SHHS’s 1925 Wataugan: Their Work Was Not in Vain

The end of each high school year signals the distribution of much anticipated annuals. I purchased a 1925 Science Hill High School yearbook, The Wataugan, having belonged to Billy Joe Crouch, a senior with impressive student credits.

I find it heartrending that what was once a priceless possession of Ethie, as he was called, became an object of financial gain eighty-one years later. This was the fifth volume of the Wataugan. The school year began on Monday, September 8, 1924 and concluded on Tuesday, May 26, 1925.

This educational institution is alternately referred to in the periodical as Johnson City High School and Science Hill High School. Two students, Ada Gray and Mallie Martin died that year and were each honored with a four-verse memorial poem. The senior class motto, color and flower were “Post proelium praemium” (After the battle, the reward) and “Purple Iris” respectively.

Surprisingly, the 70 senior photographs were not alphabetized. The sophomores and juniors had their photos displayed but without their names. I recognized one prominent individual, Howard McCorkle, the president of the sophomore class. He later became superintendent of Johnson City public schools. Of the 27 faculty members listed, I recall three: E.E. Hawkins, A.C. Graybeal and Margaret King. The latter was my principal at Henry Johnson School when I attended there between 1950 and 1956.

The library had bookcases that were attractive pieces of furniture, each containing five shelves and placed side by side. A view of one wall shows seven such units.

Men’s sports included football, basketball and baseball; the ladies had only basketball. The cheerleading squad comprised three ladies and two men. Two unusual photos were made of the baseball team. The first shows them facing the camera with “Johnson City” embedded on their shirts. The second is an unflattering posterior view containing the names of their sponsors: Quick Service Tire Company, Hotel John Sevier, Free Service Tire Company, Joe Summers Agency, Masengills, Harrison’s Studio, Tenn. Nat’l Bank, Busy Bee Cafe, Tenn. Trust Co., Unaka City Nat’l Bank, Vee Bee Grocery and J.C. Steam Laundry.

The senior class’s play, “The Charm School,” was presented in three acts. Billy Joe Crouch had the part of George Boyd, “an expert accountant.” Another page contained jokes, personalized with the names of both teachers and students. Even the superintendent got into the act: “Supt. Rogers (addressing the student body): ‘Never be sure of yourself, students; no one but a fool or a hypocrite is sure of himself.’ Jordan: ‘Are you sure, Professor?’ Prof. Rogers: ‘Absolutely sure, my boy, absolutely sure.’”

The last several pages of the annual contained old ads, one purchased by 13 well-known area doctors: Dr. E.T. West, Dr. H.R. Miller, Dr. Ward Friberg (my delivery room doctor), Dr. L.K. Gibson, Dr. G.E. Campbell, Dr. J.W. Wallace, Dr. N.E. Hartsook, Dr. W.E. Swan, Dr. J.G. Moss, Dr. H.M. Cass, Dr. R.C. Miller, Dr. C.R. Smathers and Dr. W.S. Weaver.

A page near the end of the yearbook had these poignant words: “If this little volume does nothing more than bind you a little closer to the school we all love, and in later years, become a source of happy reminiscences of high school days, we shall not have worked in vain.”

Mr. Crouch, your work was certainly not in vain.