The History of Winston County High School
Written By: Peter J. Gossett
A family of five stood on their porch late one evening after dark. Miles from town in the coldest part of winter, the family looked northeast toward Double Springs. The father was crying at the sight the family gathered to watch. Flames above the treetops could be seen, and the school life of his children would never be the same.
A phone call had alerted the Gossett family to the news that their high school, Winston County High School, was on fire. It was January 30, 1971.
"We watched it until the flames went down behind the trees," Judy Gossett said. "When it got through, it was nothing but a big pile of dirt."
Even though the high school was gone, the memories stayed. New ones were made as the high school students went to school in the afternoon and evenings at the elementary school and mobile homes until a new school campus was built away from town.
Hundreds literally passed through the halls of the old school before it burned. In fact, it was not even the first time the school had burned. The county high school began from an Alabama act back in 1907. This is the story of "dear ole' Winston" and the journey the school has made since it opened over a hundred years ago.
In the Acts of Alabama, No. 757 S. 384, it was established that most counties in the State of Alabama were required to have a county high school. The act passed August 7, 1907. It was said by Professor James J. Dosler of the University of Alabama, "The two-fold purpose of the county high schools is to prepare students for the higher institutions of learning and to give such training to those who do not intend to go to college as will fit them for leadership in the ordinary activities of life." Immediately, committees were formed in different towns throughout Winston County, which wanted the county high school. The most vocal citizens were from Double Springs and Haleyville, followed by Lynn and Addison. A rivalry between Double Springs and Haleyville ensued over which city would receive the school.
A board was made up of B.B. Comer, governor; Harry C. Gunnels, state superintendent; and W.W. Brandon, auditor, to receive information from each county, review the information (including onsite visits), and select the town where the county high school would prosper the most. The guidelines for a town to receive the county high school included a donation of land no less than eight acres. Also, the building would have to be constructed totaling not less than $5,000. A week after the act was passed, Thomas Morgan Blake, Malcolm Blake's father and former county superintendent, wrote a letter to Harry Gunnels requesting the school to be located at Double Springs.
"Knowing you as I do, personally, I feel free in asking you to use your influence in locating the school here, where it will be equidistant to every child in the county, and at the county seat where most all of our institutes are held, and the business of the county is transacted," Thomas said. "I consider that it would be unfair to the good people of the east side of the county to locate it on the extreme west side, and so it would be unfair to the west to locate it in the extreme eastern part." In the letter, it was mentioned the citizens of Double Springs were already raising funds to build the high school. The current Winston County Superintendent at the time, Zadoc McVay, also wrote a letter to Harry. It was said about half of the money required to build the school had already been collected. The Winston County Teachers Institute met and adopted resolutions. Some of the qualities given to Double Springs included the amount of water available.
"Double Springs certainly is an ideal place for a high school. It is a high, healthy location with an abundance of the finest 'free stone' water to be found anywhere; is only 13 miles out in the country from R.R. and accessible to by mail hack that meets trains each day, and four daily mails from every section of county and state. It is strictly a prohibition town..."
Haleyville immediately began sending letters to the committee extolling the virtues of that town too.
"We have a fast-growing town and community at the junction of the Northern Alabama and the Alabama Western (Illinois Central) railroads, have a densely populated country round about, as healthful locality as there is in the state, and every condition that make for the desirability of a high-school location," a letter from Mayor J.J. Curtis, Doctors J.C. Taylor and W.E. Howell, Walker Haley, and R.L. Blanton said. It continued, "We want the school and have confidence in our ability to convince your Honorable Commission that we are entitled to it whenever an opportunity is given us to do so." A long, undated resolution was written and sent to the committee on why Haleyville should receive the county school.
"Although ardent supporters and citizens of the other community [Double Springs] have said and written many things to the detriment of our little community, no citizen of this community has been known to retaliate in kind. And, while injudicious persons, representing Double Springs, have been sent forth with petitions for the location of the school at that place, and in their efforts to procure signers have lost sight of the school's welfare, and have said and done things for the purpose of arousing interesting (if we may not say prejudice) in their behalf, the people of this community have gone along quietly, in a business-like way, preparing their proposition without reference to the conduct of the other applicant...
"As to moral and social conditions: In this respect we would have you carefully consider our town's fitness for the location of the school. With four churches, two well-established Sunday schools, and a united movement on the part of our people to elevate moral and social conditions, we think we can promise the board qualifications as will be requisite for the location of the school. With all due defference [sic] to such individual citizens of our neighbor - Double Springs - as may be desirous of seeing their community what it should be, in this respect, we think it fair and right to call the board's attention to the fact that there is NOT A CHURCH BUILDING in that town; there is not a permanent Sunday school; in fact, there is absolutely nothing to indicate that the people of that community realize the importance of these matters. This conditions exists, notwithstanding the county seat has been at that place for twenty-five years, thus giving to these people some opportunities which no other community has enjoyed...
"Thus it will be seen that the argument favoring Double Springs on the ground that it is more accessible is not well taken. Haleyville is easily accessible to many more children than Double Springs. As to the farther territory, we submit that, as a general thing, a pupil can almost as well go twenty miles from home to school, as ten miles."
The resolution went on to say those on the east side, Addison and Arley, "would be more inclined to send their children to school at these other places, because of superior social advantages."
The resolution also stated that "an appeal made to the people on the east was on the ground that the location of the school at Haleyville, meant the removal of the court-house. In fact this has been a great leverage to incite enthusiasm for Double Springs and prejudice against Haleyville."With regards to Haleyville, on September 7, 1907, state auditor W.W. Brandon was visiting Haleyville when he sent a postcard to the superintendent. It says simply, "Haleyville folks after me - They say the school is theirs."
Addison met in September of 1907 and drew up a resolution stating the county high school should be located at Double Springs, withdrawing its application for the county high school. It stated that if Addison received the school, it would "out the people of Haleyville and other neighborhoods" of the benefit of the lawmakers' decision for every county to have a high school. It also said Double Springs had been a prohibition town for 22 years, was one of the healthiest parts of the county, and had moral and upright citizenship.
Citizens of Arley also wrote a letter requesting the school to be located at Double Springs.
"It is nearly the centre of the county," the letter said. "Its location is high, healthy and well watered by fine springs from which it derives its name. The people are nice, industrious, sober, religious and fairly well educated. Double Springs is respectively 18 and 21 miles from us. Haleyville is in the extreme northwestern portion of the county, being about 1 mile from Marion County line and is 36 to 39 miles respectively from us, and 42 or 43 miles from portions of this beat. Double Springs would be much the most accessible point to the greatest amount of people. There are good doctors, merchants, religious denominations, two hotels and plenty of private families who would be glad to board students for less money (we believe) than any other proposed site in the county. We think it the most eligible and legitimate site in the county for a high school."
On February 26, 1908, a meeting between Governor B.B. Comer and a high school commission happened. On May 7, 1908, committee members, Dr. W.R. Bonds and R.I. Dodd, traveled to Montgomery and gave a report on the town of Double Springs, which secured the location of Double Springs. Even though Haleyville lost out on the county high school, they built their own the same year at a cost of $15,000. A building committee for Winston County High School consisted of W.R. and R.I. along with B.J. Cowart, W.T. Williams, and George W. Adkins.
