Wartime message from Quitman

We bring you this special wartime bulletin from the January 14, 1943 Quitman Free Press and the Ilex Theatre:

1943-01-14 The Quitman Free Press (go to the movies)

The Ilex, whose listed history on Cinema Treasures says it was named for a brand of cattle, has since been demolished.

Possibly the biggest reflection upon changes, though, is the claim that everyone in Quitman is located within a mile of the building. Or the suggestion that some Quitman ladies need to trim down, with a scale located right in the lobby for their convenience.

For the honor of being called Lanier

This blog recently told the story of Morgan-Leary, a high school that only lasted three months under its name. The school previously had been known as Calhoun and in 1957 and after three months as Morgan-Leary, changed its name to Morgan (which had been the school’s name until the 1953-54 school year).

An even shorter-lived school name has popped up: Pearl Stephens High.

Its brief existence is probably not a record, either, considering some of the upheaval in Georgia’s educational system.

More than one school in the state has bore the name of Pearl Stephens High School. The one for this story existed in Macon in 1924.

Macon had a complicated history of high schools in the 1910s-20s.

Gresham was the city’s main white high school until 1909, when a new school opened at Forsyth and Orange streets. This new high school would only share honors as being the main high school, though, as education was split into boys and girls high schools.

The new boys high school either did not have a name or retained the name of Gresham (split across two sites) until September 1910, when it took the name of Lanier, named for poet Sidney Lanier.

Almost immediately, both schools were overcrowded. In November 1912, the board of education decided to expand the Lanier site for boys and girls high schools and turn Gresham into a grammar school.

While the new Lanier was under construction, the board temporarily relieved some of the overcrowding at the site by creating double sessions at the Gresham girls high school and briefly returning it to a coeducational status.

The expanded Lanier of 1913 was coed and remained that way until changes in 1924 when the boys of Lanier were moved to a new building.

Lanier Girls

A postcard of Lanier High for Girls. It was the name female students in Macon preferred, but the honor of being Lanier High for Girls was only achieved by protests.

The new boys site was immediately christened Lanier. But what to do with the girls?

The Bibb Board of Education thought it had a perfect solution, which it announced at a September 11 meeting.

“Bibb County’s new high school for boys was yesterday named Lanier High School and the institution which has borne that name and is now to be used exclusively for girls was named Pearl Stephens High School, at the September meeting of the Board of Education held yesterday at the courthouse.”

The late Miss Stephens was a well known educator in the city schools for more than 35 years.

Keeping the boys school at Lanier was a source of pride for the boys and it was agreed to retain the name. Protests to the Stephens name were dismissed.

At that time, the board did not seem to recognize how important the Lanier name was for the girls as well, despite letters before the change.

When rumors of the new name were circulating in late August, a Lanier alumnus named Helen Shaw Harrold wrote the Macon Telegraph a letter about why she wanted the old name kept:

“Most of the letters have favored the idea of taking the name ‘Lanier’ from the building to which it rightly belongs, or giving it to the boys and of renaming the real ‘Lanier,’ ‘Pearl Stephens High School.’ Against this idea I do earnestly protest as do a great many, who, however, have not expressed themselves. I have nothing against the memory of Miss Pearl — she was fine — but it just seems foolish to me that the name should be taken from the school to which it belongs. As a matter of fact, when Miss Pearl taught at the high school she taught intermediate boys.”

It wasn’t just Stephens’ name seemingly being only significant to male students that Harrold protested, it was the lack of recognition given to the accomplishments of female students.

“The main contention of those would would take the name from us and give it to the boys is that the boys have won so many honors on the drill and athletic field while the girls have done nothing? Why haven’t they? Because the girls have never been allowed to have school teams in any sport at all. They have never been allowed to play on any basketball court except in the inadequate, unequipped, dark gymnasium in the basement of the school. There is good material among the girls which put together and with the proper instruction and coaching would make fine teams. Other high schools in the State, some of which are larger while others are smaller, have supported teams for boys and girls alike. Why can’t we?

