Carol Simmons Archer is very proud of her late father, William Warren “Doc” Simmons and for good reason. He played a significant role in creating Johnson City’s Vocational Training program, which opened up a new world for high school students that were not college bound but needing an avenue for future employment.

According to Carol, “Dad was born in 1900 in the Powder Branch community of Carter County. Being one of 13 children, he spent his early life working on the family farm. He longed to enter college after high school to become a teacher, but his parents objected to his wanting to leave the farm and take up what they referred to as more ‘book learning.’ 

“Dad worked for nearby farmers and saved every penny he earned for his college tuition. After entering the local Normal School (ETSU), he traveled to the campus using a combination of transportation modes: walking, riding a mule to Milligan College and thumbing a ride on the back of some thoughtful farmers’ wagons. 

“While in college, Dad majored in Industrial Arts. He became a gifted wood craftsman and earned money by working at local lumber companies. Being a natural acrobat, he became a cheerleader. It was during this time that he met and married my mother, Dorothy.”

The future educationalist earned a BS degree from the Normal School and an MS degree from the University of Tennessee. After graduation, he taught at Junior High School on North Roan Street, which provided his family with enough income to build a house. He constructed a dwelling on Highland Avenue with his own hands.

Simmons later became principal at Keystone School. While employed there, he acquired the nickname “Doc,” a moniker that he would carry for the rest of his life.

“For years,” remarked Carol, “Dad spoke of the need for another avenue of learning for those students who preferred ‘hands on’ training over the traditional school curriculum. He believed vocational education was needed for those who wanted to begin earning a living immediately after high school. The concept never left his mind and he pursued every means possible to make it happen, including convincing the school board of its need. He also made numerous trips to Nashville to lobby for an additional educational training program.”

William’s efforts were rewarded when the board agreed with his proposal. About 1941, Martha Wilder School at Myrtle Avenue and New Street became Johnson City’s Vocation Training Center with “Doc” as its director. The school offered such crafts as welding, refrigeration, woodworking, masonry and auto mechanics. The self-made mentor remained at the school until his death in 1957.

The successful career program prevented some students from dropping out of school before graduating. Also, many area armed forces veterans took advantage of the training afforded by the center and acquired a skilled trade after their discharge from service.

Carol noted other glimpses of her father; he was an avid sports fan, highly sought after referee, official of the Burley Bowl Parade and devoted collector of area history. She recalls when he used to fire his pistol to start area high school football games. “Doc” received many honors for his contributions in local civic clubs, including being Lt. Governor for the Civitan Club and a member of Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.

Thanks to the pioneering efforts of William “Doc” Simmons, the vocational school tradition continues today at Science Hill Vocation/Technical Center with an expanded focus on academic and technical skills.  

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The start of a new school year is a time of moaning for some students and one of rejoicing for others. It also allows those of us who have long left the hallowed halls and ivy-covered walls to reflect on our favorite nostalgic memories. Such was the case on Aug. 29, 1965 when Dorothy Hamill, the late Johnson City Press-Chronicle writer, wrote an article about Cedar Creek Academy that once was located in the Gray community of Washington County.

Dorothy obtained her facts from A. Preston Gray, who resided in Kingsport and had attended the school. The original edifice consisted of a large room downstairs and a smaller one upstairs. The property was bordered on one side by a well-fenced farm and on the other by a dirt road. Preston quipped by saying that the road often provided the school with frequent student breaks, which occurred anytime a shiny horse-drawn buggy, log wagon pulled by panting oxen with bowed heads, or a threshing outfit went by. The latter caused the air to became permeated with the smell of wood smoke and hot cylinder oil.

Preston recalled two teachers. One brought his bicycle to school. It was the first bike that many of the children had ever seen before. During recess, the teacher rode the two-wheeler around the playground with youngsters following him like guards protecting a presidential car. Gray envied another professor because he could afford celluloid cuffs that rattled when he erased the blackboard.

Those were the days when zinc water buckets and dippers were standard equipment in schools. Brass-toed boots became badges of distinction for boys. Many youngsters carried an assortment of comic valentines for their sweethearts and sticks of white Long Tom Chewing Gum in their pockets.