At the end of May, the exact location had been established, and the timber was removed from it. The cornerstone was laid on July 3, 1908, among a gathering estimated between 2,500 and 3,000 people with a band from Jones Chapel and speeches given for the occasion. Work started in earnest July 30, with T.H. Fisher of Ensley as the contractor and Wes Reeves foreman of carpentry work.
Since Double Springs already had an elementary school at the time, and since the high school was still not complete, Winston County High School officially opened at the elementary site on October 1, 1908 at 8:30 a.m. with 32 in attendance. The first principal was Charles Dennis Wade, and Winston C. Shotts of Marion County and Martha DuBose as the assistants. W.C. Shotts would continue as first assistant until 1916. Leonard Lockwood, a Montgomery architect, visited the site on February 8, 1909, and declared it ready for occupancy after a few finishing touches were made. The cost of the school was $9,500. It was made of native sandstone, two-stories high, and was located on the hill just northwest of where the two springs were. Today, this location is known as building two of Better Built Trailers on the west side of Highway 195.
Though the date of occupancy was not mentioned, a newspaper article did state that, "one fine morning the school marched in a body and took up permanent quarters in the new building - the pride of the town..."
While not many actual records exist for the early part of the school, there are newspaper mentions of a ball team during the first year. However, what type of ball team is not known. The first "field day" was held June 18, 1909, which included a gymnasium drill, mile run, high jump, half-mile run, high kick, three-legged race, 100 yards race and a lunch. Afterwards, a ball game was played against Haleyville, which WCHS won.
This first school year, only two grades, freshman and sophomore, were taught. On May 14, 1910, the second principal of the high school was appointed: Professor Benjamin Beasley McLeran, of Macon County at the time. Wade resigned to attend the University of Chicago to take courses to help him prepare to work at Howard College. A newspaper article stated the following concerning Ben:
"Prof. McLeran has given the school a strong and efficient administration. His aspirations are high, his methods conservative, his determination to succeed commendable, his education and gentlemanly bearing highly marked-a leader of men. All our people are his friends and supporters, and he fully deserved their esteem and confidence."
The first graduate of WCHS was James William Curtis, on May 26, 1911. He was the son of Double Springs Postmaster Calvin Curtis. Faculty for the 1911-1912 school year included Ben, W.C., Martha, and Lillie Belle Parkman, teacher of the seventh grade. Throughout these early years, pupils would board at the school, with as many as 16 in 1913.
Residents showed their pride for the school, evident in the quote from a 1913 article. The school, "is gaining a well deserved reputation as a school of the higher class which gives service instead of spectacular show; education, and not mere whitewash; a deep and broad culture in manhood and womanhood, surrounded by proper environments."
An oratorical contest occurred every year for these earlier years, namely against Haleyville. A silver cup was given to the winner, and the same silver cup was given to the winner the next year. WCHS won in 1913, with the government ownership of the railroads the subject of the speeches.
Things were looking up when the sixth year started in 1913. The school had purchased a piano through the Cornish Piano Company, with the hopes of performing musicals not only for the students but for the town. The school also had a library full of books and a laboratory with equipment and chemicals. However, tragedy struck about 1 a.m. on October 30, 1913, when the high school was destroyed by fire. A newspaper article states, "The fire had gained such headway that there was no possible chance to extinguish it nor to rescue any of the contents...There was $10,000 insurance on the building...It was a touching scene to see the teachers and pupils gather next morning near the smoldering ruins and blackened walls of the once magnificent building, wondering and planning for the future." County officials offered the use of the courthouse to continue studies, and the offer was accepted although the students were "very snugly housed." Ben traveled to Birmingham to purchase blackboards and other supplies after the fire.
One of the winners in the spring 1913 oratorical contest with Haleyville and subsequent graduate, Robert C. Burdick, heard the news from Chattanooga, where he was attending school. He wrote to the students, "If anything could have caused me especial pain certainly it was the sad news of melancholy change in the circumstances of Double Springs. I grieve with you over the loss of the high school building. Yet I rejoice in the hope that the institution, which has done and is doing so much good for Winston County, will yet live on till it accomplishes the purpose for which it was established. It was indeed a heavy blow and I scarcely know how to talk of consolations under such bitter circumstances. But let us remember that we are subject to the guidance of a higher power, to one who holds all things in the hollow of his hand and doeth all things well. Yet, notwithstanding the grievous misfortune, let us as students of the W.C.H.S. hope that in the near future another and even better and more beautiful edifice than the former will decorate that beautiful little hill in Double Springs, and that the institution will continue to educate and enlighten the many who are wise enough to realize the need of learning and are seeking such in the Winston County High School. The citizens of Winston County cannot, must not, and I am sure will not permit the institution to come to such a premature termination. The act of rebuilding will not be a Herculean task. I can say no more: human consolations are weak and poor. May a higher power do that which I cannot. That success may soon spring out of the present unfavorable condition of things is the hearty and earnest wish of, your fellow student, Robert C. Burdick."
Talk was continued on the rebuilding of the school. An insurance adjuster, J.M. Lawrence, arrived in November and took notes on the burned building. In January, William F. Feagin, the state superintendent, along with an architect and inspectors, met at the courthouse to discuss the rebuilding. The insurance amount was given to the state high school commission, and the contract was let in March to begin rebuilding. The contract was to Kuhns Brothers of Birmingham, and the building was to be stone on the first floor and stucco work on the second. Work began in April by W.K. Jackson of Double Springs to clear the ruins. Amongst the frantic turmoil, Principal McLeran resigned, and L.J. Howell of Marion County and an Auburn graduate was appointed the next principal.
Work progressed through the summer. The new frame for the roof was put up in late June or early July, and the building was ready by the time school started on September 2, 1914. Due to no desks, the first few days were taught in the courthouse. The new building had six large recitation rooms, an office, library, auditorium, chemical laboratory, sewing room, and basement. Recitation rooms were furnished with new single desks and ample blackboard space. At the time, the school owned eight acres of land adjacent to the building, which was used for agricultural and horticultural work. The value of land, building and equipment was about $11,000. While no dormitory existed for the new building, unlike the old one, students boarded in private homes near the school.
"On a bright, sunny day in September, a goodly number of boys and girls from different sections of the county met at the newly finished high school building in Double Springs," Senior Viola Burdick said. "The broad smiles on all faces showed a deep appreciation of the approach that long wished for that day." Viola continued to say the enrollment number reached as high as just short of one hundred. In fact, the number of pupils steadily increased each year, with a large jump when seventh grade was added in 1910.
There were several literary societies these first years, including the Demonsthenion Literary, Athenian, and Ciceronian. In 1916, two other literary societies were organized: Philomathic and Agatheridan. Two leagues were formed on January 30, 1915: the Boys School Improvement League and the Girls School Improvement League. The two leagues prepared the school garden for planting and removed ten loads of tin cans, old bottles, waste paper, and other garbage from the streets. They also added window shades to each room of the school.
Concerning sports activities, the first mention of basketball and football teams are in 1915, when the 1915-16 school year began. It was also mentioned the girls had a basketball team and plans were to join the Basketball Association. When the school year started, the new building had modern equipment in laboratories for teaching chemistry, physics, domestic science, arts, and manual training. The school also had a new piano, and courses were given in English, history, Latin, mathematics, science, and vocational subjects.
