A delightful slice of history came my way recently when I received as a wonderful gift a copy of the May 1936 premier issue of “The Pioneer,” Senior Edition, a publication of Union County High School at Blairsville, GA. My youngest sister, Janice Lance, found it as she was clearing out the attic of the old house which had been home to both of us on Collins Road, Blairsville.
The eight-page paper is of inestimable value. I will be sharing some of its treasures with you from time to time in this column.
Imagine a high school with commencement exercises extending over four days, Thursday through Sunday. With 23 in the graduating class, no holds were barred in making the four-day events memorable for the graduates, their proud parents and the community at large.
The exercises opened on Thursday evening with the senior class presentation of a comedy drama entitled “Prof. Pepp.” It was lauded as “having a high rank in the old comedies” and was written by Walter Ben Hare. Sixteen named characters had speaking and acting parts, supplemented by “students, co-eds, etc.” which probably gave opportunity for all 23 of the graduates to have a part in the play. The major role of “Prof. Pepp” was played by Hubert Souther, who stated as his ambition in his senior profile, not teaching but becoming an aviator. That he was able to do a few years later as he attained the rank of Major and a pilot in the U. S. Air Force during World War II. Following World War II, he and his wife, Elizabeth Ann Bates, located in La Habra, Calif., where he owned an aeronautical supplies and instruments manufacturing company employing over 100 people and shipping precision instruments to airplane manufacturers throughout the United States.
The Friday evening of that long ago 1936 commencement weekend was a presentation by the opposing Alpha Omega and Henry W. Grady Literary and Debating Societies. It featured the annual declamation contest and the championship debate.
“The Pioneer,” having been published in advance of the event, did not give winning results, nor did it announce the topic for debate. But in those days, the literary and debating societies were extremely popular and an academic boost in extra-curricular activities. Girls were members of the Alpha Omega Society and boys were members of the Henry W. Grady Society.
The third special event of the four days of activities was on Saturday evening, May 9, 1936. The commencement exercises were held, at which time the valedictorian, Myrtle Hunt, gave her address. Her speech was printed in “The Pioneer” and is quite eloquent in composition and content. She expressed thanks to all who helped the seniors reach their goals and closed with this challenge:
“If the outlook be dark, remember, the tide will turn. There is one thing we can all do, and that is ‘keep on keeping on.’” How little did she realize in 1936, having come through the Great Depression and with World War II looming ahead, the class needed a light for the dark, an optimistic glint of hope. The salutatory address was given by second honor graduate Bennie Lee Helton. Both girls gave prominence to faith in God that had been a strong anchor in their lives. Bennie Lee used this poetic quotation in her speech: “I know not where/God’s place for me may be;/I only know I cannot drift/beyond His love and care.” Before diplomas were delivered, the baccalaureate address was given by the Rev. Henry Grady Jarrard, “a product of Union County Schools,” who grew up in Suches and was a graduate of North Georgia College, Furman University, and Oglethorpe University. He served as superintendent (principal) of the Air Line School, Gainesville, and a pastor in the Gainesville area.
After receiving their diplomas on Saturday night, the 23 seniors and their parents returned to Union County High School on Sunday morning at 11 a.m. to march again to the stately “Pomp and Circumstance,” and to listen to the Rev. L. M. Twiggs, also a “product of Union County Schools” who was pastor of First Methodist Episcopal Church South in Dalton, Ga. He was educated at Young Harris College and Emory University School of Theology and was currently a member of the General Finance Board of the Methodist Denomination, “charged with the administration of the six million dollar superannuate endowment fund of the church.”
Mrs. Dora Hunter Allison (now Spiva) was sponsor of the senior class and faculty advisor for the first issue of “The Pioneer.” In her parting word to them, she sounded her typical advice, some which many of us who had the privilege of her instruction heard in her mathematics classes: “Remember always that the road to your goal is the straight and narrow path ahead, and do not be led off the main road by the tempting bypaths through the marshes of dishonesty which are seemingly short cuts to your destination.”
Dr. James N. Nicholson, called superintendent then, but under present terms principal, had timely parting advice for the seniors: “Cultivate a sense of personal worth. Develop in yourselves industry, temperance, loyalty, courtesy, kindness, and reverence. Find your job in the world; and whether it be great or small, try to be and do your best at that job. Learn to do creative thinking, and use the ability thus developed in constructive living. Try to find something greater than yourself to live for; unless you live for something bigger than yourself, you’ll live in vain. Fill each day with a day’s distance run. Dare to be yourself. Learn the lesson of self mastery. Believe in yourself, in a friendly universe, and in the goodness of God.”
“We finish to begin” was the class motto. Those who graduated in May 1936 were Bonnie Jones, Lennie Cagle, Sarah Rogers, Edith Ballew, Juanita Standridge, Mary Rich, Pauline Poteete, Myrtle Hunt, Thelma Morgan, Bennie Lee Helton, Alwayne Ledford, Mary Belle McGlamery, Willard Chastain, Agnes Young, Sarah Kelley, Alline Stevens, George Watts, Hayden Seabolt, Garnet Morgan, Hubert Souther, Billy Caldwell, June Caldwell and Pat Akins.
I’m sure that in the list are many present readers knew as neighbors, friends, parents, grandparents. What a find, this May 1936 issue of “The Pioneer.”
c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published July 14, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.