Culkin Academy High School Vicksburg, MS
Classes of 1916 - 1965
Thursday AM, August 14, 2014……..Well, here I am, the "little ole’ elderly lady", sitting near the back door of the old school building, where I spent many days and months of my younger years. How fitting that the weather seems to have a slight hint of fall in the air. It really stirs the memories that I have stored away. I see open windows everywhere I look. Were it not for the fact that I’m a little less adventurous, and a little bit wiser, I’d climb right thru one of the windows and go exploring. However, knowing what shape it is in now, it just wouldn’t be the same. I prefer to remember it the way it was all those years ago.
Those windows, just to the left of the exit door, opened into a room that had several uses through the years.. I can remember that it held a mimeograph machine at one time , along with shelves of extra textbooks, workbooks, and all sorts of teaching materials. I don’t recall that there was ever a class in that room during my years. It was a time when we all had a textbook assigned to us, and each had their own corresponding workbooks, Remember the thrill of having brand new workbooks, at the beginning of the year. It’s a sharp contrast to the classroom environment today. Worksheets seem to be the new way of teaching. In many cases, textbooks are never taken from the classroom. I don’t remember getting that many worksheets when I was in school. Did I just lose them, or what? I remember studying from the textbook…..you know the ones that said Science, Geography, Arithmetic, English. History, and don’t forget the readers that took us into the home of Dick, Jane, Spot and Puff. Oh my gosh, did you know they are still being used in some places, but believe me, you wouldn’t recognize them today! Everything about them has changed, and I do mean everything!
That same group of windows, is where my Robin spent her second grade year.in 1976-77, long after it had ceased to operate as a high school. She came in from school one day sporting a very long face. Now, for the most part, Robin rolled with the punches, not letting a lot of things bother her in her elementary years. But this was not one of those days. It was right at the beginning of the year, and they’d started their reading circle today. They was sitting on the floor in a circle, to read. No problem there, however her teacher, Mrs. Jones had them sit with their feet straight out in front of them, as opposed to sitting Indian style. Now, keep in mind, Robin either wore pants to school, or with a dress or skirt,, she always wore leotards. The words from Mrs. Jones were that, ‘Little girls don’t sit like that!" Every time Robin forgot and assumed the Indian posture, Mrs. Jones would slap her legs with a ruler. In relaying her day to me, she broke into tears and said, "It’s not comfortable sitting that way!" We talked about it and decided that since she was the teacher, and Robin the student, Robin would have to get used to it and suck it up. It was really not a choice year for her, and I was glad when she’d moved on to third grade! I never understood the reasoning behind that rule, and quickly discovered that it was harder as a parent to deal with some teachers, than it had been, as a student.
The last couple of windows on this side, mark where the girl’s bathroom was. No real memories there, good or bad. But it was good to have it when we needed it!.. Today bathroom breaks have to be monitored more closely, than back then. Apparently there is a lot more activity there!
Moving right along, I’m at the end of the hall, where I spent first grade with Miss Eva Nicholson. She was a lovely, sweet young woman, not long out of college, and I loved her dearly. She was just the type of teacher every child needs in their first year away from ‘Mama’! First grade was my first real awakening of how unruly some kids could be, and how Miss Nicholson survived that year will always be a mystery to me. Little Jeanne was a young girl that upon being corrected for anything at all, could pitch fits with the best of ‘um!. I’m talking, "laying down in the floor, kicking and screaming hissy fits!" I remember thinking, on more than one occasion, "Girl, you need some good ole’ switchins’, like I’ve had……It would do you a world of good!" I sure hope she got her attitude in check. She was at Culkin that one and only year. However, poor Miss Nicholson didn’t come back after that year either.