In the latter part of this decade, the school saw more attendees each year, and the school expanded to include plays, which were given not only at the high school but at points throughout the county. Principals were L.J. Howell and John H. Sams before Elzie Asbury Thomas became principal in 1919. He was the first Winston native to serve as principal of the high school. In 1920, improvements were made to the school including repairing walls and the roof, getting new desks and chairs, and getting running water. Principal Thomas left in the summer of 1920 and was replaced by Ernest H. Dunlap.
"I enjoyed working for you this year, and appreciate what you did for yourselves and your school and the cooperation you gave those who were trying to help you," Elzie said. "You have a wonderful school spirit, and let me urge you to keep that spirit alive." Ernest served for two years during World War I.
A football team was organized in 1920, and the football field in 1922 was named Edmondson Field in honor of C.C. Edmondson, one of the teachers and the first coach. The jerseys were blue at the time, and when practicing on the field, they looked "hungry for the scalps" of neighboring teams. The first known game with any statistics is from September 29, 1922, when WCHS played Carbon Hill and won 39-0. The first game played that year was against Cullman on September 15, 1922.
"The Winston Country High School is well pleased with the start she has made in football for this, the second year of her experience in handling the pig skin," a 1922 article read. "She went over to the Cullman stronghold last Friday and held that strong organization down to the small score of three touchdowns. This all happened notwithstanding the fact that it was the first game of the season for Winston, and also the fact that there were seven men in Winston's line-up that had never played in a football game before; five of those had never even seen a football game. Several of them had never even seen a football until a month ago. Winston's history last year, her first year in the game, was three defeats and one victory. Her history this year thus far is one defeat. Last year Winston County High opened with 105 pupils and only reached an enrollment of 150 for the year. This year she opened with 165 and bids fair to reach 200 for the year. Last year only one man on the team had had any experience in football. This year she has several men of one and two years' experience in the game. Spurgeon Long, of Cullman County, has come to the school with 180 pounds of weight and some experience in the game. He has brought along with him three brothers. We have Tom Tingle, a veteran from last year's blood and tears. Edgar Howell is also in Tom's class. Glenn Cauthen is also a second year man, and then when you add to this list Tom Burns, who has played some football in the navy, and the long list of huskies who are just beginning their football experience, the prospects look good. Bernard Jones, Leonard Chambers, Talmage West, Levi Vanderford, Jeff Andrews, Doc Davis, Porter Rivers are all either just beginning or have had only one year's experience." The next principal at WCHS was Parnell W. Picklesimer of Maytown, Kentucky, assuming the role in 1923. During this time, the school was ranked as an "A Class" high school and was ranked 23rd among 67 Alabama county high schools. When the 1923-24 school year opened, the following courses were available: English, mathematics, science, home economics, history/social science, foreign language, agriculture, and manual arts. Besides the principal, the faculty consisted of Herman McDonough, assistant principal, mathematics, science and athletics; Agnes Smiley, English and economics; Jennie Pittie Brown, history and French, and a teacher to be named at a later date for home economics and to teach seventh grade.
As always, mischief reigned at times. In 1924 on April Fool's Day, the junior class played a prank on the teachers. The following newspaper quote documented one such instance:
"(Juniors) met in the class room and called the roll and when the bell rang, instead of marching up to the study hall, we went across the campus till we got to the woods and ran till we came to the pike...We went to the glades and returned at the noon hour. The teachers are now discussing the punishment for the juniors."
However, some students showed determination in attending school. In a letter dated July 17, 1924, a student, Jesse B. Whatley, wrote to the principal looking forward to the 1924-25 school year. In the letter, Jesse described his journey as being six miles one way, walking, to school. This made 12 miles per day, and he attended school 175 days.
"It sounds like a great distance, doesn't it?" Jesse asked. "But I appreciate highly what I was able to accomplish at Winston County High School, and I shall always be grateful to the faculty for their kind interest in me."
Enrollment at this time was approximately 200 students "from all parts of the county." In fact, the enrollment was so large, the county superintendent and Principal Picklesimer had to add more teachers, making the 1924-25 school year having seven.
At the beginning of the 1924-25 school year, the grade names changed. At the time, students stayed in grammar school for seven years, before enrolling in high school for four more years, with those years being freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior. It changed to grammar school for six years, with junior high then senior high following. Those junior and senior high class names changed to Junior I, Junior II, Junior III, Senior I, Senior II, and Senior III. The slogan of the high school at this time was, "A high school education for every Winston County boy and girl."
The school organized an athletic association in 1925, although after the football games of 1923, no team was organized for 1924, 1925, or 1926. One of the ways money was raised was a donation of proceeds of a picture show from a Mr. Webster of Hamilton. Picture shows were popular at this time since proceeds were donated to certain school departments.
It was not until 1927 that football was reorganized for the 1927-28 school year. Professor Lincoln Hall was secured as coach, and this is the era of when the Yellow Jackets were formed. By 1929, they were a definite force, being coached by R.B. Morris. They shut out their first six opponents, won an additional game, lost one and tied another. This season, they scored 196 points with only 12 points against them. The 1934 season was much the same. For the season, they only allowed 12 points.
Business classes began in early 1927 and included typewriting, bookkeeping, business law, English, and economics. A rental fee was charged for the typewriters, and no extra tuition was charged.
On May 4, 1927, the WCHS Alumni Association was formed. Even though in April 1943, due to World War II, the alumni banquet was decided to be postponed for the duration of the war, the banquets were continued thereafter and never missed a year until 2020, so far.
As the years passed, more students were being added to WCHS. Foreseeing the need for a newer, bigger building, the board of education approved the money on September 9, 1927. In 1928, the enrollment of students reached 205, growing by 40 from the previous year. A committee was formed, which included A.B. Murphree, Henry Hilton, and W.A. Hampton. By the time school started for the 1928-1929 school year, the new building was being constructed, with N. Woodruff being in charge of construction. This new building was located 2,000 feet north of where the first two buildings stood, where the current playground for Double Springs Elementary School is situated, on a six-acre site. The specifications for the school were to have ten classrooms with chemical and biological laboratories, two supply rooms, dressing rooms for boys and girls athletic teams, a principal's office, and an auditorium with a seating capacity of 600, all to be heated by steam. It was to be built of native sandstone again, at a cost of approximately $30,000. In January 1929, W.M. Key of Jasper took the contract to build the stone work. The stone was quarried and delivered on-site for $3.50 per cubic yard by Andy and Luther Davis. Part of the stone came from a new quarry on land owned by John Bennett Weaver northeast of Willow Run Park, now Mike Gilbreath Memorial Park. By the end of March 1929, more than half of the masonry had been laid. Once it was finished, it took more than 2,000 cubic feet of stone for the building. The plumbing was installed by O'Reilly and Morris of Russellville. The 1930-1931 year started in the old building, but the new building was occupied on October 10, 1930. At the end of May 1941, the old building started being torn down. Some of the wood and ceiling were used to work on two rooms in the basement of the new building. The land for the original school location was approved to be sold to the American Legion on May 30, 1947.
In early 1932, a great addition was installed in the school in the use of a "modern timing system" which rang bells on time. This was also the year where the first principal of the high school, Charles Wade, passed away October 12, 1932, after running into the side of a car while attempting to board a streetcar, receiving a fractured skull. The accident happened at 30th Street and Ensley Avenue in Ensley.
Football games during the early 1930s were played at Horseshoe Park, north of Double Springs. Once the new school was built and occupied, plans were soon made to create a football field. It was located by the school and is currently next to the Double Springs Elementary School playground. The field was dedicated and named Weaver Field on September 22, 1933, when the football team went up against Meek High School.
