“I used to walk two miles to school……barefooted!
By: Sue Tindel and Robert Earl Standland
Continuing with the “Jackson County School Story”, we pick up where Sue Tindell and Robert Standland left off with the listing of the 127 schools in Jackson County in 1916.
That seems like a ridiculous number of schools, but we must remember that there was almost no transportation except horses, mules, wagons and buggies then. Schools had to be near enough to each settlement so that children could walk to school. Some lucky older students were allowed to ride their horses or mules to school, but most walked each day, regardless of the weather. The often heard phrase “I used to walk two miles to school-barefooted” was not stretching the truth. (Some like to add “in the snow”, which was stretching it a LOT around here!) Many children walked that far and some much farther to school, when they could go and were not working. Shoes were truly a luxury in many homes. Many school group photos of the children taken prior to 1950 or so would almost always show many of the children without shoes, and as Sue stated, school was often in session only in those months that the children were not needed to work in the fields.
As late as in the early 1950’s hookworms were a crisis epidemic among the children in Jackson County. The history of the Marianna Woman’s Club tells about the Marianna Woman’s Club and the Marianna Junior Woman’s Club distributing small containers to the children in every school in the county, collecting stool samples, which they tested at the clubhouse and identified those children who needed to be treated. They also were responsible for having outhouse bases of concrete made which were delivered by men of the county to make a sanitary privy for the children’s families who lived in some rural areas. Hookworms and ground itch or ring worm were very common where children were going barefoot in unsanitary places. Even in 1950, shoes were still a luxury in many households, worn only for special occasions. Incidentally, the Woman’s Clubs won a $5,000 national award for the Hookworm Eradication Project, which was used to help purchase and restore the 1860s house on the corner of Caledonia and Clinton Streets, now known as The Marianna Woman’s Clubhouse, which is so well-used by the club and the community today.
Many of us can still remember the trauma of lining up for our vaccinations and inoculations when the Jackson County Health Department would come and give everyone their shots. School was a community haven for caring for children. This writer can still remember her first and second grade teachers showing everyone, day after day, how to brush their teeth and giving other health related lessons. This, as well as reading the Bible and saying the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, was part of learning.
In Marianna, until 1927, the school was located on the School Board property where the Jackson County School Board building is today on the block bordered by Jefferson Street, Clinton Street and Green Street. It was called the Marianna High School because, even though they taught all grades, the students continued through the twelfth grade, which was not the case in many of the rural schools.
The first building located there was a large wooden two-story building built sometime in the years after the Civil War when life began to take on a sense of normalcy. Stanley, in his 1950 History of Jackson County begins telling of education information in the mid 1880s. The photo below was taken in 1891-92.
The first school district was established in 1887. The district’s school budget for the 1890 school year was $10,500 which included the superintendent’s salary of $500. In 1891 it is reported that there were 120 students in Marianna High School, and it was noted that they were outgrowing the old wooden building.
There were other schools being funded by the school district in Greenwood, Sneads and Cottondale, and many smaller country schools. Taxing methods were established and other schools began to get some monetary assistance. Teachers were certified to teach after taking a special examination, and their behavior was examined very closely. For many years, married women were not allowed to teach.
This photo is said to be in 1905, the last year the wooden schoolhouse was used.
J.A. Ormond had come to Marianna to teach and he was the principal at this time (tallest man on the porch.) In the photo, while the children all appear to be wearing their very best clothes, many younger children in the front row have on no shoes.
The large brick building was built in 1906-1907 in the same location as the wooden building. The new building not only housed the growing number of children, but offered a large auditorium for community meetings. When Marianna High School was built in 1927, the building was converted into the Jackson County School Board Building and served as such until a very sad day in March 1968, when the building burned.