Pranks were a regular occurrence such as throwing a musket cap in the pot bellied stove and watching it explode, inserting a pin in the folding seat, which gave out a mysterious ting when pulled out and filling a squirt gun from the water bucket and producing a sudden shower onto the blackboard.

The school maintained a tradition of planting trees on school property twice a year, once on Arbor Day and again at Christmas. In addition, the building became a platform for orators, such as the Tennyson Literary Society that met there on Friday nights.

Other sources of entertainment included listening to 78-rpm phonograph records of such recording stars as Ada Jones and Billy Murray, lectures by humorists Josh Billings and Eli Perkins and a performance from actor Bill Nye. Another popular event was attending “Magic Lantern” presentations. The device was capable of projecting slide images from plates onto a screen or wall. The subjects were generally travel logs.

“There was good music too,” Gray remembered, “with banjo, fiddle, harmonica and autoharp. One entertainment was held to raise money to supply a bell for the belfry; nickels, dimes, quarters and silver dollars came rolling in.”

In those days, teachers worked for very low wages. A principal once told Gray of asking for a raise from $19 to $20 a month and being rejected. Teachers routinely furnished erasers, crayons and wood for the stove at their expense. A school tradition was for teachers to treat students at Christmas; failure to do so meant a ducking in the frigid waters of nearby Cedar Creek.

Gray concluded his interview with Hamill with these words: “The only day I remember missing was when my teacher advised me to miss school and attend a circus at Johnson City. It was worth far more than a day in school.” 

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Science Hill High School’s 1916 annual, titled “Green and Gold,” measured approximately 6 by 8.5 inches. The cover was appropriated adorned in green with gold letters.

The original owner, Edith Opal Clark, wrote her name on the inside cover and dated it May 19, 1916. H.W. Lyle Printing Company of Johnson City published it. A photograph of the new school revealed that the building was complete but the grounds had not yet been landscaped.

The Editorial Staff consisted of F.L. Wallace (Editor-in Chief), H.L. Faw (Business Manager), E. Vance Jones (Assistant Business Manager), Ethel Deane Riddell (Class Editor), Ruth McCorkle (Editor of Wit and Humor), Ernest T. Hodge (Athletic Editor) and Helen L. Johnson (Art Editor).

The dedication page contained a picture to whom the annual was dedicated with these words: “We, the members of the senior class, do hereby humbly dedicate this issue of the ‘Green and Gold’ to our esteemed superintendent, Mr. Charles E. Anderson and loyal members of the faculty in recognition of the faithful service rendered by them.” The group also expressed their appreciation to W.I. Williams, Faculty Advisor. 


Faculty members (and classes they taught) were M. A Crary (Principal, Manual Training), Miss Lucy Hatcher (Mathematics, later principal), Miss Floy Harris (Latin), James L. Gilbert (Commercial), Joseph D. Clark (English), Miss Cherry Mae Preston (Music), Miss Una V. Jones (Modern Languages), Mr. A. F. Roller (Science), Miss Edith Barton (Departmental Teacher), Miss Clara Fulton (Assistant, Domestic Science) Miss Ruth Baxter (Departmental Teacher), Miss Willie Blance Hook (Departmental Teacher) and Miss Ella Burrow (Departmental Teacher).

The senior class consisted of 21 students. Superlatives included “Most Popular,” Ethel Riddell; “Most Obliging,” William Mitchell; “Biggest Grouch,” James Emmert; “Ladies’ Man,” Freddie Lockett; “Sleepiest,” F. Lee Wallace; “Noisiest,” H. Bear Miller, “Biggest Rube,” Reeves Haves and “Boss,” Ikie Williams.

A senior class poem titled “Home Coming to Johnson City” is a clever imaginary revisit to the city: “Why ‘tis August, nineteen and thirty; And today in my aeroplane; I came back to Johnson City; To see my classmates again. Just fourteen years ago in May; The diplomas from the JCHS; Were handed us. We parted then; To Where, I dared not guess.” The 104-line poem went on to envision where the students migrated after high school and how well they performed in their respective careers.

Hannah Elizabethton Doak penned a class song to the tune of “Then You’ll Remember Me.” The first of four stanzas read “Thru four long years we’ve studied hard; But we’ve enjoyed it too; Old Science Hill, our joy and pride; We bid farewell to you. Tho’ time may change, we’ll ne’er forget; The watchtower on the hill, Tho’ o’er the land and sea we go; Your voice will be calling still; Won’t you remember, O remember me.” 