Thomas Malcolm Blake, noted and beloved doctor of Double Springs for many years, graduated from WCHS in 1935. He was a football player while in school and became the Yellow Jackets' team doctor after he returned from college. During his freshman year of high school, he was voted "biggest jelly bean" and was known as being studious.
During 1935, an eight-room annex was added to the school to house the elementary students, grades first through sixth. It was made of sandstone as well and opened September 30, 1935. Brice Building Company of Birmingham was the low bidder in the amount of $39,420. This year was also when Elaine Aaron Godfrey, 1929 graduate, compiled the current alma mater.
In a letter to the alumni association, written on April 30, 1984, Elaine wrote about the first time the new alma mater was sung.
"I will always have fond memories of 'dear old Winston' when I was a student and also the two years I was a teacher," she said. "I remember well, when I presented the song during an assembly. After I made my 'sales talk,' I had the Glee Club sing it through two or three times. Then the entire student body joined in and sang it several times. It was adopted unanimously."
Elaine got the music and words from the field song of the University of South Dakota and changed the name of the school to Winston High.
In the fall of 1937, the first Parent Teacher Association was organized. Mrs. E.N. Bailey was the first president. The year of 1938-1939, Pearl Speer Claborn was the president. The membership dues were 15 cents. There were eight members, and a total of $1.20 was sent in for the state dues. During Mrs. Claborn's term, the PTA worked on a better heating system for the school, new chairs were bought, and curtains were bought for the auditorium stage. They also began to serve hot soup for the students who did not have lunch.
Eleanor Falls Burdick was president during 1939-1940. The school desperately needed a lunchroom. The PTA began working during the summer vacation, with two summer concerts with Happy Hal Burns and the Daniel Quartet to raise money for the lunchroom. An educational program was provided by Robert Kilgore of Jasper. Mrs. Burdick, Superintendent I.B. Burdick, and the state lunchroom department began working the first lunchroom program. The basement of the school was designated for the first lunchroom. There was no floor, and water was standing on the ground. Mrs. Burdick signed an agreement with the state department to build the lunchroom.
"I made a big step out on faith, but the Lord blessed us abundantly since 1939," Mrs. Burdick said. "Many children as well as adults were fed." In 1939, the first rhythm band was organized. The PTA bought band instruments, and Mrs. Myrtis Drake was the director. Mrs. Burdick played the piano. Mrs. Drake and Mrs. Burdick carried the band to Birmingham in the spring of 1939 and played at the Alabama Theater, which was broadcast over the WAPI radio station. Members were up to 71 this year. Additional chairs, supplies for the lunchroom, and a piano for the elementary school were bought.
Emma Posey was the president during the 1940-41 school year with a total of 89 members. A garden project was sponsored for the lunchroom with 1,750 quarts of vegetables filled from the garden. They also grew potatoes, dried beans, and planted shrubbery on the campus. The PTA sponsored a school contest for king, queen, and baby. Results were Desmer Berry as king, Louise Shaddix as queen, and Larry Brewer as baby. A stove and cutting board were purchased for the home economics department, and flowers for eight funerals were bought.
Marbeth McVay was president for the 1941-42 school year but became ill so Clara McCullar was elected to take her place. Food was canned, 100 forks, 15 bowls, 72 glasses, and 35 cups were bought for the lunchroom, along with a new stove.
Kate Coats was president from 1942 until 1944 with a total of 102 members. The first community fair was held with proceeds going to the lunchroom. There were 50 knives bought and lunchroom tables were covered. New blackboards were bought in 1944, and the PTA purchased seats for the auditorium in the amount of $450.
Dot Lovett was the president from 1944 until 1946. New books for the library were purchased, sandwiches were made for the Cripple Children's Clinic, and school grounds were improved with additional work being accomplished on the inside of the building during these years.
Ethel Curtis was president during the 1946-47 school year. The PTA sold tickets for the Jasper Air Carnival and received a commission. The PTA sponsored a spelling bee with Irvin Baughn as the winner. Shades were bought for the windows, and new playground equipment was purchased. The first public address system was bought this school year.
Clara McCullar was president during 1947-48. A new piano for the elementary school, additional shades for the remainder of the windows, and lights for the front of the building were purchased this year.
Lorus Baggett was president in the 1948-49 school year. The ladies quilted quilts for the community fair, and a water system was added with six lavatories for the elementary school. The first steel lockers were bought and placed in the hall.
Lois Brewer served as president from 1949 until 1951. The PTA gave $224 to the elementary school to improve the bathrooms, and they gave $165 to buy chairs and dishes at the high school.
Other presidents include Laura West (1951-1953), John West (1953-1954), Lois Brewer (1954-1955), Mrs. Raymond Prater (1955-1956), Mrs. Willard Crittenden (1956-1957), Estelle Bartlett (1956-1958), Velma Guthrie (1958-1959), Hazel Gilbreath (1959-1960), and Geraldine Batchelor (1960-1961).
While unsure of the first prom, the first mention in any newspaper article of a prom was in 1939. It was held on March 30, 1939.
The school won county champ title for the first time, during the 1940-41 football school year, winning over all other schools in the county. Score results were as follows: Meek, 36-6; Addison, 32-0; Lynn, 46-7; Haleyville, 26-0. Ellis Lovett was the coach and attributed the success of his team "to their terrific blocking and tackling and their airtight defense against passes." A football banquet was held and given by the Parent Teacher Association on November 29, 1940. Coach Lovett praised his boys for their fine sportsmanship and the polite and respectful attitude shown in school. He held these qualities higher in esteem than the points which had been scored.
According to Tom Bartlett, class of 1956, football practice was held off campus. To get there, the students had to walk east to what is now Adams Road, across from Old School Road at the elementary school near Southern Furniture. The football players would have to go across what is now Hwy. 278 to a flat field to practice.
"They had to run there and were exhausted when they got there," Tom said. "The reason they practiced there was to keep from ruining the grass with all the cleats on the football field at the school."
In March 1941, the Beta Club was organized at the high school with Mabel Wainwright being appointed sponsor. Other organizers of the club were Audie Maddox and Helen Rose. The first president was Audie, Ralph Adams was the vice-president, and Helen Rose was the secretary and treasurer. Charter members of the Beta Club are Dorothy Aldridge, Mildred Lovett, Ina Hunter, Helen King, Junior Cockrell, Ralph Adams, Marie Overton, Ethel McCullar, J.W. Covington, Horace Glover, and Helen Rose. Also in 1941, a new sound system and furniture for the principal's office was purchased by the senior class of that year.
Mitchell Drake was principal from 1946 until 1952. He was also a guidance counselor and superintendent at different points of his career.
The football game against Lawrence County on September 18, 1947 was the first game played under lights. Approximately $1,000 was raised at the alumni banquet, on May 3, 1946, for lights on the football field. After the 1946 banquet Principal Ray Jones gave profound thanks to the alumni association, and advised them that with their contribution of the funds for lighting the field was now complete. The lights were purchased in 1947. The bulbs were 1,500 watt, and eight posts were added to the stadium with four lights to each post. The lights were war surplus Air Force field lights. No bleachers were at the stadium at this time. With other slight improvements, the total cost was about $3,500. Prior to then, football games were played in the afternoon.