Traveling back up the other side of the hall, first room on the right was my second grade room with Miss Marie Bobb, as the teacher. Mrs. Marie Campbell would have been my teacher, except for the fact that teachers couldn’t teach their own children, and since her son, Joe was in my grade, she had to switch with Miss Bobb for the year. She was another favorite of mine, firm teacher, but very sweet and kind. Thinking back, Miss Bobb. probably could have handled Jeanne in much better fashion than a first year teacher. She was much older and more seasoned.
Third grade was a but unique in that I had two different teachers. The first half of the year, that sweet Mrs. Mary Walker, who was also my Pastor's wife, was my teacher. I loved her dearly and was so sad when they moved away. Mrs. Hazel Rowden was my teacher the second half of that year, and she will always have a part of my heart, as well. It's funny how the good memories seem to represent such a smooth existance and the bad ones, are the ones that rear their ugly heads the most. However, I do remember in third grade, the excitement of learning cursive. In today's school, they don't teach the art of handwriting and penmanship. I find that so hard to believe. I do remember the anticipation I felt about fourth grade, mostly because I would turn douoble digets in age. What was it about turning ten!
Each of the grades, from first thru sixth helped to set the stage and shape the foundation for the rest of my life. Everyone of these teachers have gone on to a better place. Oh, that I could sit and talk witih each of them, just one more time; that I could tell them what they really meant to me; that I could apologize to them for the hours of grief that I so generously, gifted them with during those six years.
I moved around to the back and snapped a few more pictures of the cafeteria, both annex buildings that were added during the later years. The view of the auditorium, once a precious site, causes great pain today, for I knoiw what the inside looks like, and it is hreartbreaking. i moved back around to the comfort of the shade of the pecan trees. I had to escape the deep sorrow that I felt as I stared at the empty lot, where the gym once was. I recalled the day that they tore it down, and my feeling of total dejection. It was truly a bad day! Back under the shade, I can imagine the gym is still there. I can hear the hollow sounds that bouncing balls made, the whistles of coaches and referees, and even the squeaking of those Converse tennis shoes on the floor! I can see the stands packed with cheering faces, and even hear some of the remarks from some of Culkin's fans, as our girls and boys were playing basketball. Girls played half court then! I can hear Jim Simmons over everybody.....he was a character and said things back then, that he couldn't get away with today! Brought many smiles to our faces! The gym probably holds the record for stored memories, more than any other corner at the school..It was the center of so much of the days, weeks and months! Proms thru the years that transformed it into a night for dreaming, the Halloween Carnivals, when booths of every imaginable game made children smile. The later years where we helped decorate and expecially our senior year when we had charge of the Haunted House. We moved the slide into the boy's basement window that led fron the parking lot, That was the way that kids entered the haunted house. It was a great success. I remember the donkey basketball game that was there when we were in high school. And for sure we can't forget the numerous sock hops, after home games. The memories go on forever.
The old football field that was directly behind the gym, is all grown up in weeds, brush and kudzu, Even so, I can still feel the chill of sitting in those old wooden bleachers, that were open to the elements underneath. The gym and the football field is where many learned the value of pride, sportsmanship, determination to never give up, and believing in our own abilities. In many cases, it was lessons that words in a book could not convey. That is a creidt to all those Coaches that took on that challenge, thru the years. They were all about character building and molding young lives into worthwhile contributors to society!
Many hundreds of teachers and students walked the halls of Culkin Academy, before, during, and after my twelve years. In my stories of looking back, I've only mentioned a fraction of them. For nearly eighty years, it was the hub of the community, and set countless children in the right direction. For twelve of those years, I was given that opportunity,. As long as I live, I will do everything possible to keep the memory alive of Culkin Academy, even at such time that the physical structure is no longer there. And I'll continue to visit the grounds frequently for it is there where I find a peace of mind that I can't explain!
Oh, how I loved those Halls of Culkin!
• Richard Beasley (1952) 8/22
• Johnny Wilkinson (1962) 8/26
• Pat Daughtry (1959) 8/29
• Tommy Sherman (1961) 9/11
• Peggy Ward (Stokes) (1957) 9/12