“So much for athletics. A school cannot live off of that alone. In the field of scholarship, which have been the more faithful to their books, the girls or the boys? The girls, every time. Each month when the honor roll was published, the girls outnumbered the boys by a large majority.”

(White girls in Bibb County schools would not be allowed to play competitive high school basketball until 1970.)

Harrold suggested naming the new school Lanier High for Girls.

After the name change, even more letters of protest went to the Telegraph. One described the movement going on at the school.

“For a while there were indignant discussions and marked resentment at the idea of another name,” said Margaret Long on September 24.  “Now some of the girls wear black ribbons ‘in loving memory of the deceased Lanier High School.’ Others, maybe a little defiantly, are wearing orange and green ribbons on their shoulders.”

Long said the movement was not about Pearl Stephens, but about their love of Lanier.

“There is probably not a girl at ‘Pearl Stephens School’ who does not admire and respect this wonderful woman and honor her memory. But there are others who have taught at long as Miss Stephens and done as much good. For instance, Miss Clara Smith taught for forty-four years and is one of the most wonderfully beloved women in Macon. Miss Clara was not only loved devotedly by everyone who was fortunate enough to have her as a teacher but everyone of her acquaintance.

“Of course, Lanier couldn’t be named for more than one teacher and as there are more than one who are worthy of the honor, why not please the girls to whom it would mean so much to have for the name of their school, ‘Lanier Girls’ High’?”

The protests finally struck with the board of education, especially a petition with 1,000 signatures. On October 9, the girls school was granted its old Lanier name, but the decision was not unanimous.

J. Ellsworth Hall was the most vocal of the opponents.

““This whole thing has been assiduously worked up,” Hall said. “These girls do not know what they want. I can take a petition before them tomorrow morning and get every one of them to sign it.”

T.D. Tinsley asked that the board not acknowledge the petition at all. He lost that vote, 7-5.

Macon mayor Luther Williams urged that Stephens be honored with another school. Stephens’ family had previously blessed the naming of the high school in her honor.

Despite opposition, Pearl Stephens was again Lanier.

The name stayed six more years, when a new girls high was built.

In 1930, when the building was under construction, the school was given the name A.L. Miller.

There were again letters of protest against a name change, but this time the board stuck with its decision. Miller High it was when it opened in 1931 and Miller High it remained until Macon’s massive integration and coeducational high school shuffle of 1970.

The Bibb County Board of Education did find a way to honor Stephens; an elementary school was named in her honor. The Facebook group, We Attended Pearl Stephens Elementary in Macon, GA, pegs the school’s dates as 1929-90. Pearl Stephens Elementary was turned into senior housing, Pearl Stephens Village, in 2008.

(Note: The Pearl Stephens school in Warner Robins, which was an African-American high school through the 1969-70 school year, was named for a different Pearl Stephens.)

Sources: Macon Telegraph – Sept. 27, 1910, June 6, 1912, Nov. 21, 1912, May 9, 1913, Aug. 28, 1924, Sept. 12, 1924, Oct. 10, 1924, Dec. 12, 1930, Jan. 4, 2017;  National Register of Historical Places Registration Form for A.L. Miller buildings

Watch your step

School playgrounds can be hazardous.

There are the usual hassles of equipment: tall metal slides, monkey bars, boys swinging as high as possible and jumping out of the seats.

There are also unexpected hazards.

A quick hit from the recommendations for Dallas Grammar School faculty in 1955:

“(f) The fact that there is an electrically charged fence bordering on the school grounds was also discussed. We were assured that Mr. Scoggins had already warned the children of this fact and had spoken to the owner of the fence. We were assured, also, that the fence was not heavily charged. However, we would deem it advisable that you discuss this charged fence with your children and strongly advise them to AVOID it.”

Alas, there are no known updates as to if there were any incidents involving the fence.

