Remember When: Reflecting on AHS traditions

Published 3:27 am Saturday, October 13, 2018

At the time I am penning this column, Hurricane Michael is on the way north from the Gulf of Mexico. Since this is supposed to be the Homecoming Week at Andalusia, Lord Willing, it is entirely fitting that the late Mr. Joseph Wingard, AHS English teacher for 39 years, should be remembered. He was the teacher who is responsible for the graduating classes to celebrate their reunions every 10 years beginning with the Friday assembly program. This is the year of the 9’s. Skits will be presented under the leadership of English teacher Dawn Jackson Thompson honoring the Classes of 1979, 1989, 1999, and 2009. The routine will be a little different this year due to the ongoing reconstruction of the AHS auditorium. Reception and skits are to be held at the Woodson Learning Center, the old Andalusia Middle School campus.

I hold in my hands the 1999 Memolusia, the commemorative issue, celebrating 100+ years of the founding of the city schools, the pride and the solid traditions that have been preserved. The alma mater, the pep rallies, the class yells, the homework, the research papers, the school dances, the float building, the band music and fight song, the school clubs, the school colors, the cheerleaders, the majorettes, the color guard, the parades, the proms, the homecoming court, the athletes and athletic events, the yearbook, the school newspaper, the beauty pageants, the plays, the musical performances, the field days, the teachers, the class rings, the graduation ceremonies, and the SCHOOL SPIRIT are all woven into the fabric of the town Andalusia.

Teacher Nancy Sellers Clark was the yearbook sponsor when her staff and editors, Parrish King, Genny Spurlin, and Leslie Williams decided to make the theme that year, “A Celebration of Tradition.” Joe Wingard also graciously allowed students to research in the Heritage Room to gather information to contribute to the history section. As senior sponsor for a number of years, he would be mift with me for not knowing exactly how many years, the great “Wingardo” (some of his students who adored him bestowed on him that label) always helped each class select their class motto, colors, flowers, and song! He directed an annual flawless traditional baccalaureate and graduation ceremony fit for any major ivy league college.

May I quote him from this edition to help us REMEMBER WHEN? “Return with us to a small southern town of yesteryear. Students are getting out of bed. One of the seniors of the high school is up putting baking soda under his arms; he calls it B. O. soap; it’s the popular deodorant of the day. Now he’s pulling on his overalls and brogans. Elsewhere a senior girl is slipping her dress over her bloomers, and eating some sen-sen; that was a kind of candy to sweeten the breath.”

“The students walk to school; one or two may drive a car (depending on the year). There’s some talk of the movie they saw Saturday; had to pay a whole nickel at the Royal Theatre.”

“There’s the school; today (this was written in 1999) we call it East Three Notch Elementary School. The boys and girls are lining up in separate lines to march into school. There’s the bell. No senior privileges here. There’s chapel at least once a week. The Bible is read. There’s a little sermon and, of course, the singing. Superintendent Brown loves to sing.”

“After a couple of classes, it’s time for lunch – there’s an hour for lunch. There is no cafeteria; lunches are brought in bags. Let’s see what’s in the bags: here’s a biscuit, a piece of bacon in is, an apple, and a tiny bottle of syrup. Hmm.”

“There’s talk during lunch of the football team. The team changes on the dirt floor of the basement of the school – no showers. The home games are played in the backyard of the school. There are no bleachers; and the fans run up and down the sidelines, following the action of the game. At half-time, everyone joins in a huge snake-dance, often led by a teacher.”

“It’s time for classes again. There are no lockers to go to, and everyone hurries to take his place. In days past, students stayed in the same room all day and teachers rotated from class to class.”

Mr. Wingard was chairman of the Centennial Committee. In his interviews with the older citizens and graduates, he found that the first graduating class was the class of 1904-5. I found a series of articles he wrote in 2000 in The Andalusia Star News. This one was about the Class of 1919, and I will draw from this since 2018-19 is the school year of spotlighting the 9’s.

“The Class of 1919, the fifteenth in the school’s history, were graduated Monday, June 30 at 8:30 p. m. in the auditorium of East Three Notch, the one and only school building in 1919. There was not Church Street nor middle school nor the Third Street campus.”

“The reason the Class of 1919 went to school so late in the year is that they had missed about two months of classes in the fall. That was the autumn of 1918 when an influenza epidemic killed millions around the world. The ‘flu’ began in Spain and spread over Europe among the civilian and soldiers of World War I. More Americans died of the ‘flu’ than were killed in the war. Today one can visit cemeteries where there are rows of graves dated 1918. Just after the ‘flu’ did its worst, the war ended November 11 in the ‘eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.’”

“After Christmas the Class of 1919 attended school six days a week to make up the lost time, and on into June.”

“There were 11 grades only in those days. The class colors were rose and silver; the class flower was the rose; the motto was ‘Jamais arriere,’ a French phrase meaning ‘ever behind.’

“The superintendent was Luther Emory.

“Basketball was more popular than football at the time. Basketball is, in fact, the ‘dean’ of sports at the Andalusia High School, being the first played. Football would come along as a popular sport in the next decade.”

“The Class of 1919 played baseball and basketball which was played outside because there was no gymnasium. Both were played in the daylight as no field lights were available for night games.”

Guy B. Wilder was class president whom I met in his golden years (the last boy in his class to die, I believe); Corrie Fincher, vice-president; and Mary C. Ray, secretary-treasurer. Guy and Mary started first grade together in the old elementary school, the first brick one that sat in the front yard of the current one closer to the street. Guy and Mary were sweethearts and, eventually, man and wife. I like happy endings, so let’s end here for the time being.”

Thank you Mr. Wingard wherever you are (“Goodbye, Mr. Chips”) for your love of Andalusia and for your dedication to preserving Andalusia school history. Welcome home to the students of the AHS classes of 1949, ‘59, ‘69, ‘79, ‘89, ‘99, and ‘09. May you forever REMEMBER WHEN you attended AHS and walked the halls of ivy!


Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, is a real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at