrol proved to be prompt, efficient and obedient. Since they proved their worth on patrol, she said the boys and girls alternated the critical activity for the remainder of the school year.

The young ladies in the patrol were Lynne Rabun, Susan Givens, Sonia Gail Laws, Sharon O'Dell, Joyce Haynes, Nancy Heath, Carolyn Brimer, Barbara Lingo, Patsy Sanders and Kay Rhea. In rainy weather, they used the boys' caps, raincoats, belts, badges and flags with their own boots.

“Not only do the girls prove themselves capable of assuming responsibility,” Miss Beard continued, “they show their physical prowess by moving the heavy stop signs, a job that, at first, they refused help from the boys. They didn't need them. In addition to forming a patrol, the girls helped run the book store and assisted with cafeteria chores. They secretly hoped that the boys would be called upon to lend a hand with cooking.”

The expressed reaction of the girls serving on the patrol was nothing short of enthusiastic because they felt important and they were. “It's a lot of fun,” Lynne Rabun declared. “We've just been on for a couple of weeks, but our Girls Patrol is doing a fantastic job. We hope to keep on, too. And when the boys' turn comes to take over, we promise to be good sports and obey them just like they complied with our commands.”

The Girls Put Out the Heavy Signs While the Boys Watch at a Distance

The young females were asked what they would do if a big snow covered the ground, causing students to began throwing snowballs at one another. Lynne had a ready answer. “We'll teach them to behave.” “It's fun to take over a big responsibility like this,” Barbara Lingo noted. “I surely hope we can keep on with it.”

Joyce Haynes was equally happy over the chance at being a patrol girl. “It's a big responsibility to help the children cross the street safely,” she stated earnestly. “We must keep the students in safe hands and we try hard to do our very best. Fortunately, the drivers are very courteous people and obey us when we signal them to stop.”

“Even the boys have been cooperative,” Sharon O'Dell said, “They do as we tell them to,” she remarked. “And ever since we've been on patrol, we've only had to report four children. With the boys, sometimes more than that number is reported in one day. And we don't mind the rain at all. We have boots and slacks we can put on when needed. I think it would be fun to patrol in the snow, even if it meant harder work for us.”

Drivers passing by the school displayed keen interest in discovering that girls were directing the school traffic. One driver stopped to remark, “Say, you girls certainly look prettier than the boys'.'' Another halted long enough to inquire about directions to nearby Jonesboro.

The troop uniformly agreed that their captain and lieutenant were very nice and helpful to them. As for the opinion of the other boys at the school, their response was totally predictable: “No comment!”

If anyone can supplement this story or participated in the program, please drop me a note. 

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