Memories of the old John Small School

Published 6:23 pm Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The old John Small School building has been torn down for years now, but no one can erase the memories that it left behind.

I remember vividly the inside of that old building and the smell of chalk that every school had during our youth.  Many generations attended John Small School and have the same memories that I have. The sight of the old house in the corner that was sometimes used for classes is one that I still remember.  The high ceilings and radiators in every room is another.

Does anyone remember those monkey bars? When you fell off of them it would knock the breath out of you. It was fun but dangerous.  Remember taking the class picture standing on the steps besides the building, with you and your classmates dressed in jeans or dresses with your teacher standing beside the class?  Great memories.

Gone are the marbles that were played before and after school on the side of the building, as are the two courtyards on either side of the old building that were used for recess.  The cement circle in front of the school was where parents could drop off their children on rainy days.  No one rode buses in town, but parents carried us on rainy days.  The cloak room in every class was where we hung our coats up and sometimes hid from our teachers before class.  The second story was where the library was located and Mrs. Champion waited with her big smile and taught us the Dewey Decimal System.  I was never one to visit the library much, but the older I get, the more I wish that I had.

Coach Everett, Mac McClean and later, Papa Fowle taught us physical education.  Mr. Fowle served as our principal in high school.  We had some of the best softball games in town between classes, and no one wanted to lose.  They instituted the physical fitness test, in which we ran, broad-jumped, and did sit-ups and push-ups. We also did pull-ups on those dreaded monkey bars for a score.  The stage of the auditorium was where basketball games were once held, but we were never allowed to play on the stage because we ate there.

Riding through town picking up clothes one Monday I saw a disturbing sight: there was a “For Sale” sign on that piece of land. The building has been torn down for years, and I am sure that the land is particularly valuable because of its access to John Small Avenue.  Still, it hurts selling the land that so many good memories were made.  There is something about memories that I relish and have so many fond memories as a young boy growing up in our town.  We were so lucky and we did not even know it!  That might be the beauty of growing up in a small town!

Please stay safe!  They were the best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places, Washington, N.C.! The Original Washington!