By Nowell Briscoe ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
(Thank you Nowell for allowing us to use this wonderful article)
(Published in the Walton Tribune-Monroe, GA)
with permission of the Walton Tribune - To see their website, please click HERE)
Click HERE to see photos of what remains of the
Click HERE to see photos of what remains of the brick posts
Several weeks ago I stood between the brick posts which served as the
entrance to the old Monroe High School Building on Bold Springs Avenue.
Those posts were the gift to the school from the class of 1928 and were
topped with big lanterns which welcomed generations of students each weekday
morning as they made their way to and from class.
The first Monroe High School was built on this site in 1927 and was
ravaged by fire on December 12, 1936. In
1938 the building which generations of students knew and loved was built and
remained a high school until 1958 when the students moved to a new facility on
Bryant Road, known as Monroe Area High School.
Those posts, the now defunct Launius Memorial Library and what is left of
Denton Hall are all that remain of the iconic building that served Monroe so
well until the fire in late1976 which totally destroyed the old building save
for the majestic front façade which continued to stand proudly along with the
big office safe after the fire gutted the rest of the structure.
The morning after the fire, Monroe resident Charles Briscoe snapped a
picture of the remains when the fire had been extinguished.
There were only still whispers and faint tendrils of smoke making their
way to the sky when Charles stopped on his way to school to capture the damage
the building had sustained the night before. The early morning light gave
the façade with its limestone columns and arch announcing “Monroe High
School” an eerie look as if saying “I may be down but not out.”
When Charles returned home from class that afternoon, nothing was left
but rubble and debris. The city
declared the façade a safety hazard. Bulldozers were brought in to topple the
last remaining memory of a building loved and treasured by hundreds of the
Standing between those brick columns, I closed my eyes to the current
building, long used as the Monroe Elementary School, as my mind took me back to
the old school. As if by magic I
found myself walking up those limestone steps, opening the double glass front
doors with that all too familiar squeak which announced your arrival.
Walking into the hallway you were immediately struck with the scent of
oil, wax and a hint of dust, from the sweeping compound old “Mose”, the
beloved custodian, used for years as he pushed the old broom up and down those
halls. That smell will always be in
my mind. To the left of the doors
was the old Coke machine next to the door marked “Teacher’s Lounge”, where
teachers sought refuge and solitude from the stress, antics and mayhem many
students were fond of inflicting on those whose job it was to infuse education
into our somewhat reluctant brains. Across
from the teacher’s lounge was the wood and glass trophy case which held
year’s worth of awards, plaques and trophies from basketball and football
games along with other honors awarded to the school.
Walking across the hall from the front door, you came to the office of
the superintendant and the general office where the secretary was always
gracious in helping you purchase pencils, paper or to pay for some needed trip
or excursion. The office also housed
the ancient mimeograph machine which the secretary used to print our exams along
with guarding the stencils the teachers entrusted to the secretary’s care.
I wonder how many students vied on numerous occasions to come up with
ways of getting into that safe to garner copies of those tests prior to exam
time so their grades could be bumped up a notch or two.
I know for a fact that safe was as solid and secure as Fort Knox,
impossible to get into but always worth a shot!
The old wooden lockers which lined the walls were open to everyone’s
scrutiny and many times students would come to their locker to find that the
contents of the enclosure, books, notebooks and other items stored there, lay
scattered on the floor thanks to an invisible prankster.
In cold weather coats were sometimes moved from one locker to another so
it was always a chore to locate the right coat when it was time to brave the
The classrooms, both upstairs and down, had the genuine old slate
“blackboards” that had to be washed by some unlucky student after school
caught for misbehaving and this was his punishment.
Or, another errant student had the nasty chore of “dusting the
erasers”, which always brought a fit of sneezing and tears as the chalk dust
permeated both clothes and skin. Those
wonderful old rooms seemed to reek with years of accumulated knowledge as the
teacher’s desks and the wooden storage cabinets seemed to hold all sorts of
educational secrets, much of which we didn’t really want to know about.
The auditorium was the venue for many activities: assembly gatherings,
piano recitals, graduation exercises, practices for glee club, the scene of Nell
Mashburn’s recitals and plays, and of course the annual play put on by the
senior class. On various occasions
different classes were marched into the auditorium to sit through a boring film
the teachers felt we needed to see in order to help us learn a particular
subject. The curtains that adorned the stage as well as those covering the
arched windows were made from purple velvet to coincide with the school colors,
purple and white. One of the most entertaining gatherings in the auditorium came
in December, close to the Christmas holidays, when Mr. Carson or Robert Ash
would summon faithful and dependable Mose from
the depths of the basement to coerce him into a dance or song so he could
receive his “Christmas Bounty”, usually a large barrel full of canned foods
and other goodies along with a large sheet of construction paper with the
greetings “Merry Christmas Mose” on one side with one, five and sometimes
ten dollar bills taped to the other side. Mose
knew from past experiences he had to really put on a show to earn his Christmas
In late November, 1976, a fire broke out in the basement, totally
destroying the landmark school. It was if an arrow had been plunged into the
collective heart of Monroe. Folks
came from near and far to see the desecration the flames wrought on the
venerable old building, and when the smoke cleared folks knew a building of that
stature would not be seen again. The loss of the building was felt so keenly,
the news made headlines in both the Walton Tribune and the Atlanta
Many newcomers to Monroe never had the opportunity to see the iconic
building. For those of us who still
remember and appreciate, all we need do is stand between those brick columns and
let the memories wash over us like a tide, taking us back to when the school
stood tall, strong and proud. As the
old Alma Mater goes, “O Monroe High, the best school in our land”.
Oh, how very true.