New Building LHS
Well, kind of new. I guess nothing stays new. This building was built during the depression by WPA and has the same general look for schools all around the country. Still, it was constructed prior to my birth, so I’ll not spend time on how this came about, but rather my memories of the rooms and several of the teachers. First, I’ll take a little mental tour as best I can. Sidewalks ran from the old ‘normal’ school, both in the front and back toward the new building. Having at least two buildings with classrooms was more like a college campus than the single building we knew as grade-school students. Switching classes, which sometimes meant switching buildings seemed more ‘grown-up’ than staying with a single teacher in one environment. This actually allowed teachers to specialize in their subjects and relieved them from having to scurry about.
An advantage I remember is that as mobs of kids passed each other during class breaks, we often had the opportunity to socialize a little and to see friends we might have otherwise missed. Often, plans were made on the run to meet later during lunch or after school. It was a time that those who were dating would get to briefly see each other. Some passed notes they had drafted during the prior class. Considering that teachers were often very alert to distractions, it would have been at some risk to have done that under certain circumstances. I saw it done more than once, but another risk was that inattentiveness in class had its own consequences.
The rear sidewalk came around past a set of steps and a door that went to the coach’s office at the back end of the gym. This was very rarely used as the crowd would continue to enter into an area that had steps leading to the basement classes, or up to the first or second floor. I remember a class in the basement taught by Mr. John Pennington, a teacher who lived in Webbville and rode the bus into town every day. I think that in my later years Mr. Ray Bailey, the father of a favorite classmate, taught under-classmen math. The first floor of the building had classrooms used by Mrs. Ellen Lackey, a teacher of English and a family friend of ours. My great aunt Shirley Chapman was on the other side of the main entrance and Mr. Jim Cheek’s, the principal’s office, which I’ll discuss in time. She taught math, including algebra and other such things.
Across the hall toward the center and back of the building was the school’s gymnasium. This was slightly smaller than regulation so the mandatory ‘ten second’ line was drawn as two lines on each side of the bulldog logo medallion. Even when I was a very young little boy I would attend basketball games there and join with my mother to cheer on our wonderful bulldogs. How sweet were the victories and how very skillful the boys were in making baskets! In the seventh grade I went out for basketball and discovered it required running. Not just running the length of the gym, but to arrive at the correct end in a timely manner. Usually I was to be found trying to catch up. The action seemed to always be at the other end. I gave up. Sorry, but I’ve always been slow and a bit clumsy. Later, I would play in the pep band. Frankly, when the band played in the gym it was always too loud and chased people out into the hallways. We tried to play softly, but the excitement of the moment was too much.
Some of the players I remember were: Larry Weeks, Bill Lemaster, Harry Richard Cyrus, Paul Fannin, Joe and Wayne Maynard, Mike Meade, Charlie Jones, George Lewis, Butch Wellman, Herb Rice, Tennie Van Hoose, Jimmy Dotson, Larry Osborne, and Joe Rice.
I cannot think of that building and not have a burning memory explode and replay in my mind. A lovely classmate, head cheerleader, and class clown were vested in one person. Kay Varney (Maynard) was always up for fun and laughing and I often joined with her to play outlandish gags or be her ‘straight man.’ One afternoon, she and I were both late to a math class held by my great aunt so were rushing to class. Kay burst open the door and hurried across the classroom only to hit a slick spot on the oiled floor. Up went both feet and down came her bottom with a thud. Since I was just behind her and also on the move, I attempted to play the gentleman a rushed to help her to her feet. You guessed it. Up went my feet and down came my bottom just beside the still prone girl. Wham! The class went crazy with laughter, including my aunt. While still on the floor I saw the door creak open as the principal looked in to see the commotion. He just shook his head, backed out and closed the door. Laughter went on for a time as Kay and I tried to help each other up. I guess we got to the math lesson, but that isn’t what I recall about that day so long ago.
