We want to get married
But we’re so young
Can’t marry no one
– The Beach Boys, I’m So Young (1965)
High school marriage is not often a topic of discussion these days. As Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston announced their upcoming marriage in 2008, the New York Times cited census records for 10 years earlier, that a mere one percent 15- to 17-year-old boys and girls had ever been married.
Outside of MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” television series, the idea of marriage at such an age seems bizarre. In 2015, the average age for first marriage was 27 for women and 29 for men, ages that have been on the rise for several years.
A few generations ago, marriage at a young age was much more common. In 1950, the average man married for the first time at 22, the average woman at 20. The numbers were the same in 1960, with slight fluctuation. The U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, in a 1973 study, said 7.2 percent of females aged 15-17 were wed.
With kids marrying so young and much more often, it is natural that it was a concern for school systems. Students were staying in school longer and Georgia systems were adding 12th grade, hopefully keeping their charges at their desks until they were 18.
Many, many Georgia schools have been named for geography. The announcement that the soon-to-open Denmark High in Forsyth County was to be named for a person was a bit of a surprise. Few persons see their names on high school buildings here.
In the days of segregation, many schools were named for geography: Gray High, Tift County Industrial, Houston County Training, etc.
But there were many that weren’t, especially with new buildings opening in the 1950s.
George Washington Carver was a popular name for schools.
Dade County is about as far out of Georgia as you can get in Georgia.
Mountains all but isolate it from anywhere else in the state. In the days of segregation, its black school, Hooker, was too small to support a high school. Instead of going somewhere else in Georgia, it was easiest to transport these children to Howard High of Chattanooga, Tenn.
When Dade High’s gym burned in 1951, it perhaps became the only Georgia school to play home games in another state, as the school booked the gym at John A. Patten School, located near Chattanooga, to use until a new facility could be built in Trenton.
Dade County is sometimes referred to as the “State of Dade” or “Independent State of Dade.”
At the beginning of the decade, community schools were widespread, though there was little money and little to offer students beyond the school being local. Consolidations came to improve standards and with them, plenty of protests about the schools leaving the communities.
By the middle of the decade, many of these debates had subsided, with only a few major ones – Tennille’s objection of losing their high school to Sandersville and Oglethorpe versus Montezuma, for example – still on the table.
But there were other crises.
In 1954, Brown versus Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, was decided. Effectively considered the end of separate but equal racial policies, the battle was just beginning.
Georgia’s mountain counties have always been a little different in attitude.
Dade County fashioned itself the “State of Dade” over its geographic divide with the rest of Georgia. The Cleveland Courier in White County carried a motto in the 1950s that it “covers the mountains like moonshine.”
The Banks County Journal carried on this proud tradition of being slightly subversive.