One page was an essay on “The Three Degrees of Mathematics.” The first paragraph made crystal clear one student’s disdain for the dreaded subject: “Mathematics is that form of the most heinous torture ever invented by the ingenuity of man. Centuries ago it was used exclusively for the punishment of the most hardened criminals and was more dreaded than the rack or the guillotine. Since its invention, however, it has been introduced into schools, where it is used for the utter bewilderment and torture of defenseless and miserable students.”

In 1916, five student societies were available to the students: Young Men’s Christian Society (male), Francis E. Willard Literary Society (female), Jefferson Literary Society (male), Adelphian Literary Society (male) and Ossolian Literary Society (female).

The Athletic Association officers were M.A. Crary (president and treasurer), Fred R. Lockett (v-president), Earnest Hodge (secretary and baseball manager), Hubert Brooks (football manager), Eugene Parsons (basketball manager) and Harry Lusk (baseball captain).

Johnson City High School’s 11-student football team was one of the best football teams in upper East Tennessee. According to the annual, they played on the home field with Bristol on Thanksgiving Day: “The game was fast, both teams playing well and going together like steam engines with but little gains for either.” Bristol scored a touchdown in the first half but failed on the field goal attempt. In the second half, Johnson City broke the line and carried the ball safely for a touchdown. The game ended in a six to six tie.

The basketball program was described in an amusing depiction: The majority of the participants were very small in stature, but as the old saying is ‘They were little but loud.’ We cannot boast of having the gymnasium that some schools have, but when it comes to defeating the heavy, fast Boston Girls in a cement garage, where great skill must be employed in dodging Cadillacs, Buicks and various other kinds of cars, including Fords, the Johnson City boys are there with the goods.” The specific location of the games was not identified.

Rain was a constant problem for the baseball team during the spring of 1916 causing cancellation of several games. The key victory was defeating Emory and Henry, described as being a fast team, by a score of 11 to 4.

Finally, Joseph D. Clark wrote a brief essay on “The Work of the YMCA.” In part it read: “The greatest moral agency in the high school during the last two years has been the YMCA. The young men have found that there is more in school than text books and athletics, good as they are; they have found in the YMCA a great democratic stimulus, a friend that has helped to make true friends.”  

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Memories of old West Side School continue to flow from J.C. Press readers, this being my fifth column on the subject. Terry Parsons, who attended the school between 1951 and 1957, offered his own personal reflections. 

“I waited with great anticipation for going into the first grade,” said Terry, “because my sister, Betty, and my brother, Roger, were already in school. I wanted to carry books, notebooks, pencils and papers back and forth to school each day. I craved it.

John Mahoney and Terry Parsons

“Mr. John Mahoney, the principal, rang the old bell in the mornings signaling that it was time to get to school. I recollect his letting a few of us pull the big rope that extended from the ceiling just outside the auditorium.” Terry offered comments about his seven teachers:

1st Grade, Mrs. Mildred Taylor: “I remember her class” said Terry, “and setting at those little rectangular tables with about four or five kids to a table. Her reading circle was at the back of the room where she read from a large book. The students read back to her and chanted, ‘See Tom run, See Spot run.’”

2nd Grade, Miss McCloud: “She was the first teacher that I had a crush on. She was a pretty dark haired woman who was single. Her boyfriend occasionally came into our class, which brought giggles from the students.”

3rd Grade, Mrs. Georgia Tomlinson: Terry described her as a robust woman and a stereotypical teacher. He said she had impressive chalk calendars on her blackboard that were really a work of art. He recalls being in a play in the auditorium as a policeman dressed in his Cub Scout shirt and pants and wearing his Safety Patrol hat and plastic white belt.

4th Grade, Mrs. Alberta Sisk: Terry depicted her as looking much like Aunt Bee of the Mayberry television series. He said the little kids were downstairs and his class finally made it upstairs. It was in the 4thgrade that he was introduced to ink pens. Learning to use this device was part of becoming a grown up – a right of passage.

5th Grade, Mrs. Mildred Adams: The 5thgrade was upstairs on the south side of the building. The teacher was a small slender woman with gray hair. He learned fractions in math, which he said began to get more complicated.