A yearbook, the Winsaga, has been printed every year from 1948 until the present time except for 1951, due to the Korean War. It was named Winsaga by Hoyett Wolfe. The seniors in October 1947 were the ones who decided on having the yearbook. Copies were sold for $1.50 with the option of the buyer's name written in gold on the front for 25 cents extra.
In the first yearbook, this was written: "In days of old, the heroic adventures and achievements of their people were gratefully preserved by the Vikings in written scrolls, called sagas. These narratives, in which fact and fancy was freely mingled, were written in episodes, each episode covering a definite period of time. In the spirit of these worthy ancients the Senior Class of 1948 christens our year book, The Winsaga, gratefully and proudly presenting the first episode in the saga of the Winston County High School."
"Saga means tales," Kathryn Hilton Bailey of the first Winsaga staff said. "I remember going to Haleyville and getting ads for it." The year 1948 was also when Horace Godsey and Vivian Lovelady were named the first Mr. and Mrs. Winston County High School.
The two debate societies, Philomathic and Agatheridan, grew ever more popular throughout the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Students in the schools were either known as "Philos" or "Aggies," and rivalries often sprang up. The debates carried on to 1958 before the two societies were dissolved. It was a major event through the town, with gatherings large enough for standing room only, overflowing into the parking lot sometimes. The societies "never failed to bring about a great deal of interest and enthusiasm among outsiders as well as patrons," a newspaper article stated. The two debate/literary societies held the last annual debate on March 14, 1958. Debate topics were chosen by the national debate organization, and judges were not local. Each club had picked out their own colors: Philos were red, white and blue while the Aggies were gold and blue.
"On the week of the debate, the students wore colored ribbons to indicate their chosen club," Loretta Bartlett, 1961 graduate, said. "Many, if not most, students chose the debate club of their parents or close friends."
Each club would choose two students to speak at the debate on their side while a "reader," or comic act, provided entertainment while the judges selected the winner. One club would choose the positive, or yes, answer to the topic, while the other club chose the opposite. The debates were held in the auditorium and had cheerleaders and songs for each side. There was even a yelling contest. Rivalries between the two clubs carried throughout the school, even as far as the elementary part of the school. Prior contestants and alumni were often seen during the annual debate.
When asked if she was an Aggie or Philo, Kathryn Bailey promptly replied: "Aggie! That was a big thing back then. It was about all we had to go to. I was a cheerleader for the Aggies. We decorated the auditorium with crepe paper. There was a desk on each side (of the stage) decorated for Philos and Aggies. It was a really big rivalry."
In April 1948, another addition was being added to the school. This time, the building was the vocational (agriculture and home economics) building. It was completed in 1952. The contract was given to J.A. Adams on March 1, 1948 to construct the building. Joe E. Miller entered the lowest bid of $1,700 to plaster the inside of the building on December 14, 1951. It still stands today, the only remnant of the school before the 1971 fire. It caught fire itself on December 3, 1963, but the building was not consumed. Some work on the inside and a new roof was added on shortly after the fire. The cause of the fire was unknown, and no students were in the building at the time.
"Interior of the structure, which adjoins the main high school building, and equipment of the workshop area were heavily damaged by the flames," a newspaper article said. "Mrs. Letha Weaver, home economics teacher, was in her department next door when she smelled smoke and discovered the fire about 2 p.m. The Double Springs fire truck arrived in moments, and the Haleyville fire department was summoned also. After about an hour firemen had the blaze out and helped faculty members and students sweep out the tremendous amount of water throughout the agriculture department." As the alarm was sounded, students, teachers, and even townspeople moved out equipment and supplies from the home economics area and what could be taken from the agriculture rooms. The furnishings were put back in once the fire was out.
Graduation ceremonies at this time were not like they are today but spread over three days. "On our graduation day, we had three days of it, not like we do now," Kathryn Bailey said. "We had a Sunday where we marched in, and a preacher preached and talked. They had a choir singing as we marched in. Then we had class night, then graduation. They had it at the auditorium. We wore our caps and gowns to the preaching too." The first day was called baccalaureate, and on class night, the top three were presented. "We would have a play on class night called a skit."
In 1949, the first WCHS band was organized with Peter S. DeRoberts of Birmingham as the director. Their debut performance, with 30 members, was on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1949 at homecoming against Haleyville High. Sue Clark was the first drum majorette in 1950. Peter organized many high school bands in Alabama. He was at the following schools: Lawrence County: 1940, Marbury/Mt. Creek High: 1941, Autauga County High: 1942, Carrollton: 1942, Shades-Cahaba: 1943, Blount County High: 1944, Arab High: 1945, Hartselle: 1947, Fayette: 1948, Oakman: 1949, Cordova: September 1949, WCHS: November 1949 - May 1952, Martin High: 1951 (while still at WCHS), Maplesville: 1954, and Jemison: 1954.
The damp, unfloored basement of the lunchroom was improved in late 1949 and early 1950. Improvements included dampness being eliminated, eight long eating tables added accommodating about 100 students, hot water added along with a three-compartment sink, 12 dozen Kysite plastic plates were purchased, a steam table with two bread compartments was added, along with a 20-foot refrigerator, among other things.
Another improvement was the construction of steel frames for seats as bleachers in 1950. This added 400 seats on one side and 200 seats on the other.
By this time, basketball had become a major sport. Bill Frank Wilson, 1951 graduate, was the first to be named an all-state basketball player at WCHS. The next one would be named 26 years later: Bobby Daniels in March 1977.
Two rooms were added in 1952 due to crowding. The upper level was used for classrooms and the lower one was used for an athletic shower room. The cement walk and steps were added to the school this year also. In 1952, stands for the football field were added by the Double Springs Lions Club at a cost of about $3,000. The concrete bleachers on one side were completed the next year.
Jesse Posey was principal from 1937 until 1945 when he became superintendent. In 1952, he was elected principal once again, being the only one to serve twice as principal of WCHS.
It was in the fall of 1952 when Andy Davis was assigned to coach for the WCHS football team. Today, many still recall Andy as a great man. Although strict, he was known as an excellent teacher.
With Coaches Oliver Woodard and Andy Davis, the 1953 football team was one of the best, if not the best, in the history of WCHS with a perfect season scoring 349 points against opponents' 66 points, becoming county and district champions. Players and managers included Wayne Lovett, Edgar Rice, O.B. Rowe, Deloyd McCullar, Tom Jeff Henderson, Hubert Godsey, Billy Prestridge, Leldon Martin, Jimmy Snoddy, Tim Richie, Jerome Beasley, Odford Prestridge, Eugene Colley, Larry Brewer, Wallace Brock, John Snoddy, Buddy Hampton, Bobby Martin, Glen McKeever, Earl Frank Lyle, Paul Williams, Leldon Lindley, Bobby Elliott, Rex Godsey, Lewis Humphries, Glen Jones, Jimmy Posey, Kenneth Beasley, Frank Burdick, Lucion Pelfrey, Donald Cauthen, Larry Noblett, Jack Cofield, R.C. Godsey, Grady Lee Batchelor, Donald McCarter, W.E. Batchelor, Denver Tidwell, Tommy Bartlett, W.T. Pearson, Wilson Maddox, Billy Rose, Porky Lovelady, Doyce Overton, and Rayburn Clark. The banquet that year was special and held on December 8, 1953. The undefeated and untied team was presented a trophy by Jerry Bryan, assistant sports editor of the Birmingham News. The following are the scores for that year: Moulton, 19-7; Haleyville, 27-13; Meek, 34-18; Phil Campbell, 27-0; Lynn, 18-0; Hartselle, 7-0; Bear Creek, 62-14; Curry, 47-6; Oakman, 53-6; Addison, 55-0. They received the "News Class A Divisional State Champs" trophy (fourth division). Tom Jeff Henderson was selected to be on the Birmingham News All State Class "A" Team. He received 106 passes for a total of 1,422 yards, scored 29 touchdowns and 13 points after for a total of 187 points and a state record. The only other perfect season was 1981. The 1981 scores are: Lynn, 42-0; Phil Campbell, 56-13; Sulligent, 25-0; Meek, 33-12; Vinemont, 28-0; Carbon Hill, 21-0; Lamar County, 48-20; Curry, 21-16; Cordova, 47-21; and Addison 13-0. The Jackets lost during the first round of playoffs against Gordo, 14-20.
