Smyrna High School, aka ‘The Rock School’, 1920-1976

The Smyrna Rock School (courtesy of local historian Susan Harber)

SMYRNA HIGH “ROCK” SCHOOL, the new SMYRNA HIGH SCHOOL and later the SMYRNA ELEMENTARY SCHOOL 1920-1976, was built on the site of the old SMYRNA FITTING SCHOOL and the frame SMYRNA HIGH SCHOOL on Dudley Street.

The modern building was acquired through the efforts of Dr. J.S. Lowry and the subscriptions of local citizens. The cost of the AA Accredited school was $60,000.

The building was U-shaped with the auditorium between the two wings. It had four elementary classrooms on the west and six high school classrooms on the east. There were also a principal’s office, music room, library, and departments of science, home economics, and agriculture.

The building had a central heating system and modern plumbing. In 1927 John H. Tucker and the agriculture department erected a gymnasium which was later remodeled by WPA workers. When fire destroyed the school building in March 1932, classes were held in churches and vacant houses
until 1933.

Nile Yearwood, contractor, rebuilt the school within its original stone walls at a cost of $15,000. Two class rooms were added in 1936. In 1947, because of the increased enrollment from Sewart Air Force Base, a barrack was converted into additional classrooms and a cafeteria. In 1955 five classrooms were built in the court between the two wings; in 1957 two classrooms, an office, and a cafeteria were added.

The gymnasium was remodeled in 1963 as a combined project of the County School Commission, the Lion’s Club, the Booster’s Club, and the SMYRNA ELEMENTARY PTA.

Until 1959 one principal served for both elementary and high school grades. Principals were Lacy H. Elrod, 1920-1927; J.W. Bolton, 1927-1934; Ray Harris, 1934-1935; Jesse Richardson, 1935-1936; J.E. McCrary, 1937-1942; W.F. Bennett, 1942-1944; R.J. Donnell, 1944-1947; Mr. Smith, 1947-1948; J.J. McWilliams, 1948-January 1960; David Youree, 1959-1964; Don Odom, 1964-1976.

In January 1959 David Youree became principal of the elementary grades of the school. Grades 7-12 moved to the new SMYRNA HIGH SCHOOL on Hazelwood in January 1960. In 1964 grades 1-3 were transferred to the new primary school and grades 7-8 were returned to the SMYRNA ELEMENTARY
“ROCK” SCHOOL which became a grade 4-8 school.

The first faculty members were Amanda Miller Edmondson, grades 1, 2; Eleanor Stockard, grades 3, 4; Effie Haynes, grades 5, 6; and Mamie Chapman, grades 7, 8. Some of the other faculty members were Lucille Mason, Miss Copenhaver, Catherine Clark, Lorene Wailer Ward, Frances King Coleman, Annie Henderson, Ruby Goodman Wood, Elizabeth Hughey, Anne Elizabeth Swain, Mrs. E. C. Lee, Elizabeth Lowry, Mrs. Jesse Wiser, Thelma Davis, Elizabeth Youree, Ann Dawson, Mrs. Neil Brown, Mrs. Boyd
Coleman, Sara Donnell Smith, Dora Thompson, Joyce Lokey, Jean Wilson.

About 1925 basketball became popular and was played between the two wings of the building on a dirt court. Smyrna’s first football team included Alden Maddux, Gregory Peebles, Inman Swain, Clifford Lenoir, Robert D.
Jones, Frank Johns, Bill Price, J. H. Sanders, Jack Lee, and Clarence Posey.

In the spring of 1934 the PTA initiated a program called the Soup Kitchen through which needy students were given a bowl of soup and crackers at noon. In the fall of 1935 the WPA Kitchen was opened in a basement area which had been converted by students, parents, and teachers into a makeshift lunchroom. Some students received free meals; some paid ten cents. The Hot Lunch Program was begun in the barracks with restaurant stoves, refrigerators, cooks, and supervisors.

The band was organized in the fall of 1957 by Joe D. Van Sickle.

SMYRNA “ROCK” SCHOOL burned in 1976 and a contract of $10,000 was given to L.D. Lanford to demolish the building.

SOURCES: Hoover, pp. 312-33. “First Smyrna School Was Built in 1800’s,” The Daily News Journal, Nov. 13, 1963, p. 19. Homer Pittard, Griffith Rutherford
Co. Bicentennial Commission, 1976. Pat Matson, “Smyrna Rock School Stands 1 Year After Teardown Order,” The Daily News Journal, Dec. 18, 1982. *Catherine Clark. *Dora Thompson.

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