The year of 1955 seems to have been a dangerous one. During the same month as the mention of the Dallas hazard, Toomsboro had its own close call on campus.

At Toomsboro Elementary, a second grader named Marie “was bitten by a poisonous snake while playing on the school grounds during recess Monday. The child was rushed to a local doctor for emergency treatment and then carried to a Milledgeville hospital.”

Sources: The Dallas New Era – Sept. 15, 1955; Wilkinson County News – Sept. 16, 1955

 

Bad grades end Toombs Central’s final season early

The gradebook can be a coach’s greatest fear.

It can take perfectly healthy players away, it can ruin state championships.

The 1987 Rockdale County boys had to forfeit their Class AAA basketball state crown because of an ineligible player that checked in as a sub during the state tournament.

The Rockdale situation was the costliest because of grades, but a few weeks earlier, the gradebook had been powerful enough to send one school’s entire season to a halt.

Toombs Central was at the end of its days as a high school in 1987; just a few months later, it was consolidated with Lyons as Toombs County High.

Located on US 1 a few miles south of Lyons, it had an average daily attendance of 97 when the Georgia High School Association reclassified in 1986. The figure was 29 less than what it had six years earlier.

Toombs Central was so small, it was the third smallest non-specialized public school in Georgia in 1986, behind Union County’s Woody Gap and Echols County.

Not surprisingly, its sports rosters were also tiny.

The Yellow Jackets fielded football teams from 1976-86, but struggled tremendously, winning as many as five games just once and finished out on a 1-39 streak.

Toombs Central did better in basketball, finishing as state runners-up in girls Class C hoops in 1958 and making three other semifinals. The boys made appearances in 1960 and 1963, but never won a game in state.

Boys basketball was struggling even more in the final season of 1986-87.

The Jackets were 0-11 in February 1987. The roster consisted of seven players.

But if Toombs didn’t think their situation could get any worse, it did.

On February 6, The Atlanta Constitution’s Steve Figueroa reported, “Toombs Central High in Lyons has canceled the remainder of its boys varsity basketball schedule because four of the seven players fell short of the standards and were declared ineligible.”

The academic rule that claimed the Yellow Jackets’ season was a new one by the Georgia High School Association, Figueroa said.

Students had to be passing five of six courses with a 70 or higher to participate in extracurricular activities.

GHSA executive secretary Bill Fordham said it was a first, to his knowledge, that a season was cancelled for this reason.

Toombs wasn’t the only school affected by the new rule – Rockdale had lost five players at that point – but at the time, Toombs was hit the hardest.

Predictably, Yellow Jackets head coach Wilbur Mallory was not happy with his team.

“We talked and talked to our kids about their grades, but they didn’t listen,” Mallory told The Constitution. “They’re doing their work now, but it’s too late. Sometimes it takes a cold slap in the face to wake you up, and I hope that’s what has happened with our kids.”

Mallory was also upset for the girls team, which he also coached. Teams did not want to play just one game per night and so several had cancelled games.

“Our girls are really mad at the boys,” said Mallory. “The girls all made their grades and now they’re having to forfeit because the boys didn’t. It’s a breach of contract on our part, so those schools don’t have to play just our girls teams, but I think it’s pretty bad of those who don’t.”

The lack of players prevented Toombs Central’s boys from playing in the region tournament, meaning they didn’t even have a chance of playing for state.

Mallory, who had been head coach of the football squad in 1985, warned the players they were in trouble for eligibility for that sport come fall, but it turned out to be a moot point as Toombs Central closed at the end of the school year.

Sources: The Atlanta Constitution – Feb. 6, 1987; Georgia High School Football Historians Association; Georgia High School Association Constitution and By-Laws 1986-87; Note: Neither Toombs County paper, The Vidalia Advance or The Lyons Progress, covered the Toombs Central grades situation.

A school name too difficult

You probably have not heard of Morgan-Leary High School.

Its existence is only  noted in a single one of Georgia’s educational directories, the 1957-58 edition. Its actual life was even shorter.

