Back to School

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 1, 2003

If these old walls could talk Š some folks around Pike County would be blushing right now, because these walls would have some tales to tell.

Older boys, it is said, would put rocks in the toilets of the Brundidge Consolidated School to keep them from flushing and sneak behind the coal shack to smoke. Teenage girls would "flash" before the innocent eyes of grammar school boys and sneak a kiss behind the coal shack - with the older boys.

Those are tales that bring laughter to those "in the know," however, those are not the memories that have some hearts feeling a little sad today.

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Some time this week, the walls of the Brundidge Consolidated School will come tumbling down to make room for a new facility that will house things that kids who attended the old school could never have dreamed of.

During its last days, the old school has been visited by a steady stream of those who have fond memories of the old place.

Last Sunday, a gathering of "consolidated" students gathered to take a final walk down memory lane.

"Sssshhh!" Susie Hastey said in an effort to quiet the chatter of former schoolmates. "Let's listen."

In the quietness each student heard sounds from the past.

From the north end of the old brick building, there were the plunking sounds of the xylophone and the ticking of the metronome in Mrs. Gertrude French's tiny piano classroom. At the other end the giggles of girls in the bathroom could be heard. In between, the tapping of chalk on the blackboard and the cadence of teachers drilling their students were familiar sounds to all those who gathered.

But, for each person, there was a special memory of the old school. As the stories were shared, there was laughter and pleas of "Oh, don't tell that!"

Twins Brenda McMillan and Linda Thrash remembered sharing classrooms until they reached the upper elementary grades.

"They decided to split us up and we cried so much that they put us back in the same room," McMillan said. "We loved school, but we loved it when we were together. But, when we got older, we didn't want to be together."

Lawrence Bowden probably remembers his entering the first grade more than any of the others. That very day he met and fell in love with Sara Dickert. And that love took. The couple has been married for 40 or more years and they probably have the fondest memories of the little brick school.

Don Dickert said his primary goal of the primary grades was to get a gold star from Mrs. French, who just happened to be his grandmother as well as his piano teacher.

"I probably had the fewest gold stars of anybody who took from her," he said, laughing. "To get a gold star stuck on a piano piece, you had to play it perfectly. I wasn't perfect very often."

But, most at the gathering admitted they were very close to being perfect little angels when they were at school.

"We were too scared to get a whipping," they all said, laughing. "If we got a whipping at school, we got a worse one at home."

Many a youngster made the rite of passage through the cloakroom.

There were two doors to the cloakroom and, after each spelling test the students lined up to "go through." The teacher would be standing half way in the cloakroom with a ruler in hand. For each spelling word missed, the youngster would get a stinging slap in the palm of the hand.

"That's why we're such good spellers," the group said.

John Phillip Johnston has fond and not-so-fond memories of the cloakroom in Miss Annie Harmon's second grade.

"Roy Ketchum and I would go in the cloakroom and swap funny books," he said. "Once we got caught and that wasn't so funny."

Back then teacher could paddle at will and they willed a lot, the group said, laughing. "And hard!"

No one among the group could forget first grade and Mrs. Burnett taught many of them.

She was the first-grade teacher at Brundidge Consolidated School for so long that hundreds and hundreds of students came under her wing.

"Miss Burnett smelled just like a grandmother," Daisy Hollis said. "She had soft, white hair and her skin was pale and she treated us just like her babies."

For Dickert, his most vivid memory of first grade was his reading group.

"You could be a bluebird a redbird or a yellow bird," he said. "I wanted to be a yellow bird until I got in the group and saw who was in it. Then, I wanted to get out, but I had to stay a yellow bird."

Mary Helms Adams said Miss Gussie Green was her favorite teacher in the grammar school.

"She came on like a real lady," Adams said. "She never raised her voice and I wanted to be just like her."

Teacher admiration was the norm back then. Children loved and respected their teachers and never saw their shortcomings.

Mrs. Haisten wouldn't let the children say "ain't." Mrs. Beverly could draw beautiful pictures on the blackboard with colored chalk and Mrs. Harvill came stepping to school in spiked-heel shoes but shucked them for bedroom slippers once in the classroom.

"But, we thought she was so pretty in those bedroom shoes," the boys said.

The horror story of the school was the day Dr. Abernathy and Miss Peak arrived.

"They came to give us typhoid shots and that was a terrible day," Johnston said. "I'm not sure what they used as a disinfectant but you could smell in all over the school."


No one will ever forget the smells associated with the old grammar school.

"The janitors always oiled the wood floors before school started and I can still remember that smell," said Linda Jackson. "It smelled like school."

For Johnston, it was the warm, mellow smell of bananas.

"Most of us took our lunches and we all took banana sandwiches wrapped in wax paper," he said. "We would put our paper bag lunches in the cloakroom and they would get warm, the bananas would turn dark and the bread would get soggy. The whole school smelled like bananas."

Larry Godwin remembered the faint smell of tempera paints in Mrs. Beverly's class.

"She let us draw and paint and I finally found something about school that I liked," Godwin said.

Memories shifted to the fun things the children were rewarded with for doing good work - getting to erase and wash the blackboard, dust the erasers, empty the pencil sharpener and carry out the trash.

For Jane Senn it was getting to make soup to sell to the students and teachers.

"When the school started to sell soup for lunch, our principal chose the sixth-graders to make the soup," Senn said. "He gave us a recipe and bought the vegetables and we made the soup. That was a lot of fun and we worked hard to make the best soup you could buy for a nickel. We served it with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches."

Betty Carter remembered taking sack lunches, the morning assemblies in the auditorium and building a windmill in the second grade classroom.

And, everyone in the group had fond recollections of the sock hops in the auditorium

"The socks hops were about the most exciting thing we did," Jackson said. "We danced to the music on the record player. Those were wonderful times."

Adams said her class held its junior-senior proms in the auditorium.

"We decorated with crepe paper and balloons and we thought it was the most beautiful ballroom in the world," she said.

Hollis remembered dances after football games and how the last song of the night was always, Tab Hunter's "Red Sails in the Sunset."

For the "consolidated kids," that's an appropriate song for the old school as it will soon fade into the sunset.

"We hate to see it go,"said Randolph Johnston. "We had some really great times there. I'm going to miss seeing it every day when I go by."

But that's progress. Now memories will have to do.