6th Grade, Mrs. Ruth Martin and Mrs. Maude Meek: Mrs. Martin taught him all courses except math, which was presented by Mrs. Meek. “We received the famous Weekly Readers, which we read and answered questions in the back of the little paper,” said Parsons. “The 6th grade was the boys’ first experience with organized football. The city had a P.E. teacher assigned to each school that organized each school’s football team. Ours was Coach Bob “Mohawk” Mays.”

Terry has vivid memories of the trees that surrounded the school and how they would turn each year into the most beautiful fall colors imaginable – rich golds, yellows and reds. His class went outside and collected leaves, brought them inside, traced them and colored the tracings. Each year, the school held a ‘’The Fall Festival,” marking the beginning of the holiday season – Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The entire school was heavily decorated in vivid fall colors.

Terry concluded by saying, “A lot of parents baked cakes and brought them for the ‘cake walks,’ which were held in front of the office in the great hall. One game was held at Miss Taylor’s class doorway. Curtains were strung across the door and kids took a long cane pole and fished over the curtain to catch a prize.” Ah, such memories of yesteryear. 

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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.  

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While examining a May 24, 1940 student newspaper, “Junior High News – Graduation Edition,” I spotted a name in the “Guest Editorial” section that I recognized – Stan Barlow, an occasional contributor to my column. The youngster, who had graduated the previous year, penned the piece, “On to High School” in 1939 that tells of his thoughts of attending Science Hill High School:

“Before beginning our activities at the Science Hill, we should realize that we are taking our place in an institution which has a very colorful history and a prominent standing among secondary high schools of the south and that it will be our duty to keep the ball rolling. Since 1866, our high school has emerged gradually from a crude little log school to the fine structure, which now stands on the terraced hill overlooking our business district.

“We are provided with a school with about fourteen well-equipped, well-instructed departments, which touch vocations, art, fundamental subjects, sciences and gymnastics. How much more fortunate are we than the young men and women of many other nations. Indeed, we should be thankful and take every opportunity for increasing our knowledge and skill. 

Stan Bartow at age 15

“Our high school offers four main courses – Commercial, State, College Preparatory and Special. These will be explained to us when we register. We all know the value of thinking thoroughly before choosing our course. Now what we should deal with are the elective subjects. These included such activities as band, orchestra, glee club, public speaking, expression, R.O.T.C. and physical education. Each student is allowed to select one of those subjects and if his scholastic average is 90 or above, he is allowed to select two minor subjects.

“It is very valuable for us to develop good strong bodies as well as healthy minds and the school needs a number of athletes and beginners in this field to keep our competitive sports at the head of the line. For this purpose, a splendid round of sports has been provided for those interested. One will find tennis, basketball, football, track and baseball to choose from.

“In order to make the most of our high school education, let us think carefully through these courses and activities and chose those which will help us to take our place as a contributing member of society.”

I sent Stan a copy of the editorial. He replied that while he was in the ninth grade, he performed a role in a play that required him to dress like a girl. Knowing that his principal, A.E. Sherrod, a father figure to him, enjoyed his performance, it boosted his sagging adolescent ego. He credited two high school teachers, Margaret Dugger and Robert Hickey and principal, N. E. Hodges, for helping him realize that he needed to take life more seriously and obtain a quality education. 

With an impending war looming, Stan impressively expedited his high school experience by taking extra courses. He graduated from SHHS in 1942 in absentia because he was already away in college.

Stan commented on the four curricula classifications mentioned in the paper, explaining that Commercial was for students who planned to work as stenographers or secretaries in business and other offices. He surmised that State was a curriculum that complied with the minimum requirements set by the State Board of Education. College Preparatory was self-explanatory; it set additional requisites, such as 2-3 years of a foreign language.

Reflecting on his school experiences, he said: “Just thinking about those years gives me chills of nostalgia. With all their turmoil, they come close to being the best, don't they?”  

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An article from the September 1932 “School Board Journal” titled, “The Johnson City, Tennessee, Building Program,” spoke of an ambitious school enhancement project that began in the city on March 6, 1929.