Morgan-Leary is likely one of the shortest-lived high schools in Georgia’s history.

Under its name, the school only lasted three months. The reason for changing it was one of the stranger decisions in state school history, too – Morgan-Leary was too cumbersome.

Morgan-Leary, located in Morgan, was named August 14, 1957 at a Calhoun County Board of Education meeting. It was renamed at another Calhoun County board meeting to Morgan High November 13, 1957.

The reason behind the change was explained by the Calhoun County Board of Education in the November 22 Calhoun County News:

“Upon suggestion of the board members from the Morgan district, a motion was made with concurrence from the Leary board member to change the name of the Morgan-Leary High School back to its original Morgan High School. Explanation revealed the name Morgan-Leary High School was impractical because of its length.”

Morgan-Leary was not even the most complicated name in the state at that time; Sardis-Girard-Alexander, which existed from 1952-87 (or 1954-87) in Burke County had two hyphens and three towns and communities incorporated into its name. And there was also Newnan-Coweta County Central High, though that was nearly universally referred to as Newnan Central.

Morgan-Leary was a name change from Calhoun High. Not to be confused with the city of Calhoun, whose high school held the same name, this Calhoun High had adopted the moniker in 1953, when Calhoun County was seemingly on the cusp of consolidation.

Edison and Morgan were going to consolidate in 1953, with the high school at Morgan. Everything looked ready to go, until the state of Georgia intervened.

No public hearing had been set up in Edison, the state said. Five years later, the state would rule similarly when Cleveland and Nacoochee high schools were kept from consolidating in White County.

High schools in Edison and Morgan went back to their previous status. Morgan kept the name Calhoun.

White County was delayed in 1958 and consolidated in 1959. The opposite happened in Calhoun County where instead of being a temporary delay, consolidation turned into a war.

In 1955, Arlington and Edison refused to consolidate and Calhoun County maintained three white high schools for three more years, with the second Morgan High existing for less than one year.

On February 12, 1958, the Calhoun County Board voted for Morgan High’s students to go to Edison for the 1958-59 school year. In return, Edison sent its middle school students to Morgan.

Morgan’s status as a junior high only lasted until 1968, according to the Georgia Educational Directory. The school closed completely that year, with the only school remaining in the town the all-grades segregated school, H.T. Singleton.

Arlington and Edison were gone by then as high schools.

Low attendance caught up with them and the Calhoun County BOE voted to consolidate both in September 1962, with the two coming together in 1963 when a new high school building opened in Edison.

Sources: The Calhoun County News – Aug. 21, 1953, Sept. 2, 1955, Aug. 23, 1957, Nov. 22, 1957, Feb. 28, 1958, Sept. 20, 1962; Georgia Educational Directory – 1953-54, 1957-58, 1958-59, 1967-68.

School stories: Hickory Grove

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Hickory Grove school, located in east Hancock County. The headstones behind the building are from the adjoining Hickory Grove Church.

This was a schoolhouse. It remained a schoolhouse until January 1960.

That information about the above Hickory Grove School may seem shocking, but not for Hancock County. Though quite rural, the county operated 14 black schoolhouses until January 1960 and some were even smaller than Hickory Grove. Ten years earlier, there were 23 schools.

Not much is known of Hickory Grove’s history. As it was not uncommon for black churches to double as schools the buildings could have been one and the same in some of the 1930s community reports.

Hickory Grove’s appearance resembles that of a Rosenwald school.

However, while the Rosenwald fund seems to have been generous to Hancock County, the Fisk University database has no record of a school built at Hickory Grove. Nor is it mentioned as one in the Sparta Ishmaelite.

It is certainly possible that Hickory Grove was inspired by Rosenwald schools. The fund is known to be responsible for four other buildings in Hancock, including a school at East End, which was located only a few miles away and though bigger, had a entrance that merely appears to have been a mirror image of Hickory Grove in an archive photo.

