Hey now!

We have a bulletin from the August 28, 1952 Toccoa Record:

“John F. Carey, Demorest engineer, making a survey of Toccoa Falls Wednesday in connection with the proposed amphitheatre, says that he finds the height of the falls to be only 167 feet.

“Carey climbed to the top of the falls and dropped a steel tape to the bottom. The height has always been thought to be 186 feet.”

(Apparently Carey’s measurement didn’t stick. Both Wikipedia and the city of Toccoa continue to list the falls at 186 feet. No word if this actually ran deeper, say a feud between Habersham and Stephens counties.)

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School stories: Wilson (Ringgold)

Wilson (Ringgold)

A rear view of Ringgold’s Wilson High in 2013.

This was an all-grades school.

No, not the giant two-story building in the background. The one with the chimney. The one that resembles a small office.

This was Wilson High School, one of the smallest black high schools in Georgia.

Wilson opened in the building in September 1955. The history of black education in the preceding years was not well-publicized in the Catoosa County News.

From 1949-52, it was a two-teacher school. Teacher counts were not included again until 1956-57, when it had expanded up to three.

Wilson was not only quite small, it was the only school for African-Americans in the county. If any others had existed, they closed prior to the 1949-50 school year.

What sufficed as a school building prior to Wilson’s construction was not described in Catoosa County’s state survey, which was published in the newspaper January 3, 1952. It can be assumed that it was a frame building. A new building was in the works as soon as Catoosa revealed its improvement plans in 1953.

The Georgia Department of Education’s first attempt as a reasonably thorough list of black schools did not come until the 1956-57 school year. In that edition, Wilson was a 10-grade school. It was also listed as Ringgold Colored.

When exactly the Wilson name was applied to the school was unknown.

The Georgia Department of Education did not pick up the name in its directory until the 1959-60 school year and the first reference found in the Catoosa County News as Wilson was in October 1956.

The Educational Directory upgraded Wilson to 12 grades in 1957-58. It was listed as having four teachers in 1965-66, which may have been its final year as a school; Wilson is not in the 1966-67 directory.

Georgia Interscholastic Association records (housed by the Georgia High School Association) list Wilson’s average daily attendance at the high school level as 17 in 1959-60. If it still existed in 1966-67, Wilson’s ADA had increased to 22.

(Oddly, the Georgia Department of Education does not list Catoosa County as having a black high school in its 1961-62 publication, Public High School Data.)

Wilson’s existence as a high school was perhaps an odd one. Its ADA was one of the smallest of any public high school on either GIA region list.

It was not uncommon for counties with minuscule black populations in Georgia to bus school children to a neighboring district. Nearby Murray County was sending its high schoolers to Emery Street in Dalton – a county that also abutted Catoosa.

Eventually, Ringgold High grew around old Wilson. That school is the one in the background of the top photo. Perhaps surprisingly in the era of segregation, they were virtually neighbors after new schools opened in 1955.

Luckily, RHS had a use for the building.

Wilson is now the JROTC headquarters for Ringgold High. It’s a bit frightening that one department of a school is located in what was an entire grades 1-12 school.

Though a tornado came through in 2011 that damaged both Ringgold High and neighbor Ringgold Middle, Wilson still stands.

DSC02412 - Copy

Wilson is now a JROTC building. A careful examination of its walls show where windows were bricked over.

School Stories is a series of current-to fairly current photos of school buildings. Some are long abandoned, some are still in use. Most will be rural or small town schools. Information is provided by newspaper archives and editions of the Georgia Educational Directory.

Anniversary of GHSA admitting black schools

May 24 marked the anniversary of an important milestone in Georgia High School Association history.

It was on that day in 1966 that the organization voted to admit all-black schools.

A May 26, 1966 Associated Press article from the Palm Beach Post (Fla.) and one the same date from the Rome News-Tribune provided details of the change.

Ten Atlanta schools and four from Savannah had applied for membership in the GHSA when the league held its annual meeting in Thomaston.

