School stories: South Side

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South Side in Brooks County was barely visible from the road in 2010.

The woods of Brooks County hold secrets.

The county seat and main city of Brooks is Quitman. There are other towns – Boston, Morven, Dixie, Barney, part of Pavo.

But Brooks is a large county and a rural one.There are lots of pine trees and lots of places to get lost. It is perhaps not surprising that there were nearly 40 African-American schools in 1950 within its borders.

A better effort was made on behalf of Brooks’ white schools. Only eight of those existed in 1950, half of those large enough to have high schools.

The other half, however, were all four-teacher institutions, existing at Barney, East Side, Sand Hill and South Side, the latter of which might have actually been Southside. (Spellings had little consistency.)

South Side opened in 1942, strangely highlighted in a brief history of Brooks County Schools, and probably one of very few schools to be built in the year after World War II began. It seems to have combined Nankin and Palmetto schools and was listed as carrying seven teachers its first year.

The student load did not last long.

The 1943-44 Georgia Educational Directory said there were six teachers at South Side. In 1945-46, the number was down to four. The number did not rebound at the war’s conclusion and four it would stay for the rest of its history.

South Side’s history would be short-lived.

With Georgia preferring its elementary schools to have at least one teacher per grade, many rural locations were in trouble. Though South Side’s included grades have not been found yet, a guess of 1-7 or 1-8 is probably not far off. Four teachers meant even more trouble.

If that was not trouble enough, other factors were at play as Quitman city and Brooks County worked to figure a merger as the school building programs were finishing.

South Side was not necessarily being maintained well, based on a sanitation report printed in The Quitman Free Press not even seven years after its opening.

A survey of all schools in the county listed South Side’s water and bathroom situation as having a drilled well and electric pump, but “unsanitary pit privies.”

The opening of the new, consolidated high school in Quitman meant that there was now more room at the nicer town schools to house children.

No stink seems to have been made when Brooks County announced in March 1959 that South Side would be closing, along with Barney, East Side and Sand Hill. South Side students were divided between Dixie and Quitman.

Brooks would never use the South Side building again as a school. Its status post-consolidation is unknown, though its condition in 2010 seems to suggest that someone did maintain the building for at least some time before the woods grew around it.

Though rural, South Side was not totally alone. From 1953-59, a very short distance separated it from Empress, a consolidated African-American school. Empress itself closed around 1967.

Sources – The Quitman Free Press – Jan. 6, 1949; March 19, 1959; Multiple editions of the Georgia Educational Directory; Greater Brooks.

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