Remember when 2nd graders learned ‘Hiawatha’?

Published 1:48 pm Saturday, August 11, 2018

Pig tails, pony tails, lunch boxes, lunch pails, pencils, erasers, rulers, chalk, blackboards, books, notebook paper, cloak room, soup bowl haircuts, glue, construction paper, crayons, scissors – all of these items are synonymous with going back to school then and now. Once found at the late Mrs. Louise McEachen’s home on 3rd Avenue that was sold after she died, she taught 2nd grade for many years, was a cigar box filled with small scissors that her students used. She was the teacher at the East Three Notch School that required 2nd graders to memorize the Longfellow poem, “Song of Hiawatha.” “By the shore of Gitchie Gumee……” Something like that! My sister was in that teacher’s room in the “little” annex building. Whew! Thank goodness, my teacher was Jane Riley.

It is hard to talk about going back to school in the early fall without at least one mention of Mr. Joe Wingard who taught English at AHS for 39 years. He stated after years of research that the first school in downtown Andalusia was a 2-story wooden building on the corner of Baker and South 3-Notch Street. Synonymous with that era were names such as Professor Head, Professor Capps, and Professor Peach. The current AHS is the fourth brick school building in Andalusia history.

     Wingard who contributed years in collecting school memorabilia to establish the Heritage Room with the financial help and encouragement of the Class of 1948 treated Andalusia school history as if it were his own even though he was “reared” in Montgomery. Where would we be in preserving Andalusia history and school history had it not been for Mr. Wingard? He was the charter president of the Covington Historical Society. I can safely say that the 10-year homecomings would not be what they are at AHS without his setting the tradition for that annual fall event.

Knowing Mr. Wingard like I did, I am certain that he would love to have me write about one of favorite classes that he so admired – their old-fashioned graduation ceremony that was so elaborately described in the local newspaper with fifty-four or so graduates, the largest class in the history of the high school at the time, the Class of 1925.

Wiley Ganey who was the 1925 Valedictorian that had one of the highest averages any student ever attained up until that time was lauded for his valedictory speech. I recently wrote inb my column about Ganey who was honored in 1950 in Andalusia by citizens who recognized the hometown boy at a Country Club banquet when he became a Brigadier General. That was some 25 years later after his high school graduation.

Dr. Lester O’Neal who was one of the most well-thought of medical doctors in Andalusia was a class member. He was tragically killed in World War II, a terrible loss for the town, his family, friends, and classmates.

A typical class starting back to East 3-Notch during the Depression of the 30s.

William Albritton became a local attorney and married Miss Anne Long, a violinist, a church choir master, church organist, and piano teacher instructing students who became musicians in the next generation.

Solomon Tisdale became the county tax collector. Louise Pelham taught at the high school. Lois Chapman became the First Baptist Church librarian. Many more students from that class left the halls of ivy to be successful in many walks of life.

At a reunion in the 1950s, the program featured a song that was written for the class get-together. It was to the tune of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”

“Let me carry time back, back to ’25. Let me see the faces of those 55. Happy may our time be and fair be our lives. Let me carry time back, back to ’25.”

At the Class of 1925 graduation, Supt. Luther E. Brown, Sr., made his farewell address, an emotional farewell and one that kept the crowd in attendance on the verge of tears. Superintendent Brown stated that he had become connected with the local schools just 19 years ago when he was then 22 years of age. Having spent the vast part of his life working for the school, he said, “I have lived to teach the children of the first students that I taught during my first years here.” He expressed thanks to the people for their courtesies they had shown him during his connection to the school and further said he prayed that Andalusia would continue to go forward under the new superintendent next year.

Seating places were unavailable and standing room was at a premium at the exercises at the Andalusia Grammar School Auditorium.

Dr. Spright Dowell of Alabama Polytechnic Institute, Auburn, delivered the principal address, an inspiring one, and encouraged the graduates to continue their education after passing this first milestone. In closing his address with a plea, he said, “Make the eventide of your lives as lovely, as brilliant, as happy, as you have thus begun it.”

     This week, there were a lot of happy faces posted on social media and in The Andalusia Star News, the “first day of school” pictures darling and precious children of all ages. As a former music teacher and school student who always loved going back to school, I encourage the parents to be supportive of their children. Talk to sons and daughters each evening about what was learned that day. Visit the school and be helpful to the teachers and administrators. Lives of the children and futures are being molded. A paper weight sits on the stack of files on my office desk, “I AM STILL LEARNING – Michelangelo” “School days, school days, dear old golden rule days…” Remember When those were the happiest of times for most of you readers!

Visit your local history museum soon, the Three Notch Museum, and tour the old River Falls Post Office building that has been converted to a one-room school house with pictures, artifacts, and memorabilia of school days in Covington County. Remember When they ring those bells across the county to begin the new school year, the memories of those years will be golden one day!

Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of ’65, is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at