The 14 had been members of the Georgia Interscholastic Association. The schools admitted to the GHSA in 1966 were Savannah’s Beach, Johnson, St. Pius X and Tompkins. From the Atlanta area were Archer, Carver, Drexel, Hamilton, Harper, Howard, Price, South Fulton, Turner and Washington. Drexel and St. Pius X were both private Catholic schools (Drexel, oddly enough, was swallowed up by DeKalb County’s St. Pius X in 1967).

These were the first all-black schools in the GHSA, but some integration had taken place earlier. Barely a year after Atlanta’s high schools opened their doors to African-American students, January 1963’s Southern School News had a report on the integration of sports teams.

Whether by agreement or a GHSA ruling, no athletes were playing varsity level sports during the 1962-63 school year. Southern School News said that two athletes, John Henry Carter and Grady Davis were playing B-team basketball at Grady. Clemsey Wood was playing B-team hoops at Brown.

Integration was met with mixed results.

Decatur High, it said, cancelled a B-team game against Grady rather than face black athletes. Druid Hills and St. Pius X (DeKalb) had no issues and played on, as did Smith and West Fulton.

Wood told Southern School News that he believed his teammates had accepted him.

Bert Johnston, who coached Brown’s B-team admitted there was hostility during games.

“[A]s far as I can determine the boys on the team have accepted him. Of course, there has been some reaction from the spectators at other schools, but that’s to be expected.”

An African-American athlete also initially joined the Marist swim team, but found the travel to early morning practice too trying, according to athletic director Rev. William Seli.

Several other schools were gradually integrating and some systems with a small black population, such as Murray County, had completely integrated by the time of the applications.

Though powerful on a local level, the admittance of the 14 in May 1966 was a much bigger step. Now schools were playing not just one or two athletes that had changed schools, but entire teams rooted in identities.

In 1966, GHSA leader Sam Burke was apparently puzzled by what to do with the schools. Reclassification had taken place the previous fall. Regions were settled, schedules were settled.

Burke proposed a new region, 7-AAA, entirely filled with the applicants.

Though brutal for travel, it was not that much of a stretch for the 14 schools. Even at its largest, the GIA had only a single region for its largest schools, though it was subdivided.

The GHSA executive committee overruled Burke’s decision about a single region. The choice was left up to the schools.

All 14 schools were placed in a region for the 1966-67 season.

Region 2-AAA became the home of Beach, Johnson and Tompkins.

Region 3-AAA took on Archer, Harper, Howard, Price, South Fulton, Turner and Washington.

Carver went to Region 3-AA, while St. Pius X went to 2-A and Hamilton went to 4-A. For its one year in the GHSA, Drexel was in Region 8-C.

The ex-GIA members ultimately played a lot of each other in 1966 as figuring out a solution to region standings was not an easy fix. Basketball proved much better, with both Carver and Beach taking state boys titles. Beach walloped South Fulton in the AAA championship game and South Fulton and Turner also made the state tournament field.

A year later, the list grew even more.

Josey and Lucy Laney joined the league at the beginning of the school year. Carver (Columbus) and Spencer came over that December, after the GIA football season ended. The GHSA was even getting smaller public schools, such as Blakeney of Waynesboro.

Others filtered in in 1968. Had total integration not been pushed for 1970 by the Supreme Court, some deep southern Georgia smaller schools were also considering the jump.

Excelsior, based in Rochelle, had gotten the OK from Burke to join in 1970, according to principal Eddie Daniels.

Wilcox County High received all of Excelsior’s students in 1970. Had Excelsior continued, the November 6, 1969 Wilcox County Chronicle said they had at least temporarily been placed in Region 1-C, with Unadilla, Wheeler County, Vienna, Randolph County, Terrell County and Albany private school Deerfield.

The mass of schools leaving had a detrimental effect on the GIA.

Thirty-one high schools jumped to the GHSA or closed between 1966 and 1968, based on differences in the GIA region lists archived at the GHSA office.

At its peak, the GIA had four basketball classifications – AA, A, B and C. In its final year of operation, it was down to AA and A.

On November 12, 1969, The Atlanta Constitution reported that the league would disband in 1970. Burke said the GHSA was receiving applications, which would have included Excelsior’s.

The Constitution said the GIA was encouraging its schools to go to the GHSA if they thought they would have athletics in 1970-71.

Back on their feet

Occasionally over the course of the history of basketball, there was a strange blip that seemed to defy convention.