The Johnson City Board of Education, comprised of C.E. Rogers (School Superintendent), W.B. Miller (President), H.M. Burleson (Secretary), Mrs. J.E. Crouch, H.C. Miller, J.H. Preas, Jr. and Mrs. J.A. Summers, inaugurated the enormous endeavor.

In the fall of 1928, Mr. Rogers presented a report to the Board outlining the status of Johnson City public schools with reference to the adequacy of buildings. It noted that the two oldest structures in the school system were Columbus Powell and Martha Wilder, both having been constructed more than 35 years prior.

A table in the report listed each school, the year it was built and the number of students above capacity (displayed as a minus if the building was under filled and a plus if overfilled). The white schools were Science Hill (1914, -13), Junior High (1922, -113), Columbus Powell (1890, +151), Keystone (1922, +134), Martha Wilder (1892, +107), North Side (1922, +133), Pine Grove (1922, 0), South Side (1917, +28) and West Side (1907, +191). The black schools were Langston (1895, -53), Douglas (1922, -69), Dunbar (1907, +64) and Roan Hill (no building, publicly owned).

Although Junior High had room for an additional 113 students, the article pointed out that beginning January 23, 1923, the enrollment was predicted to grow by more than 100 students bringing it to near capacity. Likewise, attendance at Science Hill was estimated to increase by 25 students. The school with the greatest excess of pupils was West Side at 191.

The legislature authorized a bond issue of $300,000 for Johnson City, which was subsequently approved by a substantial majority. The Board then requested the City Commission to authorize the expenditure of that amount for the following projects: addition to Science Hill – $31,250, addition to South Side – $31,350 and the building of new elementary schools for Columbus Powell – $74,000, Martha Wilder (later renamed Stratton) – $88,650 and West Side (later renamed Henry Johnson) – $74,750.

Three firms of local architects were selected to work with the consulting architect, William B. Ittner of St. Louis – D.R. Beeson, Messrs. Coile and Cardwell and C.G. Mitchell.

The Board of Education along with the Board of Mayor (W.J. Barton) and Commissioners (H.F. Anderson, W.O. Dyer, S.T. Moser and Frank Taylor) oversaw the building program with the latter board having legal authority in all matters of contract such as disbursement of funds.

The expansion at Science Hill High School on Roan Street consisted of three floors, the first being divided into a combination shop and drawing room, supply room and drying room. The second floor was divided into four classrooms. The third floor was devoted to the commercial department and consisted of rooms for instruction in shorthand, typewriting, bookkeeping, bank accounting and office practice.

The new addition at South Side was comprised of two floors, each having two classrooms. In addition, there was a room for a health clinic and a teachers’ restroom.

The new schools, Columbus Powell, Martha Wilder (Stratton) and West Side (Henry Johnson) buildings, were essentially identical as to interior plans. Each had eight classrooms: assembly room, library, clinic, office, teachers’ restroom, kitchen, projection room, janitor’s room and four student restrooms.

The new buildings were semi fireproof and were designed to allow for future expansion. The heating facilities were said to be the most modern available. Austral windows (upper sash opens outward like an awning and lower one opens inward like a hopper window for increased ventilation) were used in all three buildings as standard equipment.

The plans of West Side School (Henry Johnson) enabled expansion to a capacity of 840 students and provided facilities for an enriched elementary curriculum: kindergarten, 16 classrooms, library, auditorium and music room, nature-study room, handwork room and a combination auditorium and gymnasium equipped with a lunchroom kitchen. The administrative rooms included a principal’s office, health room and teachers’ and pupils’ restrooms.

The Board of Education and the public were overall pleased with the improvements made to Johnson City schools that provided modern and economic housing necessities ample for a period of several years. The school building program of 1929 served the city well for many years until student population demands again created a need for larger and more elaborate facilities. 

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An impressive booklet titled “Annual Catalogue of Boon’s Creek Male and Female Institute for 1860 and 1861” embodies a time in history nine years before Johnson’s Depot (Johnson City) was incorporated.

Sue Car Eckstein submitted the 8-page booklet that was printed in Jonesborough. The principal that year was Thomas P. Summers; Miss Nannie E. Bowers and John W. Burke were assistants. The Board of Trustees included Lawrence Bowers (Chairman), George P. Faw (Secretary), James Vaughn, Perry Hunter, William P. Reeves, David J. Carr, Elbert S. Cox, Fuller P. Hale and Alfred M. Crouch. All were from “Boon’s Creek” except for Reeves who resided in Jonesborough. 