The first officially named Mr. and Mrs. Winsaga were Wilson Maddox and Betty Overton in 1957. The first Queen of Hearts began in 1959. The "Book of Memory" of Winston County High School was started in 1954 for the 50th anniversary of the school in 1958. Subscriptions were sent in to the fund, and names of early Winston County pioneers were added to the memorial. It was to be available at the 1958 alumni banquet. The article for the banquet that year states this concerning the Book of Memory: "Many alumni, ranging from the old timers of forty to fifty years ago to some of the 1958 graduation class, expressed keen interest in a 'Memory Book' being prepared by the alumni association. This attractive book will contain names of alumni and other school boosters. Names of persons who make a contribution to Winston County High School are placed in the book, which will be sealed in a few months and will be reopened fifty years from now." Also mentioned in the article for the 1958 alumni banquet was the fact it was supposed to be bound and ready within a couple of weeks. The last article concerning the Book of Memory stated the following: "The book...will be placed this year in a cornerstone of the Winston County High School, to be removed and read again fifty years from now - in 2008." One can only assume it burned with the school in 1971.
Tragedy struck at the homecoming game October 10, 1958, when several hundred people witnessed the death of an official on the football field. An Alabama Power Company engineer who worked on the Smith Lake Dam, Bill Pickett, 39, followed Halfback Sam Townsend on an 85-yard touchdown run, one minute before half time. At this point, Pickett collapsed with a heart attack and only lived a few minutes. He was pronounced dead at Dr. Malcolm Blake's office. The game was suspended at half time, with the score of 13-7 with WCHS leading against the Cherokee Indians. Homecoming activities occurred prior to the football game.
The Student Government Association was organized in 1964, to establish better understanding between the faculty and students. Mitchell Drake was the organizer and first sponsor. In 1965, officers were President Jayne Bartlett, Vice-President Annette Prestridge, Secretary Annette Batchelor, Treasurer Debra Overton, and Parliamentarian Frances Lovelady.
A need for a gym was realized in 1964, and it was built the next year across from the high school, near the recently-built Double Springs Elementary School. Approval was awarded to the Sparks Construction Company of Jasper on October 28, 1964. It was a combination gym and band room, with a final inspection date of October 13, 1965. Barr and Tune were the architects out of Florence. The entrance included a foyer with public restrooms, concession stand, dressing and shower rooms for both boys and girls, a coach's office with shower, and storage rooms. Upstairs was the music department with a practice area, individual practice rooms, band director's office, and a storage area. Restrooms were also upstairs.
"We are delighted to see this fine new facility made available to Winston County High School, and we know it is going to add immensely to the educational program of this school," Superintendent Boyce S. Albright said.
The first graduate, James William Curtis, passed away January 31, 1964. He was born December 19, 1892, and is buried at Jefferson Memorial Gardens East in Birmingham. He and his wife Mary Alma Brewer, moved to Birmingham, where he worked as a carrier with the postal service.
It is not known when the following song came about, but there has been an alternate alma mater for the school, more of a song sung in the absence of authority figures.
"Give a cheer, give a cheer, for the boys who brewed the beer in the basement of ole Winston High.
They were brave, they were bold, and the liquor they could hold is a story that's never been told.
Got drunk last night, got drunk the night before. We're gonna get drunk tonight, like we never have been before.
Give a cheer, give a cheer, for the boys who brewed the beer in the basement of ole Winston High."
"I think they actually did brew beer in the basement," Tom Bartlett said of the situation. "The ingredients were readily available at the store. Of course, down in the basement where the furnace was that heated the whole school, it was nice and warm, and they didn't have locked doors. Anybody could go down there. It was a dark place with a lot of machinery, blowers, and big broilers. Because it was warm all the time, it would be real easy to do. It would have been too handy." According to some, it really happened, and some from the class of 1948 had been the masterminds behind the brewery. Mischief has always been prevalent in high school. During the late 1960s or early 1970s, some members of the football team snuck turnip green seeds in with the grass seed after the football field had been disked. Teachers, students, bus drivers, and the general public all picked turnip greens for several days before the field was plowed under.
The Jacket Journal, the school newspaper, was begun in 1964, with Danny Whitson as the editor and Gail Hogan the co-editor. Loyce Whitson was the sponsor from 1964 until 1981 when Annette Batchelor Little took over duties. She was the sponsor until 2009, a year before she retired. Mallory Hood was the last sponsor when the newspaper was discontinued in 2015.
"We used Mrs. (Glennis) Posey's equipment," Annette said about putting it together while she was in high school. "It was two sheets of paper stapled together or one sheet back and front. That was it. It looked nothing like a newspaper." She described having ink pads and an ink drum. "It was about twelve inches wide with a margin on each side. The ink pads were white, fuzzy-like pads, and sometimes they were 11x14. They were plain white and connected to the top and bottom of the drum. Then you turned it on. The drum was full of ink, so it got it inked up from one end to the other. If you got ink on you, you were in a mess. It was like carbon paper. You type on the carbon pack first, then tear the top part off, which would go on to the top of the drum over the ink pad." The equipment was then turned on and the paper printed.
"The first copies were dark and sometimes had black streaks on them. We would run off 75 or 100 copies."
When Annette became a teacher in 1974, she continued to help with the Jacket Journal. The ink drum continued until a spirit fluid drum was purchased, which was clear fluid. Once the paper was printed, the ink would come out purple.
"We thought we were something else when we teachers got that," she said. "It might spill, but it was a clear liquid." In 1981, Annette took over the sponsorship of the newspaper.
"We went to the technical school, and a lot of it was typed there. Later, I went to Traders & Farmers Bank and persuaded them that I needed an IBM typewriter. They cost $500. I convinced Mr. Wayne Elliott to help us get this typewriter for the Jacket Journal. Traders & Farmers Bank had always been good about helping schools. I was trying to make this into a good publication, and it was difficult without tools to work with." Each year, the bank would give the Jacket Journal additional funds, which gave Annette the ability to purchase the paper and not use the school's paper. Eventually, computers were purchased to do layouts for the newspaper.
Tragedy struck again on January 30, 1971, when the 40-year old school caught fire. Firemen from Double Springs, Haleyville, Nauvoo, and Jasper battled the blaze all night long to no avail. With the exception of some equipment which was pulled from part of the school and the home economics and agriculture building, everything else was a total loss. The building was estimated to be worth $300,000 with an additional $100,000 in equipment. Once it was over, only the burned out walls stood.
