Class of 1958 begins first grade at Carolina School

Published 1:20 am Saturday, March 11, 2017

This history of Carolina School is continued from last week when a picture of the sixth grade in 1945-1946 was shown. Today, a similar one is shared for the next year, 1946-1947 sixth grade, but the teacher this year was Mrs. Hugh D. (Gwendolyn) Wilson. She is shown with her husband, H.D. Wilson, the principal and eighth grade teacher, and their son, Hugh, on the extreme right. (See accompanying picture, which was taken in front of the school auditorium. The picture was made available by Sybil (Franklin) Spencer who is the fourth student standing from Mrs. Wilson’s right. This writer would appreciate hearing from anyone who could name any of the students.)

In September 1946, a new group of students entered the first grade at Carolina. This was their first formal education since there were no kindergartens at the time for children living in the rural areas. Mr. J. A. Johnson was the principal and eighth grade teacher. As stated earlier there was an enrollment of 30 pupils in the first grade—19 boys and 11 girls. Mrs. Lorene Corley, a member of the Burke family who operated the Andalusia Mattress Company, was the teacher. My memory tells me she had red hair and was very energetic and pleasant while demanding serious work from her students. She was preceded as the first-grade teacher by a Mrs. Posey.

The following boys began their first-grade year: Bobby Bozeman, Ralph Bowman, Don Daniel, Lamar Grissett, Richard “Buddy” Harper, William Harris, Drayton Henderson, Charles Lawson, Jack Lindsey, Junior Merrill, Wayne McMillan, James Palmer, Andy Riley, Glyn Smith, Jessie Willis “Buddy” Suggs, Max Stokes, Curtis Thomasson, John Vick, J.C. Zigler, and James Kirby. The following boys entered the grade during the year: Thomas Cason, Lamar Edson, Travis Martin, Paul Neal, George Spivey, Cecil Uptagraft, and Jimmy Williams. The following withdrew during the year: John Cason, Buddy Harper, William Harris, James Kirby, Charles Lawson, Jack Lindsey, Paul Neal, John Vick.

The following girls began the year in first grade: Barbara Bozeman, Elizabeth Goodman, Doris Harper, Renee Little, Dorenda Davis, Barbara Sue Tankersley, Foy Jean Miller, Elizabeth Martin, Glenice Nichols, Virginia Walker, and Betty Jean Sweat. The following four girls withdrew during the year: Doris Harper, Barbara Sue Tankersley, Glenice Nichols and Virginia Walker.

The five students who had perfect attendance for the year were Elizabeth Goodman, Renee Little, Buddy Suggs, Drayton Henderson and Curtis Thomasson. Most of the students in the class at the end of the school year were promoted to the second grade.

As one of those students, I recall my excitement of starting school. I have a vivid image of the night before the first day when I gathered my meager school supplies and laid them out in preparation for the next morning. I was ready for whatever assignments were given to the new students. I imagine my mother and I rode with relatives to school for that first day. That was the case in succeeding years when the two families would have dinner together after school and then head to town to purchase required books and supplies. During those years, students were required to furnish their own textbooks and any needed notebooks. A bookstore was always set up in either Christo’s or Elmore’s Five and Ten stores. My siblings and I rode a school bus during those years, but we had to walk a mile from our house to the highway to meet the bus. This was the case until I was in the fifth grade. In 1950 my father purchased a school bus and operated it for the school—a common practice at the time. The schools did not own nor run buses during the early years. My brother, Leland Thomasson, drove the bus until he was graduated in 1953.

I do not recall any major events during that first year, but it was a time to learn to relate to other children and the rules of the school for good and productive behavior. There was the all-important task of learning to read, which involved working in reading groups, which were named most likely for different colored birds. I remember the activities of this grade being a pleasant and positive school year with much growth as a student.

As this Class of 1958 entered the second grade, the composition shifted to 14 boys and five girls. Their teacher for the year was Mrs. Alice Duggan, a mature lady whose demeanor was that of a sweet grandmother type. She wore her gray or white hair up and always wore a special locket. It was one of the most pleasant years for me as I found Mrs. Duggan to be so loving and encouraging. I remember being excited at Easter time when during activities I received a clear glass hen containing tiny candy eggs in the attached glass nest, which formed the base. Another memory is of an event that occurred, which disappointed Mrs. Duggan. During free-time some of the boys climbed on a table and tried to sit on a wooden shelf, which promptly broke off the wall. Sadly, during the year Mrs. Duggan experienced some type illness, so Mrs. James H. (Monrie) Register substituted for her for several weeks. At the end of the year, Mrs. Duggan decided to retire from teaching. Years later I enjoyed a visit with her at her home on East Watson Street in Andalusia.

It is the writer’s hope that students in the different years at Carolina School will be able to relate to the activities described during his years of attendance from 1946 through 1954. Anyone who had additional experiences is requested to make those known to him.

The primary source for this information was the class record book completed by the first-grade teacher, Mrs. Lorene Corley. In addition, a few memories of the writer and fellow classmates were included.

Anyone who might find needed corrections on the above or additional information to share on years at Carolina School is encouraged to contact this writer, Curtis Thomasson, at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-804-1442; or Email: