Junior High School’s Largest Graduating Class Said “Good-bye” in 1940

I acquired a May 24, 1940 edition of “Junior High News – Graduation Edition,” a 12-page student publication chocked full of names and facts. The item is in the Pat Watson (once owned Pat’s Trading Post) collection of the Archives of Appalachia. 

The newspaper staff consisted of Anna Marie Irish, Editor-in-Chief; Mary Ellen Gregg, News Editor; Dorothy Lynn Brown, Club Editor; Herschal Ottinger, Art Editor; Hoyle Chancellor, Boys Sports Editor; Marjorie Brumit, Girls Sports Editor; and Frank Martin, Business Manager.

The headline announced that 225 students were graduating from Junior High School, as being the largest class in the history of the school since its beginning in 1922. The periodical further stated that the second largest class had graduated the previous year when 200 students received diplomas. The commencement theme was titled, “And They Shall Read,” depicting 500 years of printing and its effect on history.

The annual Honor Banquet was scheduled for the following Friday evening at 6 o’clock in the school cafeteria for 250 specially invited guests. The invitees were students earning letters from the school, members of the Junior High P.T.A and faculty.

A popular feature of the paper was the joke page depicting funny stories that fictitiously occurred between students and teachers. For instance: A teacher by the name of Helen Jones, after being annoyed by a student’s constant interruptions during class said, “Frank Martin, are you teaching this class?” His response was “No madam.” The teacher followed with “Then don’t talk like an idiot.”

The graduating class presented a lively comedy, “Apple Blossom Time,” on Friday evening, May 3 at 7:45 with a capacity crowd filling the massive 1000-seat auditorium. A calendar showed the final events for May: “9A Play, May 3; Letter Awards in Assembly, May 23; Honor Banquet, May 24, 6 p.m.; Class Work Closes, May 27, 11:30 a.m.; Reorganization for Fall Term and Receive Report Cards, May 28, 8:30 a.m.; and Promotion Exercises with Exhibits from Various Departments, May 28, 2:30 p.m. The calendar indicated that school would begin again on Sept. 3, 1940.

One section in the paper was similar to superlatives found in high school annuals, each one containing a different letter of the alphabet: Athletic, Baritone, Cute, Dumb, Earnest, Flirt, Gardner, Hopeful, Inquisitive, Jealous, Kissable, Little, Meddler, Nimble, Odd, Pest, Quiet, Restless, Saucy, Tumbler, Useless, Vacant, Whimsical, X (indicating unknown quantity), Yawners and Zestful. One or two students were listed under each category.

Miss Mary Nelle Givens, 9A student, won the title of Milk Queen in a contest sponsored by the Johnson City Milk Producers Association by defeating a representative from Science Hill. The margin was 3000 votes. The school was awarded $50 as first prize, the money being used to purchase new library books. Mary Nelle won $10 and a free pass to the Majestic Theatre for a month. She was also chosen as the school’s most popular girl in a run-off contest with three other contestants – Betty Asquith, Anna Marie Irish and Rosemary Murray.

The publication concluded with several students commenting on the teachers they would soon be leaving behind at Junior High and beginning their daily trek up 88 steps to Science Hill High School. The list included Mr. McCorkle, Miss Bradshaw, Miss Candler, Miss Archer, Miss Hart, Miss Taylor, Miss Whitehead, Mr. Oakes, Mr. Boyd, Mr. Hall, Mr. Dyer, Miss Jeffries, Miss Mathes, Miss Barnes, Miss Van Gorder and Mr. Sherrod.