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Memories sparkle atop new markers for three elementaries


 The old Tuxedo School is among three former schools honored Saturday.

The Henderson County Education History Initiative event was in Flat Rock Middle School’s cafeteria. Host Rev. Zollie Ward spoke of a time to “remember, to share and to celebrate.” Speakers included Initiative Chairman Rick Wood. On hand were retired teachers Nancy Edwards and Patsy Farmer Jones, the Initiative’s main organizers for school historic research and preservation projects, and such Initiative officials as Barbara Case Blaine.

A slide show presented images of the three old schools which are now closed, and their pivotal principals and teachers such as Valley Hill’s Julia Redden (in 1902-45) and Tuxedo’s Dean Ward.

The three schools fed upper grades in Flat Rock High School (1925-60), which was succeeded by East Henderson High. The event Saturday showcased booklets of school history and imagery, which are normally stored in the school central office front meeting room. The markers were there, ahead of their going up at each school. There were snacks and refreshments.

Sweet memories provided the main treat. Malvern “Buddy” West, retired Etowah principal (‘71-97), attended East Flat Rock in 1947-55 and graduated from Flat Rock High in 1959. Ralph Williams “R.W.” Jones was East Flat Rock principal in 1943-64. He was called “Fessor,” as in professor.

Jones commanded respect thanks to the legend of a supposed “electric paddle,” being tall and husky, and with his cordial but loud “boisterous” voice, West told The Tribune. “You could hear Fessor from one end of the school to another. He had a heart of gold. But he was strict. His deep, loud voice scared you to death.”

Jones, like many early principals before the advent of school lunch programs, gave money to poorer students money for lunch and to see the symphony. He taught seventh-grade math and physical education. He pitched softball for boys’ games, started the baseball program and coached, and bought athletic equipment.

In 1950, a merry-go-round and parallel bars were installed onto the playground. The school lacked a gym. In winter, students slid indoors on modular, eight-feet-long wooden slides, West further noted.

Such schools were “hubs for community life,” Initiative founder Tom E. Orr told The Tribune. Jones valued cultural growth. Students paid nine cents, the going rate for a movie in town, to see a film or variety show in the school auditorium, West said. Several schools sent students to Hendersonville High’s spiffy auditorium, to hear the symphony. Jones sent mostly eighth-graders, the eldest, and a few younger student musicians. Buddy West got to go, when he learned piano in fifth grade.

“Everyone looked forward to movies, as a break from the routine,” recalled Barbara Redmond McIntosh (Flat Rock High ’55). She was in future Supt. Glenn C. Marlow’s first local class, in eighth grade in ’50-51. The class photo was part of the slide show. Eight Barbaras were in that class. Marlow called each by her middle or surname. She was “Redmond.”

Bessie Steedman was East Flat Rock principal in 1920-41. “Miss Bessie saw to it that I had both nice shoes and nice pants” for him to dress up to give a speech on the last day of school, former student John Dills once wrote. She left them anonymously at his desk. Gerald Greene was principal in ‘64-71. Allen Collins was principal until the school closed in 1993. Hillandale Elementary succeeded it.

East Flat Rock School opened in 1923. It was a high school until 1934, when Flat Rock High opened. It remained an elementary until closing in 1993, after 70 years. A cafeteria wing was added in 1952, and a separate classroom building in 1956. Now, its grounds are a public park. The school site was converted nine years ago into East Flat Rock Apartments, for senior citizens including former students.

Tuxedo opened in 1916, the year before the nation entered World War I, and at the current site in 1925. It was an “extended day” school in 1994-2004. Valley Hill, which was succeeded by Atkinson Elementary in 1983, evolved in phases including as a five-classroom school in 1919.

The marker for each school shows its ancient “feeder” schools that it consolidated. Many had one room, or few rooms. East Flat Rock’s feeders were East Flat Rock (begun in 1908), Macedonia, Mountain Page and Tracy Grove. Tuxedo’s feeders were Cedar Springs, Double Springs, Green River, Lead and Mt. Olivet. Valley Hill’s feeders were Antioch, Crab Creek, Ficker, High Banks, Mud Creek, Pleasant Hill and Taller Ridge.

The next historic school marker celebration will be Oct. 25, for Etowah School. Jean Wells Huggins and Wanda Strickland Peters are organizers. The Rev. Eade Anderson will start the dedication at 2 p.m. in front of the elementary.

Related events that day, both at Etowah Lions Club, are Etowah United Methodist Church’s hot dog benefit for a youth food program at noon, and ‘Ole Thyme Pickers’ bluegrass at 4 p.m. Due to limited school parking, shuttles go there from Etowah Park behind the school. The Lions Club is also at Etowah School Road, off U.S. 64 West.

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