Seven Press Readers Still Hold West Side School In Their Hearts

I received correspondence from seven readers over the past several months whose cherished recollections of West Side School just keep flowing from their memories. Jim Crumley attended classes there in 1958-59 when Ms. Ewall was principal. His father also went there and had Mildred Taylor for his first grade teacher.

Jim recalled Miss Taylor's unique disciplinary techniques: “She would draw a circle with chalk in the corner of the room and place your nose close to the circle and advise you not to move your nose from the area. “She would grab you by the chin and shake it rapidly or take you by the lobe of the ear and lead you to wherever she thought you needed to be.”

Jim recalled that he had just completed the second grade when the school closed its doors. He feels the old structure’s demise was hastened by Ms. Thompson, the third grade teacher, who fell through the floor outside her classroom and broke her ankle. According to Jim, not all West Side School students were shipped to Henry Johnson; those who lived south of Lamont Street were dispatched to South Side.

Mildred Taylor lived in Jonesborough and rode the bus each school day to Johnson City. Jim remembers seeing her walk past his house on her way downtown to catch the bus. Carolyn Byrd Wilcox, who attended West Side School in 1953-59, also commented on Miss Taylor’s unusual punitive practices, saying that her discipline “took on a more ‘hands on’ approach.”

Jim Rhein wrote that his aunt, Maude Meek, and her daughter, Evelyn Ford, taught school at West Side for many years. Maude spoke favorably of the principal, Mr. Mahoney.  John Hughes spoke of Miss Meek, music teacher; Miss Tomlinson, third grade teacher who taught him to write in longhand (cursive); and Mrs. Sisk, fourth grade teacher who introduced him to Scripto blue ink and fountain pens. He said that Mrs. Martin served in the twofold role of sixth grade teacher and librarian, her library being situated in the back of her classroom.

Glenn Stroup related that his family moved to the Holston Apartments in 1940, and that he started attending West Side that fall in the second grade. He remembers Mr. Mahoney and three teachers: Martha Prator, Georgia Tomlinson and Carrie Lee Yoakley. “For those of us living in the Holston and other apartments along Main Street,” said Glenn, “it was easy to get to school – just dart across the street.”

He once was told to report to the principal's office immediately after school, causing him to worry all day about what he had done: “I was relieved to discover that Mr. Mahoney just wanted to know if my mother wanted to keep her large ferns in the school over the winter. Whew!” Glenn recalled classmate, Joe McClain, who later became a major league baseball player: “Almost every time he came up to bat, he knocked the ball across the street, leaving no doubt it was a home run.”

Terry Parsons was at the school between 1951 and 1957 and recollects when Mr. Mahoney rang the old bell in the mornings, signaling that it was time to get to school: “He let a few of us pull the big rope extending from the ceiling just outside the auditorium to ring the bell.”

An unidentified reader alleged that his father participated in a Halloween ritual at West Side by mischievously wrapping the school's bell clapper with rags to thwart the bell ringer. West Side School may have been deceased since 1961, but it still has a special place etched in the hearts of those who once walked its hallowed halls.