I was still a grade-school student when my mother took me to the gym to see a professional wrestling match. We had only just begun watching wrestling on television on a small screened set. The image was a poor picture of two ghosts of black and white. The event at the high school was to be ‘in person.’ The workers had put up a ring complete with ropes and turnbuckles. The whole floor was covered with a tarp so it wouldn’t be scratched. Some in the crowd said the wrestling was fake, but the guy who got hit with a folding metal chair was bleeding. I saw it! In the end, good triumphed over evil when the popular wrestler won.
I also remember going to a ‘donkey basketball’ game in the gym. Considering how careful everyone had to be with the beautiful, gleaming, wooden floor, I was made to wonder. They put down a big tarp and then put cloth ‘boots’ on the animals. The floor survived. Several of the leading men from town played each other. Another time we watched the Harlem Globe Trotter play, but that was more likely in Huntington’s Field House, a place where I also saw Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and The Sons of the Pioneers. The gym at the high school was our ‘field house,’ for many community events.
The second floor had two main classrooms that I remember. One was the home education room taught by Mrs. Ruby Becknell. This class was ‘girl’s only’ to my memory although I don’t think there were any rules that guys couldn’t learn to cook or sew. The other room was the chemistry lab, taught by Mrs. Beulah Moore. As it happens she was also the mother of some friends and the wife of the County Agent, whose office was in the basement of the post office building downtown.
During the summer band camp I got to ‘like’ a certain girl who happened to be a senior. The only class I could take with her was chemistry. I registered, but the relationship soured before even the first class. Too late! I was stuck in chemistry. I learned about the elements, the table of elements, and a little about formulas, but the formula classes soon became troublesome to me. I passed by the skin of my teeth determining to apply the real lesson. In high school, relationships are usually temporary and signing up for classes should be carefully considered.
One time during my senior year some of the girls started wearing Bermuda shorts to school. Our principal, Mr. Jim Cheek informed them they had to stop because the shorts were immodest. Several of us boys thought that new rule was a little too tough. Shorts were being worn outside of school all the time, and besides, Bermuda shorts were dressier and not like the ‘short-shorts’ that were popular about that time. The schools didn’t have air-conditioning and the spring could have some really warm days. Several of us boys, I think including Tennie, Billy Elkins, maybe Johnny Bill, and others decided to wear them the next day. None of us had them so that meant a trip to the store for us. On top of that, boys thought generally that shorts were ‘sissy.’ We forgot our pride and wore them anyway to make a point. The restriction was lifted, and I was left wondering if that was because of the protest, or because it broke the boy’s prudish vanity. Maybe it was us that were ‘played.’
There are those who will remember the coach’s office that was a part of the ‘smelly’ rooms that included lockers, benches, and the basement showers. I never experienced hot water coming out of the shower heads. I guess they turned the hot water heater on when there was to be a game. The LHS team’s locker room was on the eastern side, toward the river, while the visitors had there’s on the western side. I don’t remember ever seeing the visitor’s accommodations, but suspect it didn’t have the extra space required for equipment room or coaches offices. The rest of the basement was for the boilers that kept the building warm in the winter months. I looked in a couple of times but didn’t see cause for exploration of these catacombs. Who knows what may have lurked down there waiting to jump out and grab an innocent kid?
The gym was also the site of all the school dances. Sometimes these were decorated with ribbons of paper, round tables and chairs for seating, and flowers. The lighting on those nights were dim. A portion of the floor was set up for dancing by couples. Many fellows, like me, were slow to dance as we were insecure and likely to make all kinds of painful mistakes. Often the girls would have to dance with other girls, but there were also so those cute couples who were madly in love. Ahhhh! The danced the jitterbug and the ‘stroll,’ but a slow dance where they could embrace was the real thing. The music of Elvis, Pat Boone, Little Richard, and Marty Robbins filled the gym and made it a wonderland of dancing figures in their best evening wear. Shadows of those times will appear in our memories, as will warm feelings for our dates. How often did we get a chance to dress up and play the role of ladies and gentlemen? A few pictures and party favors were kept as souvenirs by some. Discovery of those in a box stuffed back into storage are sure to bring our once young hearts to rush. It was another time, wasn’t it? email@example.com