One of those happened in the mid-1980s when national rules mandated that high school basketball coaches could not stand during the course of games.

It was reversed in November 1988, but only somewhat, according to the Associated Press and reprinted in the November 15, 1988 Waycross Journal-Herald:

“The high school coaches cannot stand and question calls by officials, as in college basketball. They can only stand to talk to their players or to react to an outstanding play.”

Not that arguing on your feet is a necessity.

The coaches box created from the rule change was six feet in length.

School stories: Seville

Seville

Seville school, Wilcox County, 2017

Seville is slightly off the beaten path of US 280 in the western half of Wilcox County.

Pronounced See’vil, it was a town once right in the thick of things, on the highway and in population.

A 1950 United States census enumeration map estimated the town’s population at 250, just 100 less than the nearby town of Pitts. The map also showed 280 going right through the heart of town.

Seville was already beginning to languish in 1950.

The school building above had already been shuttered. Fifteen years ago, the situation had been different.

The Georgia Educational Directory first began listing the amount of teachers per school in the 1937-38 edition. That year, Seville had five of them and was considered a “standard” elementary school.

While not explained in any of the old directories, state-issued educational surveys from the 1910s-20s considered “standard schools” to have a good, clean building with well-trained teachers using at least some modern supplies and equipment. Standards had likely been raised by the 1930s, but probably  not by much.

The standard label was gone in 1940-41. The number of teachers was down, too, to four. That number dwindled even further in the 1941-42 Georgia Educational Directory to three.

World War II was peaking for the United States in 1943-44 as Seville dropped yet another teacher. That might have been it for the school. The 1944-45 directory is not online and the school did not appear in 1945-46 edition.

Not long after, the remainder of Wilcox’s rural schools began closing. By 1951, white schools were only in Abbeville, Rochelle, Pitts and Pineview.

School Stories is a series of current-to fairly current photos of schools buildings. Some are long abandoned, some are still in use. Most will be rural or small town schools. Information is provided by newspaper archives and editions of the Georgia Educational Directory.

 

 

If at first you don’t succeed … you might not want to pet the hyena

Don’t we all love the circus?

The circus has something for everyone. Rides, funnel cakes, clowns (maybe not clowns), acrobats and wild animals are just some of the treasures located in and around the big top.

You probably couldn’t blame one Bulloch County man, though, if he never went to a circus again.

The Bulloch Times and Statesboro News from December 8, 1927, tell quite a tale of his unfortunate experience with a hyena when a traveling show came through the town of Register.

1927-12-08 Bulloch Times (hyena attack)

Bulloch Times and Statesboro Herald, Dec. 8, 1927

“According to reports received here Monday afternoon when [Millard] Cowart came to Statesboro in search of surgical treatment, he had visited the circus and recklessly placed his hand in reach of the hyena in its cage. Quicker than thought, the animal seized hold and bit the hand, though the injuries were only slight.”

Mr. Cowart, however, was determined to conquer the animal’s trust, or perhaps he had a score to settle. He went back to the circus, back to the hyena cage.

“When he extended the other hand, the animal met him in the same spirit of cordiality with which he had met him at first and seized his hand in its mouth. When it turned loose, Cowart’s hand was practically in shreds. It is understood that the surgeons expressed some doubt as to the possibility of saving the hand from amputation.”

The Statesboro Times pointed out at the end of the article that Cowart was a family man.

A bad night in Pinehurst

Forfeit stories from the olden days can be pretty amusing.

Unlike now when in-game forfeits occur seemingly mostly for fights or they’re determined afterwards for ineligible players, older forfeits are more fun and usually revolve around a hair-trigger decision by a coach.

On December 7, 1954, Butler head coach Mack Marchman pulled his boys team off the floor during a game in Pinehurst. The score was 14-9 at the time.

The Butler Herald from December 9 described the situation as, “Marchman apparently was dissatisfied with the referee’s decisions. Pinehurst scored all 14 of their points via the free foul shot route according to an observer.”

Arguably the toughest part for one Butler booster came minutes later.

“Mr. Alfred Robinson of Butler won the cake given as a door prize but returned it to the referee with a few kind words.”