Junior High Alumnus Recalls Bygone Era

It is a joy to receive correspondence from those who bring to mind long-deceased unique individuals from yesteryear. Stan Barlow, a former resident of our city who taught at ETSU, Columbia University, City University (New York) and was dean at the University of Minnesota, sent me a note.

The educator responded to my previous Junior High School column, sharing cherished memories of an era long since passed. Mr. Barlow said he received a copy of my article about the old school that was designed by the father of his brother-in-law, Dick Beeson.

Stan indicated that he once lived at 102 W. Watauga Avenue and later at 705 N. Roan Street: “I could see the windows of (Pearl) Archer's homeroom when I was in the 8th grade and getting ready to walk the two blocks to it. I was a proud graduate of North Side School and in another two years would be running down Roan Street and up the hill of stairs to twin-towered Science Hill, all too often hearing the 8 o'clock tardy bell as I climbed.”

Stan lamented that the three schools he once attended have all been razed, saying that they once seemed eternal to him. Also gone are the two houses where he lived. His sole consolation is that a new North Side School now stands in the location of the former educational building.

Mr. Barlow further stated: “A.E. Sherrod, our Junior High hands-on principal, was a symbol to me. I never lost sight of him. He ran a tight ship, but he knew what he was doing – he was educating – as were most of the teachers who served with him. I remember how, every year in assembly, Mr. Sherrod would read us a poem with the refrain, ‘Just keep a-going?’”

Stan singled out four teachers from that era – Miss (Hettie) Ewalt, (Miss) Mabel Anderson, Mr. (Miller) Bray and Mr. MaGuren. The latter taught band and eventually formed a musical ensemble. “We had orchestra, band, shop, drama and other ‘learning’ with a wonderful mix of kids. Too bad we were not yet integrated, or the mix would have been even richer. I started Junior High in 1936, the year the 'voice' in your article 'graduated' there.  You reminded us that the school opened in 1922, two years before I was born. Regina Eisemann was the first principal. She was a dear friend of our family. I kept in close touch with her throughout her life. Anna Laurie Conley, older sister of my friend John, was Regina's efficient nurse in Johnson City.”

Mr. Barlow penned a personal tribute to Ms. Eisemann in, as he called it, “those magic free verse lines” titled, “While I'm Shaving,” (Swimming Laps, August 2001) that shows homage for his favorite principal. Here is an excerpt: “I helped roll Regina Eisemann, in her wheelchair up the long hill in the snow. She had been school principal. She focused our minds, as we pushed along to our house, from the big hotel where she lived, past the lamp-lit service station, up and over the curbs. She bounced about in the chair like a ball, with flashing eyes and vocabulary. She never talked down to us. Made us think deep.”

Junior High’s first principal died while still in her seventies. Despite her suffering, Stan related that “she was always wide-awake to the world; she loved it.”

Thanks to Stan Barlow, we have been permitted to bring two former Junior High School Principals briefly to center stage and shine the big Yesteryear spotlight on them. Well done, Mr. Sherrod and Ms. Eisemann.