"The outside of the school was beautiful Winston County sandstone, both the school and the agriculture building," Tom Bartlett said. "The elementary school was part downstairs. I think the fifth and sixth grade were on the same level as the high school, and the first, second, and third were on the lower level on the back side of the school. It had beautiful oak floors, and they had a smell. The smell came from this oil. The problem was dust. There was no carpet in the school, no air conditioning, and the windows were open. Each teacher had a giant fan. Every day the janitors would push this sawdust mixed with oil mixture over the floors. What it did was lightly oil the floors of the halls. It left a faint, oily aroma. The school had radiator heat. During the winter, the students would all gather around the radiators, especially when they got off the bus.
"The school was all one unit. The lunchroom smells were fabulous. I was going through the lunch line one day, and they were having cherry cobbler. It was wonderful with butter floating on top. I said, 'I love your cherry cobbler,' to the lunchroom ladies. I did not realize they didn't hear that very often. The next day when I went through the lunchroom line, my plate was rounded high! The students ate at tables, and in the middle of the tables were big bowls of pickles, mayonnaise, and ketchup. They would just put it out on the table. We ate family-style. They didn't have hamburgers or pizza. Every day was a meat and three." Judy Gossett, 1972 graduate, remembers the large class photos in the school.
"One thing I loved the most was going down the hallway in front of the principal's office," Judy said. "There were huge pictures. A class photo of every class that graduated was in the big frames. I enjoyed thoroughly standing there looking up people's names. I found some of my relatives. Every time I would go by, I would slow down and look at them."
"The auditorium was really large," Tom continued. "It was big enough for a basketball court in the middle. Of course the stage at the back raised up. All year long, it was used for civic events. It was the town auditorium. When they had Sacred Harp singing, it was there in the auditorium. The senior play was there. The annual debate between the Aggies and Philos was there. The debate was the biggest event of the year. They crowded that auditorium, all the way outside, and down to the parking lot. When I was eight or nine years old, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs came to town. The bus had Martha White Flour and Flatt and Scruggs Bluegrass on it. They filled that auditorium. At that time, schools didn't have any way of raising money, except on their own. So after the war, there were a whole lot of these industrial cameras available as war surplus. One guy in town would rent movies and show them in the auditorium and charge a nickel. They would give half the money to the school. The principals permitted that, because they needed money.
"The heat from the fire (when it burned in 1971) was so intense that the stones almost crumbled. They were pushed to the back and the land filled in. At one time, it dropped off behind the high school. It's all buried. The firemen told me that because those floors had been oiled for thirty years, the heat was so intense. Once the fire started, they couldn't save it."
The Double Springs Elementary School had a building which was constructed in 1961 and was across from the high school. This is where the high school students met for a time. The elementary students went to school from 7 a.m. until noon. Buses would run again and pick up high school students, who would attend school from 1 to 6 p.m. This was decided at the board of education's special called meeting on February 4. School bus drivers were given an additional $125 per month for making two trips daily. Five days later, the board met again. Due to the fire and the "dire need of a countywide school construction program," a one-cent sales and use tax was levied in Winston County in a resolution.
"It was a real tragedy," Jim Posey, son of former principal and superintendent Jesse Posey, said of the fire. "Mother was teaching there. I was on the fire department at that time. I got a call, and when I left my house, I could see a big fire right over where we used to live (near the school) way up in the sky. It was a terrible, terrible blaze that burned the whole thing up. The fire was so hot. There was a highway patrolman there, and he was afraid the firemen were going to get into electricity. He was out there with a rifle, and he shot the transformer three or four times and shorted it to kill the power. That was the biggest, hottest fire we ever had. It was a big building and a lot of rock like the courthouse has, but it was a wood-frame inside. The fire couldn't go out. It went straight up."
Shortly before the fire, the eggplant purple curtains in the auditorium were accidentally set on fire by a couple of boys who were playing with fireworks.
After the school year finished, classes were held in mobile homes, the agriculture building that survived, and the gym while construction of a new high school began in 1972, and in 1973, a new facility was completed north of town. This present school is located on County Road 24. On January 22, 1972, nearly a year after the fire, W.A. Daniel Construction was named the low bidder and built the school at a cost of $632,000. The architect was Charles H. McCauley and Associates. The food service equipment from Phillips Supply Company cost an additional $25,190. Classes started at the new building on August 27, 1973.
"We all wanted our old high school back," Brad Bailey, class of 1976, said when asked about his first day in the new school in the fall of 1973. "We didn't like the lack of windows. We were the last class, since we had gone half of seventh grade in the old school, to have the old school embedded in the gold on the side of our class rings."
The "annex" building behind the high school was built in 1987, with Nix and Associates as the architect and W.W. Dyar and Sons as the contractor. As it was being built, the owner of the construction company, Woodrow W. Dyar, was killed when a tornado approached on May 21, 1987, at about 12:45 p.m. Dyar had just stepped out of a building when the tornado hit and was blown some distance away as a building exploded. His son Joe was also on site, and no other damage or fatalities occurred, as school was dismissed for the summer the day before with graduation being that night. The National Weather Service said the wind was set off by a "backdoor cold front" moving east to west.
Principal James Harry Moore was at the school at the time, and his 13-year-old son and seventh grader at the school, James David Moore, was weed-eating and getting the football field ready for graduation that night, with the sound of the weed eater drowning out the roar of the storm.
"I didn't know what was going on," Moore said. "I couldn't hear. Then I saw it coming over the vocational school and twisting these signs all over the place. That's when I knew I was in trouble. That's the scaredest I've been in my life."
James David ran toward the safety of the school, but he ran into some problems on the way.
"I was trying to get inside, and the wind kept pushing me around. When I got to the door, the wind was making a suction and it wouldn't open. It was like it was locked." Another person saw the dilemma and tried to get the door open but was failing.
"We couldn't get it open until daddy came," James David said. "He had to run from down the hall and hit the door with his body to get it to open."
The bell sounded, and those in the building took shelter in the principal's office until the storm passed.
Internet came to the school one spring day in 1998. The librarian, Debra Williams Carpenter, was absent that particular day, but the librarian aide, P.J. Gossett (author of this book), was there when the tech guy installed it in the resource room of the library. P.J. was also the first student to get to use it. The first e-mail address for the school was firstname.lastname@example.org.
The current building has been the longest-used one in the school's history. Jack Herron has been the longest principal at close to twenty years. The current principal, Jeff Cole, is following closely in his footsteps.
Approximately 250 students currently attend the school. The numbers have gone down, due to fluctuation in population. Jeff said there were 326 students enrolled when he became principal in 2003.
Jeff mentioned one of the biggest obstacles to overcome is the fact rural schools are at a huge deficit as far as internet is concerned.
"As far as the future of the school is concerned, education itself is changing every day," Jeff said. "I see there always being a Winston County High School. We've helped a lot of people along the way."
At pep rallies, graduations, football games, and even alumni banquets, the alma mater has echoed through time and is still being sung and played today:
"Dear Ole' Winston, land of empire, land of sunshine too.
For your glory we aspire, all our hearts are true.
"Thanking humbly our creator, loyal we will be.
Proud to call you alma mater, dear ole' Winston High."
