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JIM 100 Years ago: Columbia Graded & High, May 16, 1912

Columbia High School's end of the school year was elaborate and lengthy. They didn't have a Project Graduation back then. And the High School graduates got a second class education; that is, it was for three years of study, not four. But then, as now, graduating from High School was a major - perhaps the major - event of the year. Back then , when the CHS Class of 1912 went forth to make their collective mark on the world as the Class of 2012 will do Friday night, May 18, 2012.
See also: Graduation edition with photos and biographical sketches of the Adair County High School Class of 2012


The School Year Closes at the Columbia Graded & High, 1912

One hundred years ago today -- May 16th, 1912 -- was commencement day at the Columbia Graded & High School, but as with the school on the other hill across town, commencement was but the final event in a week so crammed with activities the News could have put out a special edition devoted to nothing else. As stated in the lead sentence of the article,

"The people of Columbia enjoyed what were perhaps without doubt, the best exercises during any commencement week in the history of the school. These were the culminating events of a year's most successful work."

(Ok, the part about " the history of the school" was a bit overdrawn, as the Columbia Graded and High didn't open until the fall of 1909 and the high school didn't officially start until the fall of 1910. At the time, the high school was ranked as "second class;" that is, the curriculum consisted of three years of study instead of four.)

A summary of the events of commencement week:

Sunday, May 12th:

Rev. D.H. Howerton delivered a barnburner of a baccalaureate sermon at the Baptist church. The high school choir and Mrs. W.M. Wilson (wife of the school principal) and Mr. J.D. Farris (faculty member) provided music for the occasion.

Monday, May 13th:

The Junior Reception was held at Columbia Hotel. Sadly, the News carried no details of this surely magnificent event but one can imagine the laughter and gaiety and possibly trepidations (the latter likely unvoiced) that evening.

Tuesday, May 14th: Field Day

"From every standpoint no more interesting games, contests, and races have we ever witnessed in Columbia." Two youngsters won so many events the News quipped the following week, "We suppose Ruth Crawford and Albia Eubank would have won in anything else they had entered." Other winners among the girls and young ladies included Ella Conover, egg race; Winnie Barbee, 50 yard dash; Josephine Barbee, ball throwing; and Frances Reed, the peanut contest. Among the boys and young men, Henry Hancock (class of '18) won the shoe race & the sack race, Jim Shaw carried the day in the primary boys' 50 yard dash, Bryan English took the broad jump and chinning contest, and the boys' relay race was won by the team anchored by Edd Diddle.

Also on the 14th, Miss Sue King's class of little folks gave a program "on the lower porch of the school building." Said the News, "The work showed much training and also skill in handling small pupils."

The last event on the 14th was a baseball game between the Graded/High School and "a picked team from Ozark, Lindsey, and Town teams." Alas, the picked team won 9-5, handing the home nine only its second defeat of the year. One Field Day event, the tennis tournament, had to be carried over until Wednesday morning when George Hancock defeated Leon Lewis in the boys' single, while Ruth Crawford prevailed in the girls double and Albia Eubank in the boys' double.

Wednesday, May 15th: Class Day

Class day activities were held in the afternoon on the lower porch of the old college building. That area had been "converted into a stage and beautifully decorated with the class colors (pink and light blue), potted plants and cut flowers, all against a background of dark green" for the occasion.

Professor J.D. Farris presided, introducing each speaker -- the members of the graduating high school class -- with a brief speech. "Miss Nell Follis was class prophet; Mr. Paul Hughes, Giftorian; Miss Mary Triplett, Grumbler; Miss Mary Lucy Lowe, Poet; and Miss Ella Walker, Testator. Each member read a good and enjoyable paper." Music for the occasion was "faultlessly rendered" by the Misses Ruth Paull, Grace Conover, Mary Myers, Mary Williams, and Lenora Lowe.

Thursday, May 16th: Graduation Day -- at last!

The commencement exercises were held in the morning at the Presbyterian Church, which was "tastefully decorated with cut flowers and potted plants, and was comfortably filled with the many friends of the graduates."

As Miss Walker (almost certainly, Columbia's own Miss Alice Walker) played the processional march, the Revs. Howerton and Weldon entered, followed by the faculty, and finally, the graduates-to-be with their ushers. (The four young ladies to be graduated were "beautifully gowned in soft white dresses and each wore the class flowers--pink carnations.") Each of the five candidates, in the custom of the day, made a presentation--essays by the ladies, and an oration by Mr. Hughes, in the order named, to-wit:
- Miss Mary Lucy Lowe, "The Love of the Beautiful;"
- Miss Nellie Follis, "Some Women Who have Influenced the World;"
- Mr. Paul Hughes, "True Nobility;"
- Miss Ella Walker, "Failure as an Element of Success;" and
- Miss Mary Triplett, "Character."
Several musical number highlighted the commencement ceremony, but perhaps none more than the two songs, "Commencement Day" and "Farewell Forever," presented ever so sweetly and splendidly by the Misses Paull and Crawford and the Messrs. Farris and Hancock.

Rev. J.W. Weldon delivered a stirring address, dispensing wholesome advice and counsel within the topic of "A Successful Life," described in the News as "one of the most beautiful, clearest and most logical discourses we have ever heard." Immediately thereafter, the principal, Prof. W.M. Wilson, gave a brief presentation to the graduates as he delivered their diplomas. "The graduates were then given the many handsome and costly presents, remembrances of their friends. After this, the benediction was pronounced," and the Class of 1912 set forth to make its collective mark.

Compiled by JIM

This story was posted on 2012-05-16 05:03:39
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