The publishers of The Eagle Democrat have chosen to publish articles from the past Oldtimer’s Notebook in memory of Robert L. Newton. This article was first published April 11, 2001.
First public high school in Warren was erected about 90 years ago on the current site of the new post office and of Union Bank and Trust Company.
All over Arkansas at that time, communities were having high schools built…normally by state order.
Prior to that, whatever secondary school education folk got was from private schools, like the Presbyterian Training School, an arm of the Pine Bluff Presbytery of Church, situated on the current site of Warren Junior High.
People at Fordyce had the Clary Training School: at Monticello, there was the Hinemon University School, one patronized by the late Dr. Rufus Martin, prior to his departure for medical school in Nashville (Dr. Martin was a brother to Noel and Bryan Martin, founders of Martin’s, the venerable and highly praised establishment at Main and Cypress.)
The two-story brick high school on the post office site lasted only six or eight years, being consumed by fire.
Officials of the Warren schools then had a “temporary” wooden structure built on the campus of the Warren Training School, which they had obtained after the training school “folded” in the tight economy ere World War I.
A young school administrator from Damascus in Van Buren County was engaged to serve as principal of the junior high, in the training school building.
He was R.L. Newton, later of the YMCA, later, of course, my father.
These two buildings were used by the Warren schools for the final six grades (7 to 12) throughout the ‘twenties.
But the junior high building went up in flames 70 years ago and the school fathers decided to build the current junior high to handle grades 7 to 12.
The building, which still serves, cost $55,000.
Men worked on the job for a dollar a day, and, according to reports, were glad to get the money, this being in the midst of the Depression.
The “temporary high school”, the wooden building, was then turned into an elementary school, presided over, most of the time, by Allie Mae Colvin Temple as principal.
As for kids in the elementary school, there were three sites in the ‘twenties.
1. The West School, on the site of McDonald’s at Martin and Central.
2. The East School, on the site of the home of F. Martin Hankins at Cedar and Munn.
3. The North Ward School, erected on the site of the first high school on North Main, with the onetime basement of that school still being used for art classes taught by Eloise McKimmy, sister to Frank McKimmey, the longtime Washington official, and to his sister, Margaret, who married Edward Anthoni.
Kim Hedrick, retired insurance executive and church leader here in town, says he remembers attending a private school in the home of Miss Jessie Turner on the site of Lamar Apartments on North Bradley.
Some kids were even tutored at home, as was the late S.B. Meek, Jr., farmer and cotton ginner here.
Warren has had assorted adventures and misadventures over schools.
Officials wanted to erect a wonderful new high school here on the current high school site in north Warren, but voters nixed the idea.
The school was finally built, but inflation had eaten into the assets of the district to the point that the new high school had to be limited in size: no real basketball facility, in other words, plus more limitations.
Now, of course, the school district is interested in a new building to house middle grades and going to the 4-4-4 modern system…however voters have shown a fading enthusiasm.
Well, we’ll watch with interest: Warren schools have an excellent board of directors and a fine superintendent in the Crossett Native Andrew Tolbert.
Across from the junior high (the current one) is the little house my parents had built in 1925-26. The house cost $2,600 on a turn-key job: the late Johnny Kight finished the hardwood floors by hand.
The lot upon which the house was built was obtained from S.B. Meek, long the president of Warren Bank.
Now the little house is for sale, according to a sign in the front yard.
Hope somebody nice gets it: a good little house.
Ran into a valued friend, Lewis C. Hedger, at the Day and Night Store the other morning. He was in there having breakfast and reading his paper. Lewis suffered a major stroke several months ago, but “keeps on truckin”.
Lewis is an Oklahoman who came to Warren as station agent for the Rock Island when James O’Neal took a Camden position.
At the Day and Night, we get to visit with a onetime Eagle employee, Shaun, and fill the old car with diesel fuel.
Day and Night is on the onetime home site of my grandfather, Judge James H. Hunter: also taken up by the site now is the home place of his daughter, Mrs. H.E. Neely and her family.
The Neely house was moved to another site.
Our 50th reunion at Hendrix College is later this month.
In that class was the H.E. Neely son, Richard.
He won the Hugh Robertson Athletic Medal as captain of the football team.
He will be at the Hendrix reunion only in spirit: he died at his home in North Louisiana almost 12 years ago.
Two of his five children graduated from Hendrix: a daughter, an educator at Forrest City, and a son, a certified public accountant in Little Rock.
Richard and I went to Hendrix on $600 a year for room, board, and tuition.
That cost now pushes $20,000 yearly, plus fringes we never had (cars, boats dates taken to Little Rock, et al).
Ran into Dale Reaves Wilson in Hot Springs the other day.
She says her beautiful mother is now 92 and would love to come back and reside in Warren.
Dale’s father, Lovett M. Reaves, was a valued friend of ours.
He made it possible for us to have our first house, the one erected behind the Merl Crow residence (now owned by Gail and John Little: the Crow house that is).
Lovett was a close friend of his neighbor Sam Dixon.
And Mr. Dixon was still another one of our benefactors.
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