In 2019, the world saw the emergence of a virus, Coronavirus Disease 2019, dubbed COVID-19, in China which attacked respiratory systems. It spread throughout the world and entered the United States in early 2020. Reminiscent of the Spanish Flu of 1918, Alabama soon had its first case. As the cases mounted, Winston County schools closed March 16, 2020 to be opened April 6. It did not take long before an announcement was made that schools in Alabama would not reopen the rest of the year. The WCHS class of 2020, among others in the state, had postponements and cancellations of prom, class night, and other similar year-end activities. It was the second time WCHS had been suspended. The first time was on February 9, 1933 when school was closed "for an indefinite length of time" due to the state having no funds to pay the schools. It stayed closed until the next school year started August 28, 1933.
Jeff Cole gave a message of hope to the graduating class of 2020. "I have told the class of 2020 they were special. Maybe it is the ring of 2020, but they, like every class, are special. This is a class that is having their faith tested, as are all of us, a class that has had their share of obstacles and now a few more. But they are resilient and this part of their story that seems like such a negative as we live it will be a positive in the future. I am not sure how it will all work out, but I have a strong faith in God and a faith in this group. There has never been a plan not to have graduation. We will have that culminating ceremony that marks the end of one page, and more importantly, the opening of a new page of life. Somewhere in one of the next pages, the patience and faith needed to prevail in the one we are currently living will pay dividends. The confidence gained from having a goal and overcoming all obstacles to achieve that goal will make the next obstacle a little easier. The class of 2020 is a special group who will have a special graduation. All we can do now is follow the social distancing rules, limit the size of groups assembled, and let this virus get out of here. Then the special day for the class of 2020 will happen."
School highlights from 1959 to the present:
Mother-daughters who have won the same title at WCHS were Homecoming Queens Melva Denton (1948) and daughter Beth Wilson (1990) and Von Taylor (1963) and daughter Jessica McCullar (1993); Queen of Hearts Debra Overton (1966) and daughter Jacqueline Williams (1993).
1960 graduate Sam Townsend's football jersey #27 was retired in 1959.
The WCHS "battle cry" was started during the 1960s.
In 1962, Jimmy Barnett was the first sophomore to gain 1,000 yards rushing in one football season.
Hicks Day began in 1964 in honor of Addison Coach A.G. Hicks. Students dress as "hicks."
In 1965, Tom York of WBRC in Birmingham selected Mike Kilgore and Vicki Farris to be Mr. and Miss Winsaga.
An official school flag was adopted in 1966. The background of the flag is purple and gold with the center encircled in red. In the circle are a yellow jacket, music lyre, and the torch of knowledge.
Darlene Bell was the first Princess of Hearts in 1972.
The first baseball team was in 1972 with Coach James Harry Moore.
The new football field, constructed after the move in at the new Winston County High, was dedicated on September 6, 1974. It was named Yellow Jacket Stadium.
Choral music was first offered in 1975-1976.
The current gym was built by Rector and Associates, Inc., with a low bid of $298,700, which was approved July 28, 1977.
The first football overtime game was played against Cordova on October 27, 1978.
The football stadium was named Malcolm Blake Stadium, approved by the board of education on September 29, 1981, to honor the 1935 graduate and subsequent doctor and football team doctor. It was known before as the Yellow Jacket Stadium. The dedication was held October 16, 1981.
The first time WCHS hosted a football playoff game was November 13, 1981. WCHS lost to Gordo 20-14.
In 1982, the SAFE Club, formerly named FTA, honored Loyce Whitson by naming the club in honor of her: the Loyce D. Whitson Chapter of Student Action For Education. FTA began in 1951.
The band room was constructed in 1984. The approved architect was Jack Nix on May 24, 1983. Renfroe Construction Company's bid of $149,274 was approved on November 1, 1983. Clay was sold on the WCHS campus to use in the construction of the band room.
Andrea West was selected as an FBLA exchange student in 1987 and spent six weeks in Japan.
In 1988, Jeremy Cole was the first athlete to place first in a state track meet. It was in shot put.
A painting of the old school was drawn in the lunchroom in 1989 by Ron Harris and Michael McCullar.
In 1990, sophomore quarterback James David Moore and junior receiver, Greg Densmore, highlighted the Haleyville vs. WCHS football game with a new state and school record: a 99-yard pass for a touchdown and the county champs title.
On October 10, 1992, under Coach Larry Bishop, WCHS made history playing a football game on Legion Field in Birmingham. WCHS lost to Phil Campbell 20-6.
Melanie and Jennifer White were the first sisters to each win both Princess and Queen of Hearts. Sisters Jennifer and Jamie Pruitt won on the same night in 1994. Other sisters who have won Queen were Helen and Martha Bonds and Brookie and Debra Overton. Sisters who have won Miss Winsaga were Heather Fortenberry in 1995 and Jonna Fortenberry in 1997.
The first official mascot, Big J, was named in 1995, with another mascot design, Mr. Sting, appearing in 2010.
In 1996, the varsity cheerleaders were the first squad to receive "Camp Champs" at UCA. The sponsor was Bridgett Gilbreath.
Teacher Elizabeth Horsley, a 1964 graduate, was named by the Alabama Vocational Association as 1996 Alabama Business Education Teacher of the Year and 1996 Outstanding Educator by the Alabama Business Education Association.
A bomb threat was called in to the school on March 15, 1996, at about 10:45 a.m. Students and teachers were asked to go to the football stadium and wait further instructions. No one was allowed back in the school for the rest of the day. A student was arrested days later.
The first year to have a girl's golf team was in 1997, with Miranda Patterson as the best stroke lead in the tournament.
The first prom prince and princess were in 1997 with Steven Moody and Miranda Patterson taking the titles.
Scott Wakefield was a regional winner of the Bryant-Jordan Achievement Award in 2001.
The volleyball team won the 3A state championship in 2001 and was runner-up in 2003. In 2005, they were regional champions and advanced to the Elite Eight State Tournament in class 3A.
In 2002, Jeff Cole was selected as the State Board of Education District VII Secondary Teacher of the Year.
WCHS won the 2003 and 2005 senior high scholars' bowl.
In 2004, Theresa Wakefield Snoddy received the honor of State Alfa Teacher of the Year.
In 2004, Whitney Sanders was named regional winner of the Bryant-Jordan Scholarship.
In April 2006, the band got to travel to Washington, D.C. to play at the World War II memorial.
In 2006, a student, Melanie Wakefield, proposed to charter the Key Club.
In 2007, the Beta Club won second place nationally for scrapbooking. The next year, they won first place in the state and was selected to go to nationals again. They won nationally again in 2009.
In 2008, Cassie Daniels was chosen as the Bryant Jordan Area and Regional Student Athlete scholarship winner.
In 2008, the Key Club Scrapbook Team won first place at the state convention in Mobile. The skit team won second place, and Candace Cole won first place in oratorical.
In 2008, Dana Baker was selected as the Alabama State Board District Seven Secondary Teacher of the Year. Jessica Bloom won first place in the State Farm-City Essay and first place in the state PALS essay.
In 2008, Tyler Cagle won first place in the talent competition at the national Beta convention.
In 2009, Kryssi Daniels was chosen for the Top National Prep Volleyball Frosh 59 List and was the only one chosen from Alabama.
WCHS won first place in the senior high scholar's bowl in 2016.
Winston County varsity girls track team won county runner-up in 2019.
Dana Baker, Beta Club sponsor, was given an award on September 27, 2019 for 25 years of service.