Fifteen men served on the Board of Visitors. Three were from Boon’s Creek: Dr. Alfred Martin, Joseph D. Clark and Samuel E. Edwards, Esq. Five lived in Johnson’s Depot: Rev. James Miller, Caswell C. Taylor, Peter M. Reeves, Esq., Alfred Carr, Esq. and Samuel E. Miller, Esq. Two resided in nearby Fordtown: William C. Newell and Richard Kitzmiller. Three called Jonesborough their home: Rufus P. Wells, Alexander N. Harris and A.G. Graham (Attorney at Law). Nathaniel B. Taylor’s address was listed as Elizabethton.

Next, the students’ names were revealed in separate lists, 73 male and 24 female. Proving that a good education was worth traveling long distances or perhaps staying with someone in the area, it was interesting to note where the 97 students were from: Allison’s Mills (6), Bedford County (1), Boon’s Creek (48), Buffalo Ridge (5), Carter County (4), Cherokee (2), Cox’s Store (2), Elizabethton (1), Embreeville (1), Johnson County (1), Johnson’s Depot (9), Jonesborough (7), Knob Creek (1), Longmire’s (2) New Stirling (North Carolina) (1), Sequine (Texas) (1), Taylorsville (2), Watauga Bend (1) and Wheat Vale (2).

The catalogue further stated: “The institute is located in the quiet, pleasant and beautiful valley of Boon’s Creek seven miles north of Jonesborough. The building is commodious and comfortably furnished. The morality and healthfulness of the neighborhood are unsurpassed. Here students are far removed from inducements to extravagance and almost entirely free from the demoralizing influence of alcohol, the bane of schools.”

The publication went on to provide a brief history of the school. It was erected in 1853 and chartered by the Legislature on February 15. 1856. The goals of the institute were to prepare students either for college or to equip them for “the duties of active life.” The success of the educational facility was credited to the wisdom of its founders. The principal spared no labor to improve the pupil’s hearts and heads. Thoroughness in everything was accentuated as a primary aim, not how much but how well. The administration was said to be mild in its nature but firmly and impartially administered.

Students were required to adhere to four conditions: to conform cheerfully to all rules and regulations of the school, to manifest a desire to improve, to use no profane or unbecoming language and to abstain from intoxicating beverages.

Progress reports to student’s parents were issued in the form of quarterly letters when desired, stating the deportment and proficiency of their “children or wards.” Students living some distance from the Institute were urged to come by public conveyance to Jonesborough or Johnson’s Depot and then onto Boon’s Creek. The cost was declared to be very reasonable.

The catalogue expressed the school’s appreciation for the liberal patronage that it had received from surrounding communities. Its hope was to “merit an extension of the same.” The school year was divided into two sessions. The fall session commence on the third Thursday in August and continued for 20 weeks, with a week’s holiday for Christmas. The spring session began at the close of the fall session and continued another 20 weeks. No mention of other holidays was noted.

Tuition per session was listed by groups: Spelling, Reading and Writing, $5; Mental Arithmetic, Primary Geography, English Grammar, $6; English Grammar, Arithmetic, Geography and Watts on the Mind, $7.50; Nat. and Mental Philosophy, Rhetoric and Geography of the Heavens, $9; Elementary Algebra, Astronomy, Anatomy, Physiology, etc. $10; and Latin, Greek, Algebra, Geometry, Logic, Moral Science and Criticism, $12. Students were assessed an incidental fee of up to 50 cents for items such as wood, repairs, etc. Lodging was available in the surrounding area from $1.25 to $1.50 per week.

