"Good Morning Earlington:
Studying a Few Minutes…of the School Board"

Some ladies get caught up in "Days of our Lives" or "Another Life to Live" or whatever the latest soap-opera-of-the-day happens to be. Me, I can lose myself in a journal of the day-to-day life of a pioneer, or a common man or, as lately, in the minutes of a Board of Education. Sound boring? Not to me! These minutes are full of names and events I have heard about all my life. Now I can read for myself their own account of how Earlington history actually came about. I can almost hear the swish of long skirts and petticoats of female teachers teaching for $45 a month and smell the acrid sulfur from the boiler burning St. Bernard’s coal and coke and in turn burning my eyes and nose. I can visualize the janitor sweeping the sawdust he had just thrown across the floor like a Johnny Appleseed flinging his apple seeds. I can close my eyes and get a whiff of the unusual odor of oil mixed with sawdust they called a "sweeping compound" (purchased from Rock City Chemicals at $5 + $1.50 freight per 500 lb. in 1913 to clean the oak floors). All of this is in the Minute Book—along with giggly, freckled-faced girls with tight pigtails and high buttoned leather boots, gawky boys with shaggy bowl-haircuts and blowzy britches frowning while trying to cipher numbers, fathers wondering how they will get the extra $1.50 for the new poll tax for the school, teachers taking the L&N to Louisville for KEA ( their $7 a day pay was expected to stretch to travel expenses).

I learned many facts that I didn’t remember hearing. For example, in 1903 it was actually Paul Moore (the first president of the Common School District board & later of the E’ton Graded Common School District for 15 years) who convinced J.B. Atkinson that the town needed a new school. Moore (with the two other members Dan Evans and William F. Burr) went to Evansville to decide on plans. It was Moore who was in charge of erecting and equipping the building. Although Atkinson may have been the man with the finances, Moore seemed to have been the man with the vision. It wasn’t until April 8, 1915, at the St. Bernard annual meeting and after Atkinson died that St. Bernard donated the school building, equipment and grounds to the Earlington Graded School Board of Education for the "free use and benefit of the people…in memory of ‘our beloved former president, the late John B. Atkinson." The one condition was that it be designated "The John B. Atkinson Memorial School." Thus, it was called until its "demise" (although a 1920 Ky House Bill required the Board to be called the "E’ton Board of Education for the Earlington Graded Sch District—white." This was officially done on June 15, 1920, with an E’ton City Council ordinance which separated the white and colored school systems establishing two separate and distinct boards of education. After July, it became known as simply the White Board of Education.

A few notations in the minutes I found intriguing were a February 8, ’13, notice that Prof. Dudley (supt.) had called attention to the fact that the boys of the 3rd grade and others were buying and smoking cigarettes on my street near the school. The Board decided that the chairman and secretary should meet with the mayor (W.E. Rash) as to "the best way to stop the sale to minors." So, even in the early 1900’s there were "drug buys" on the streets by 9-10 year olds.

Then into each life some rain must fall. In April 1916 the School Board authorized "Dental Inspections" under the auspices of the Hopkins Co. Health League and local dentists (N.G. Alfred & J.E. Faucett). At the end of the school year, the secretary made this addition—17 eyes treated, 39 teeth treated, and 4 tonsils and adenoids treated. The following year in June the board of health added (ouch!) vaccinations for smallpox as a requirement.

One of my favorite notations is one in 1916 in which the Board found it necessary to spell out what it called "teachers’ rules" (and which they made sure were sent to teachers every year afterwards). Rule #11 warned, "Dancing and card playing are forbidden by the Board and if practiced will be considered an act of insubordination warranting dismissal."

So, I have spent many late hours reading from "official" accounts of the lives of our educational predecessors and learning of --their values, teachers’ petty squabbles along with unbelievable accomplishments, a changing society, and struggles and accomplishments. The reading was, in itself, (pardon the pun) an education! Therefore, if you think this article has been heavy reading, I should, perhaps, leave you with this bit of levity.

A maiden at college, named Breeze
Weighed down by BA’s and MD’s
One day collapsed from the strain.
Said her doctor, "It’s plain
and I tell you with pain
You are killing yourself by degrees."

Ann Gipson 12-13-2001