1928 - Alderson High School - 1968



Are Bigger Schools Better?
David Shields

Is bigger better? American educators seem to think so. Consequently, the small town school is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, a fond memory lingering in the minds of fewer and fewer of us who were educated there and who attribute what strength of character we possess to that experience... and much of what is wrong with education today to the lack of it.

But memory is the great aggrandizer of the past. We admit that. Thus, it would be risky to claim that nothing is good about big consolidated schools and nothing bad about the small ones. Nevertheless, it does seem that school merger mania is driven more by the desire to repress faults than to create virtues. Thus, education continues to be beset with major and potentially devastating problems, despite the rush to consolidate all the small schools into huge comprehensive institutions. What we had in the small neighborhood school is lost forever. And that loss, in my judgment, is considerable.

Not long ago I attended my 40th class reunion in Alderson. My classmates and I euphemistically refer to Alderson as "Camelot,"  in deference to what used to be. Oh, the town still exists, but without its heart and soul. Both its high school and its junior high have now given way to consolidation. The town struggles to hold onto its past. Town leaders have even persuaded the board of education to deed them the old school building and they are embracing that structure as though it were the lifeline of their continued existence. Having a monument to their traditions, a symbol of the past glory, carries far more weight than the inevitable economic struggle it will be to maintain it.

For more than three decades the town has staged a very large and well attended Fourth-of-July celebration. Over the years class reunions have become the centerpiece of these activities and the one common denominator, the one thread that binds all these people together, is the shared experiences of having attended school in Alderson. And while class reunions are not uncommon in large and small communities throughout the land, the ties that bind are no where stronger than in Alderson, and no where else can we find a more tormenting reminder of what future generations have lost with the passing of the small school.
There will never again be a graduating class in Greenbrier County, for example, whose members all know each other and each other's family, nor a reunion as intensely intimate as the ones we enjoy when we go back to Alderson on the 4th of July. Kids from the Valley will never again benefit from the shared effort of parents, neighbors, teachers, coaches, and school administrators all collectively devoting a full measure of personal attention to not only their education but to their general development as well.

Nor will the kids in the Valley ever again benefit from the peer controls and value enhancing influences that are unique to the small school where everybody is on a first name basis and where they genuinely care for each other. Nor will they ever again feel the same sense of belonging, the same degree of pride, the same competitive spirit. Who they are will never again be quite as important as what they are.
Perhaps Albert Einstein said it best: "It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and of the morally good. Otherwise he--with his specialized knowledge--more closely resembles a well-trained dog than a harmoniously developed person."

In my view, Mr. Einstein has captured both the essence of education and the consequence of ignoring it. And I am afraid much of that essence was left behind when we merged all the small schools into larger ones. I am painfully reminded of that at each class reunion as I embrace my classmates and former teachers from “Camelot.”

From The Greenbrier Independent, Thursday, May 12, 1960
(Submitted by Ward & Joyce Parker)


"Heap Big Pow-wow" was the theme of the Alderson high school Junior-Senior Banquet held Friday evening in the school auditorium.

To carry out the banquet theme the auditorium had been converted into a woodland with a star-studded sky. A rustic arch at the entrance bore the words, "Heap Big Pow-Wow."

Each table was centered with a miniature teepee and a alighted candle. Table accessories and programs were in the Indian motif and favors were miniature tomahawks.

The menu included buffalo hunt, (ham); blue lakes, (string beans); heap big white cloud, (scalloped potatoes); Indian bread and war grease, (bread and butter); heap big salad, (tossed salad) Hiawatha's dream with pale moon, (cherry pie with ice cream); stump water, (coffee); and great spirit, ( ice tea).

Sophomore girls dressed as Indian maidens served the meal under the direction of the mothers of the juniors.

The invocation was given by W. W. Bower, "Bow-N-Arrow." The welcome in behalf of the juniors was given by the president of the class, Wymal Wenger, "War Eagle." The response was given by the senior class president, Charles Huffman," Heap Know Much." Neil Mc-Eachron, school principal, was listed as "Heap Big Chief."

As entertainment the juniors presented a skit in pantomime on the stage which was arranged to represent an Indian village complete with camp fire, teepees, a woodland and a stake for burning prisoners.

Mildred Miller, as the daughter of the chief, Rick Hughes, and Alex McLaughlin,a young brave and her lover going off to battle furnished the theme for the skit.
Indian maidens, Linda Terry, Harriet Phillips, Karen Lemons, Joan Hiser, and Judy Gwinn, sang "Indian Love Call."

Excitement was added by young warriors rushing from the stage and capturing one of the senior boys, Mitch Keadle, and carrying him off to their village. After a council among the warriors to decide whether to burn him at the stake the chief smoked the peace pipe with him and released him.

After the banquet the students held a dance at the city hall with Mr.. and Mrs. Joe Feamster and Mrs. George Feamster as chaperones.

Subscription rates for the Greenbrier Independent were $1.00 for one year, Strictly Cash in Advance.