Textbooks used at the school were Webster’s Speller, Definer and Dictionaries; McGuffey’s Series of Readers; Mitchell’s Geographies; Davies’ Arithmetics, Algebras and Legendre; Bullion’s English, Latin and Greek Grammars; Peterson’s Familiar Science; Emerson’s Watt’s on the Mind; Comstock’s Chemistry, Philosophy and Mineralogy; Cutter’s Anatomy, Physiology and Hygiene; Kame’s Elements of Criticism; Alexander’s Evidences of Christianity and Tooke’s Pantheon. Latin books included Bullion’s Reader; Anthon’s Caesar, Virgil. Cicero, Sallust and Horace; Brooks Ovid; and Folsom’s Livy. Greek texts were Arnold’s Lessons; Bullion’s Reader; Xenophon’s Anabasis and Cyropedia; Isocrates; Herodotus, Demosthenes, Plato and Homer. A further note stated, “Students must conform to the established textbooks.”

The catalogue made a curious statement from the Board of Trustees, who at their annual meeting adopted the following resolution:

“Whereas, Thomas P. Summers has been principal of Boon’s Creek Male and Female institute for more than four years; therefore,

“Resolved, That we, the Board of Trustees, have found in Mr. Summers not only a gentleman, but also a faithful and competent teacher, and that on our part we have no desire to make a change, but while he would continue to foster the interests of our Institution, as heretofore, he would be our first choice.

“Further Resolved, That if Mr. Summers’ sense of duty should not permit him to remain longer with us, that he retires with our best wishes for his future welfare and that we hereby comment him to the esteem and confidence of those with whom he hereafter become associated.” The statement was signed by Perry Hunter, Chairman, pro tem.

Mr. Summers responded with his appreciation to the board by thanking them for their sympathy and encouragement since he has been associated with them in the conduct of the school and for their high appreciation of his services.

The highly appealing eight-page publication concluded with a note from the Literary Society: “There is in connection with the Institution and under the fostering care of the Principal and Trustees, a Literary Society, which is doing a good work in its department. Young men wishing to cultivate the art of forensic speaking will find it a valuable auxiliary. All those indebted to the Institution are earnestly requested to make settlement at an early day. This is the first call, ‘verbum sat sapienti’” The Latin phrase means, “A word is sufficient for a wise man.” 

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Sue Carr Eckstein recently shared with me two highly interesting documents: a two-page program, “Science Hill Male and Female Institute, Johnson City, Tenn., May 26, 1871, Closing Exercises” (subject of this column) and an “Annual Catalogue of the Boon’s Creek Male and Female Institute for 1860 and 1861” (to be featured on next week’s History page).

Science Hill’s unpretentious origin can be traced back to 1860 when a debating society in the Oak Grove community of Boones Creek was organized. It soon moved to a “schoolhouse” at Brush Creek Campground in Johnson’s Depot. In 1863, a new hewn log school building was built on Rome Hill in close proximity to city founder Henry Johnson’s train depot. About 1868, a brick one was constructed next to the old one. It was there that the 1871 end-of-school closing exercises were held. 

The program was not a senior graduation. Instead, it was a daylong eight-part event that began at “8½ o’clock a.m.” with visits to predetermined student classrooms before concluding that evening. The school was not as formally structured then as it is today with some students sharing teachers and classrooms. The activities and participating students were as follows:

“I. Examination of Classes: Class in Cicero’s Orations, Class in Arithmetic, Class in Algebra, Class in First Greek Book, Class in Trigonometry and Class in Second Latin Book.

“II. Recitation of Poetry (2 o’clock p.m.): Misses Lelie Gentry, Maggie Crumley, Jennie Berry, Nora Hickey, Carrie Berry, Jennie Crumley, Emma Carroll, Laura Hickey, Mollie Taylor, Sallie Faw and Louis Peters.

“III. Class in Declamation: Masters Dannie O’Brien, Charlie Carr, John Dickson, Charlie Taylor, James Martin, Johnson Pool, Charlie Martin, Willie Clark, Robert Love, Henry Barnes, Charlie Farnsworth, Charlie Seehorn, James Taylor, Nat. Carroll, Henry Landreth, Thomas Taylor and George Hardin.

“IV. Class in Composition: The Social Class, Mollie King; Another Year (original), Mollie Farnsworth; My Mother’s Little Girl, Mollie Love; Is It Any Body’s Business if a Lady Has a Beau? (original), Hassie Nelson; Friendship, Eliza Barnes; Passing Away (original), Jennie Debusk; Female Education, Maggie Bowman; The Sparkling Dewdrop, Rettie Farnsworth and Farewell (original), Cordelia Bowman.

