Bailey School

William M. Bailey, who was born in Cherokee County, Alabama in 1859 and died in Blount County, Alabama in 1909, is buried in Wynnville cemetery.  His wife, Julie Law Bailey, died in Cherokee County and left him with three very young sons:  Porter Lee, Proncey David, and Pinkney Hezekiah.  He then followed his parents, Jim Hezekiah and Rachel J. Bailey, and three sisters to Sand Valley, as the typical early Americans ever moving westward.  William's father, Jim, was one of the first to be buried at Lebanon Church cemetery on Blount County Road 42.  One of William's sisters, Eliza, married Pink Amberson who was the son of John D. Amberson, the donor of four acres of land for the cemetery.

All of the land having been settled in the valley, William went up on  “The Bluff,” which is where one part of Sand Mountain's plains and rolling hills end, to find property for his own family.  He deeded one acre on the southwest corner for the school, and one adjoining acre to the east for the church, on what is today's Blount County Road 36 and New Home Church Number 1 Road.

Since, in order to attend school, William's sons had to walk two miles from their home to the Mount Moriah Church, he recognized the need for a school closer to home.  So he donated the logs and built a log building for a school.

On that site, the state later built a two-room building (date cannot be verified) with a high-gabled roof and belfry with a sweet-toned bell.  The two rooms had coal-fired stoves, a stage for drama and recitations, and blackboards.  Tdhe first year I attended, the school building was quite old.  It consisted of two rooms with a bell tower.  School began each day with the ringing of the school bell.  Immediately, all the students went into the principle's room for chapel.  This consisted of Bible reading, followed by singing.  The typical songs were ' My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean,' 'Row, Row, Row your Boat,' and 'America'.  Following this short beginning, the students went to their respective class area in the two rooms.  In the two rooms, classes were taught from the first through ninth grade.

Admission requirements were somewhat lax, as my mother got permission for me to begin at barely the age of five.  School started in October after the harvest season and ended in April.

Between the end of my second year and the beginning of my third ( 1934 ), the third school building was constructed.  It was painted white and was one of the few pained building in the area.  The new building consisted of three classrooms of equal size.  Two of the rooms had a division between them that could be folded to form one large room.  Each room had a closet ( cloak room ) at the rear, which had no doors, in which coats and book satchels could be hung on nails.  In the principal's room, a bell tower had been constructed with a bell and a rope to ring it.  The ringing of the bell proclaimed that school was in session.

School Class Picture.
School Class Picture, 1937

Each room had a pot belly stove for heat,  with the flue going straight through the ceiling.  Almost every student waled to school since the bus only came to the school to carry the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade students to the high school, which was Susan Moore located in Clarence some five miles away.  Our family walked one mile to school.  some students lived three or more miles away.  One family, the Murphrees, were sometimes driven to school in the family wagon.  One student had a pony he rode from more than three miles away.

Each classroom had rows of metal seats bolted together.  I think there were about six single seats in a row.  Each seat had a flat work area about two feet wide and eighteen inches tall.  There was a hole in the right top with an inkwell inserted in the hole.  since ball point pens were unknown, almost all work was done in pencil.  The inkwells were rarely used.  Some (a few) students had fountain pens with an ink container inside the pen which could be filled using th inkwell.

As I recall, there were some three rows of the single seat chairs, and then one row of double seat chairs.  The entire seating capacity per classroom was perhaps thirty students.  This would be with the double seat chairs filled with two students.  Underneath each seat there was a separate space for storing a school lunch, papers and books.  The seating was close with each class being in adjacent seats with normally three classes per room.

Each room had a large blackboard.  Students were called to the blackboard to work math problems and to do spelling and writing exercises.

In the main classroom there was a raised area about twelve inches high and ten feet long to serve as a stage for plays or events.  By closing the folding partition between the two rooms, a sizable seating area could be provided.  The stage was then used to present plays, political events, and other events.  One special event was the circus.  This circus moved its numerous wagons and a few trucks to the school yard and presented its program using the stage.  On occasion string bands also entertained.  There were no bathrooms, water, or electricity at the school.  Since it was surrounded by trees, the girls went to one area, and the boys to a different area to relieve themselves.  During my entire tenure at the school, this never posed a problem.

In about 1935, the problem with no bathrooms was remedied.  The WPA (Work Progress Administration) came and constructed outdoor bathrooms for the boys, and separately for the girls.  The boys' toilet had a concrete urinal and two toilet seats enclosed by galvanized steel walls and a galvanized roof.  They were so well-built the boys' toilet was still standing during my visit some sixty years later.  In fact, the toilet was the only evidence the school ever existed.

There was no school library, which made the textbooks the only learning aid.  These books were not furnished by the school board, so that parents had to buy them.  Used books were the primary source, and after several years' use, they became quite worn.

There wasn't a single item of playground equipment.  The schoolyard was relatively flat and was a great place to play.  Before school, at recess and lunchtime, something was always going on.  One favorite was 'Pop the Weasel,' a game in which participants held hands and ran.  When the leader turned sharply and stopped, there was a tremendous acceleration to the people at the end of the chain.  'Dodge ball' was another favorite when someone brought a suitable ball.  Sometimes a baseball game was attempted, but since there was no gloves, it was a bit hard on the hands.  The ball had a way of becoming lost when hit into the woods.  In later years, there was a dirt floor basketball court with goals  with no nets.  This was never very successful since when it rained it was muddy, and the ball could take eccentric bounces.