The school was active for community and children. Registration for war ration books was held there in 1943.

In 1948, it hosted its district of Hancock County schools in an Achievement Day, where the schools competed in literary and athletics competitions, with special displays of home economics and 4-H club projects. Schools coming over for district were Galilee, Sandy Run East, Archer’s Grove, Cherry Hill, Bethlehem, Culverton, Thankful and Pleasant Grove.

The Georgia Educational Directory did not make an attempt at identifying all black schools until its 1956-57 edition, which only then highlighted the bigger centers. Hickory Grove was not considered one of those.

In 1957-58 and 1958-59, the school was listed as having grades 1-7 under the guidance of two teachers. It was not listed in 1959-60 as a pair of new black schools being built by the the State School Building Authority (Hancock County Training and Southwest) were not finished.

Hickory Grove was finally emptied in January 1960, but possibly not for one of the new buildings. Brand new Hancock County Training was already overcrowded.

As the January 28 Ishmaelite explained, “This will leave some Elementary pupils at the L.S. Ingraham School and some at Galilee as the mammoth new building was not large enough to accommodate them all.”

Galilee was just a few miles directly west of Hickory Springs, almost located on the same road. It looks to have remained a school until 1962.

Shortly after closing, Hickory Grove – as well as its land – was slated to be sold at auction in June 1960, along with several other small former black schools.

Hancock seems to have had a change of heart over what to do with Hickory Grove. Online property records for the county show that the parcel, which is still identified as Hickory Grove School, was granted to Hickory Grove Church for $0.

(Note: The date listed for Hickory Grove’s property transfer to the church is given as May 6, 1960, before it was listed in the Ishmaelite as being part of the auction.)

Sources: The Sparta Ishmaelite – Oct. 21, 1943, April 22, 1948, Dec. 28, 1950, Sept. 24, 1959, Jan. 28, 1960, June 2, 1960; Fisk University Rosenwald Fund Card File Database; multiple editions of the Georgia Educational Directory; Hancock County property records.

Not a swell time in Atlanta

Compared with the rural nature of most of Georgia, Atlanta likely seemed a bed of vice, especially in the 1940s.

The city, however, kept some illicit things out of sight – literally.

Atlanta had a movie censor, keeping your eyes from seeing what it shouldn’t on the many, many theaters that existed in the city.

Miss Christine Smith held the post in 1947.

She  made the news in February of that year by banning Swell Guy, a Universal flick starring Sonny Tufts as the leading cad, Jim Duncan.

The wire story in the Waycross Journal-Herald described her reasoning as such: “the leading man has an illicit love affair[;] an affair with a thrice-married woman teaches his nephew to cheat and dies a hero’s death.”

Sounds rotten, eh?

It looks like, though, there was a bit more nuance than Smith saw in it.

Avoiding the spoilers (which can easily be discovered by searching for “Swell Guy” and “movie” in a search engine), the review from the New York Times said that not everyone was amazed by Duncan.

“This fact becomes very soon apparent as this new film at the Winter Garden unreels, but it takes some of the people quite a long time to catch on—and most of them never do. First to catch on is a local prom-trotter who falls in love with the fabulous gent. She gets caught in an age-old situation and roundly denounces him. Then his own sister-in-law, almost toppled by the character’s diabolic charm, discovers his evil disposition, but she doesn’t say anything because suddenly the character is offered an opportunity to die a hero—and he does.”

Universal was not thrilled about Atlanta’s denial, said Waycross, and had plans to go to court.

The Waycross article said Smith had also banned another Universal film, Scarlet Street.

Scarlet Street was a Fritz Lang film and was briefly banned in New York City before being released with cuts. It can be viewed freely at the Internet Archive. Though too scandalous for Atlanta, a listing for it at Tifton’s Tift Theatre was spotted in archives for 1953.

Sources: Waycross Journal-Herald – Feb. 18, 1947; New York Times – Jan. 27, 1947, Feb. 15, 1946.