“V. Class in Declamation: Richard N. Gentry, Alfred T. Love, James W. Crumley, Samuel H. Hunt, Samuel S. Crumley, Joseph Clark, Peter Q. Miller, William A. Debusk, George A. Reeves, Abram F. Hoss, David F. Hickey and Robert J. Rankin.

“VI. Oratorical Contest (7½ p.m.): Individual Responsibility, Calving R.J. McInturf, Washington County; The Duty of Educated Young Men, Madison W S. Taylor, Johnson City; The Spirit of Enterprise, Melvin C. Wells, Sullivan County; What Do You Want? William P. Rankin, Johnson City; The Aim of Education, Adam B. Bowman, Johnson City; Man Not What He Professes to Be, Abram H. Collett, Greene County; Evils of Intemperance, Winfield S. Hickey, Johnson City; and Horrors of War, William W. Smith, Virginia.

“VII. Address Before the School: H.H. Carr (Esq.), Washington County.

“VIII. Award of Prizes: (No information was shown pertaining to awards or winners).” 

The all-day closing exercises concluded with a benediction. The number of students participating in the daylong event totaled 58; several of them became prominent citizens. 

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On Feb. 27, 1939, the Commercial Club of Science Hill High School issued a 4-page publication titled, “Commercial News,” a periodical originated in the previous year. This organization, comprised of 27 students participating in business courses offered by the school, met each Thursday morning during “club period.”

Outgoing officers were Dorothy Wilcox, Editor-in Chief; Alice Garland, Assistant Editor; Nellie Moyers, Social Editor; Theresa Bayles, Class Editor; Frances Stone, Club Editor; Dorothy Scott, Secretary; Virginia Livingston, Assistant Secretary; Robert McKee, Business Manager; Miss Newton and Mr. Maddux, Faculty Sponsors. Incoming officers were Harry Burdick president; Louise Richardson, vice president; Dorothy Scott, secretary; Alice Garland, treasurer; and Frances Stone Club Reporter. The club’s Social Committee was comprised of Merle Cross (chairman), Theresa Bayless, Helen Mettetal and Jewell Vest. The Program Committee consisted of Theresa Bayless (chairman), Jewell Vest and Mildred Lowe.

Five topics were featured in the magazine, the first being “Traits of a Secretary.” Students conducted a survey of area businesses to determine what secretarial traits were most desired by their bosses. Accuracy topped the list; secretaries needed to spell perfectly and pronounce people’s names correctly. The second most important trait was assuming job responsibility without having to be closely supervised. 

Under “Class News,” it was reported that the second period typing class was comprised of beginners. Of the 24 members in the class, Mary Louise Meredith was deemed the most outstanding student. Another one, Jim Ellis, was razzed for having missed several days of classes and still using the old “hunt and peck” method. 

The seventh period typing class members proved their skill by averaging 38 words a minute. Other scores were first period, 36; fourth period, 30; and fifth period, 31. The girls were said to be superior to the boys. 

Under another title “Antique Typewriter,” Giltz Corley brought to school an old-fashioned 50-year-old typewriter that had belonged to his grandfather. Unlike most devices, it used an inkpad instead of a ribbon. The letters were on a cylinder instead of individual keys that rotated to the desired key before striking the paper. The result was script that resembled beautiful handwriting.

The second period shorthand class set a standard for students to read 100 sentences in 15 minutes (or 50 in 8 minutes). Theresa Bayless was recognized for reading 50 sentences in four minutes. John Gregg, creator of the shorthand method in 1888, authored the students’ shorthand book. One club member wrote that Mr. Gregg had worked in a grocery store during his youth and, during slack hours, practiced writing shorthand on brown paper bags. The bags were so rough that it was difficult for him to make an angle between two letters. This challenge resulted in his developing blends of elliptical figures and straight lines.

One Commercial Club member, Mildred Stout, offered an amusingly comment about shorthand saying that she thought the subject should be taught in the first grade so students would not have to learn the traditional way to write.

The final section of the publication, “Cracks from a Dark Corner,” closely resembled student gossip pages from a typical high school yearbook. The newsletter’s editor ended the publication with these words: “Well, I’ll say good-bye for this time. I’ve already told too much, but don’t you say a thing about what I’ve told you.” Mums the word, Dorothy.  

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