During this period, you could get an emergency teaching certificate with a high school education.  Our teachers may not have been academically prepared, but they more than compensated by being interested.  It was a custom for teachers to visit and spend the night in the homes of students.  I recall Orlene Bailey, an excellent teacher, visiting and spending the night at our house.

In our first year at high school, my brother and four other seventh graders arranged a basketball game with some of the Bailey sixth graders.  To get to Bailey School, my brother and the other players cut our last period study hall and left school early.  We walked the four or five miles, arriving at about the time school was out.  The game was then played.  I was most unhappy since I was not allowed to participate, as they said I was too small.  We were never missed by the school, and of course our parents were not informed.

In later years as I tried to participate in sports at Susan Moore, it was not unusual for me to walk to school (five miles) to play a game.  It was commonplace for me to practice football after school and then walk home and work in the field.

One afternoon a salesman entered the classroom carrying a beautiful basketball in his hands.  This interrupted the class that was going on.  The salesman introduced himself to the principal and announced that the basketball could belong to the school if we sold some quantity of candy.  The students could just see themselves playing with the ball and enthusiastically endorsed the idea of winning it.  The principal was not sure it was a good idea, but who could dampen the class spirit?  I thought, Yeah, this will be easy, and signed for some four bars of candy.

On the way home, I stopped at two houses but got no buyers.  At our house, I was told there was no money for candy.  I don't know if the project would have ended in failure, since some of the students gave up.  The group of older students couldn't stand the thought of all that good eating being inside the classroom.  They broke in and ate all the bars that were there.  Needless to say, the candy owner was not pleased.  The county sheriff was notified of the theft came.  The guilty but well-fed students were turned in by a confessing partner.  There was some court activity, but I never knew of any consequences.  I guess they pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and were given suspended sentences.  That was the school's last attempt at merchandising.

Since there was no well at the site, water was brought from a spring about a quarter of a mile away.  It was poured from the two gallon buckets into a barrel which had a spigot.  We folded sheeted into cups to get drinking water.

In the new school building, we had a new principal, and I don't ever recall having an assembly.  If you were lucky enough to get to school early, you were on your own and could play with others.  School started at eight o' clock.  At nine thirty you had a fifteen minute recess.  At eleven thirty, a lunch period was scheduled.  Since there were no school lunches, every one brought their own lunch.  Some families with several with several students in the school brought their lunch in a lard can.  Lunches consisted of common fare such as sausage and biscuits, baked sweet potatoes, jelly and biscuits, or just plain bread, either cornbread or flour.  Every one rushed through lunch in order to have time to play.  Play was totally unsupervised and consisted of jump ball, pop the whip, or, if a ball was available, football or basketball.

Following the one-hour lunch period, classes began again with recess of fifteen minutes at a about two o' clock.  School was dismissed at three o' clock.

In the classrooms, there were rows of desks bolted together.  Each student had a desk with an inkwell.  One classroom had a the first and second grades, another had a third, fourth, and fifth, and the remaining room had sixth though ninth.  There was no library, with the assigned books for the class being the entire reference material.  Certainly, by today's standards, this would be considered a poor learning opportunity.  However, a student with desire for knowledge could, in addition to learning his own class material, listen and learn the material of all the other classes.  If you compared only knowledge of reading, spelling, writing, and arithmetic, the students could could compete with students of today.

In the Blount County area of Susan Moore High School, there were numerous feeder schools such as Bailey.  At the time I finished sixth grade, it was decided that all high school grades from the seventh up would be offered only at Susan Moore High School.  In their wisdom, the school board decided that only those students finishing the sixth grade and passing a county-wide exam could attend high school.  Those failing the exam would have to repeat the grade until they could pass.  In the spring when students all over the feeder area finished the sixth, we were transported by bus to Susan Moore and given the test.  In my class, four people failed and had to repeat the grade.  Of these four, only one finished high school.

Surprisingly, a Susan Moore High, we were divided by sex into classes.  I remember there were about seventy boys and seventy girls.  Of th one-hundred forty, about forty finished.

There was a tradition at Bailey School for an April 1 (April Fool's Day) activity by the upper class students.  Usually they would plan to all fail to report to school and as a group go to the Bluff area to spend the day.  After playing all day they would return to the school building near dismissal time.  When Aubrey Lowery was principal, his entire upper class failed to report to school, then reported near close for the day.  He lined the group up near the entrance and then had them enter one at a time with the door closed between students.  He had the entering student go into the cloakroom where he took a belt and made a loud noise hitting a coat with his belt.  The waiting students outside thought they were going to get a terrific beating and waited fearfully for their name to be called.  Everyone agreed the principal was the victor on that April Fool's Day.

There was no parent/teacher organization, but there was great cooperation between parents and teachers.  First the teachers were much admired as being intellectual teachers in the community.  I don't ever recall any incident where a parent objected to any disciplining activity or any failure by the parent to accept grades or promotions.  The cooperation was such that on occasion parents would participate with the students in spelling bees.

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