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MIKE WATSON: School start always brings mixed feelings

The opening of Adair County Schools on August 14, 2013, is highly anticipated, Mike Watson notes, "Work reported in Columbia Magazine on progress made on facilities and grounds in anticipation of opening day should elicit feelings of pride in every Adair Countian. That first day of school for students--and even earlier ones for faculty and staff--are fast approaching. He writes about a time when school starts were even earlier than they are now.
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By Mike Watson
Adair County Historian

It's beginning to feel a lot like...the end of summer vacation...

Mixed feelings of exhilaration and impending doom still grip me at this time of year. Excitement about the commencement of a new school year was and is often overshadowed by the thought of rising daily before sunup to prepare for a day in the classroom. That was true in the fall of 1965 when I started school and continued through the beginning of school year 2009-2010, my last year in the the classroom! With three years outside the education field, I still the anticipation at this time of year; and I still wake up early in mid-winter to check school closings and delays!!

Work reported in Columbia Magazine on progress made on facilities and grounds in anticipation of opening day should elicit feelings of pride in every Adair Countian. That first day of school for students--and even earlier ones for faculty and staff--are fast approaching.

There was time when schools opened even earlier

There was a time when schools opened even earlier in the summer, as some readers may remember. For instance, in 1942, the first full year that the United States was involved in World War II, a hard year for so many families, school started in late June.

Superintendent of Schools was Mr. C.W. Marshall

The superintendent of the schools was Mr. C.W. Marshall. He announced in early June that the opening day for teachers would be Saturday, June 27, instead of July 6, as had been previously reported. The school term was to extend through January 1, 1943. Students were to report for the first day of classes on Monday, June 29. Mr. Marshall encouraged every parent to make certain their students attended the first day of classes as text books would be distributed and since there was a new adoption in progress, the students in each class needed the same book. If a student entered later, the book needed for some classes may no longer be available and the new adoption would have to be issued, thus, making it more difficult for student and teacher.

W.H. Owens left Columbia High in 1942

Mr. W.H. Owens, who had been Columbia High School's band director and head of the Commercial Department, resigned his position in June 1942, prior to the start of school, in order to accept a position in the Danville High School, Boyle County. Mr. Owens had been with the local schools for three years and was credited with building up the band program at Columbia High.

Mrs. Mary Biggs was one of best-known early educators

Mrs. Mary Smythe Biggs was one of the best-known educators in the history of Adair County. She was born in Columbia on 12 March 1854, when the little village boasted a mere six hundred residents. Her father, Henry N. Smythe, kept the toll gate at Columbia on the Campbellsville turnpike, near Russell Creek, for forty-seven years, ending only with his death in 1911.

Mrs. Biggs was interviewed in 1950, shortly before her death, and spoke of her early life in Columbia. She told of the visit of Jane Clemens to relatives in Columbia and the surrounding area. Mrs. Clemens, who had married John Marshall Clemens in Adair in 1823, was the mother of renowned author and orator Samuel L. Clemens, and many were proud even at that early date to have such a distinguished visitor in their midst.

Mrs. Biggs attended Columbia Christian College

Mrs. Biggs attended the Columbia Christian College, which had classes for elementary, secondary, and college students. Discipline was strict. No student was allowed to attend a theater, dance or circus. At eighteen, in 1881, the then Miss Smythe was hired to teach at White's district school, near the Russell County line, nearly twenty miles from home.

She is best remembered for the way she made school a truly pleasant experience for her students. On Friday afternoons, programs were given that included speeches, spelling bees, singing, marching, and local talent. She bought an organ early in her career so that the drills could be done properly. By 1889 she was back in Columbia and principal of the Male and Female High School. At that time she was married to John J. Biggs, a government revenue officer at Loretta, KY. During much of her career, Mrs. Biggs taught in the private schools of Marion and Taylor Counties. In 1915 she received a Kentucky Life Certificate and in a short time began teaching at the Columbia Grade School. She taught there sixteen years.

Taught first summer in 1921

She taught the first summer school in Adair County, sponsored by the Department of Education of the Western State Teacher's College, in 1921. The school was conducted at Lindsey Wilson Training School and was supervised by a representative from Bowling Green.

Mrs. Biggs retired in 1942, but taught nursery, adult and National Youth Administration classes after that time. She lived out her life doing what she loved: teaching the children of tomorrow. She died 4 January 1951 and was interred in the Columbia City Cemetery alongside her husband.

Miss Laura Smythe, who was along-time teacher in Adair County, and elsewhere, died at the age of 70 in June 1942. She was a sister of Mrs. Mary Smythe Biggs and Miss Sallie Smythe. - MIKE WATSON

This story was posted on 2013-07-28 05:08:48
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