Back in the day: Arcadia School graduates of 1947 hold reunion

Rick Wagner • Sep 16, 2019 at 8:30 PM

KINGSPORT — It has been more than 72 years since the six-member Arcadia School eighth-grade Class of 1947 graduated in central Sullivan County east of Kingsport.

Earlier this month, four of the members of that class, which went on to graduate from Blountville High School in 1951, had their first Arcadia reunion. They remembered early school days that included making paper cups to drink water and an upstairs kitchen from where food was carried to classrooms. One member has died, and another was unable to attend.

Class members who attended the reunion on Sept. 5 at the Longhorn Steakhouse got RC cola, a Moon Pie, some small chocolates, a copy of their 1947 graduation program and a memento: a piece of chalk that came from the old school. They also got a chance to reminisce.


Here are the six and some of their recollections.

— Mary Ann Ramsey Laughlin.

“I got in a fight one time. I pulled her hair out,” Laughlin recalled with a laugh.

— Navada Myers, who was unable to attend.

— Charles Newland, who organized the reunion and got in touch with the four other living classmates. He has been a Sullivan County farmer all his life and lives in the Arcadia community with his wife, JoAnn. 

“This is the first one,” Newland said. “I just thought it would be good if we got together.” 

— Claude Osborne. He and his wife, Birgie, celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary the same day as the reunion. He was a transplant in sixth grade from Orebank School and left the area in 1959 to work 30 years for Ford Motor Co. in Ohio, a job from which he retired 29 years ago. He and his wife came back to Kingsport from Ohio for the reunion.

“I just remember them big steps in the front. I remember getting a whipping in the hall,” Osborne said.

— Jane Williams has passed away.

— Beatrice “Beat” Willis Wolfe. She lives in Bloomingdale. A son, Doyle Wolfe, graduated Ketron High School with my cousin Pam Winegar, and a daughter, Donna Wolfe, graduated with my cousin (and Pam’s brother) Mike Winegar. Some of the class also remembered my maternal grandfather, Jim Winegar, who owned and operated Winegar Hardware Store in Bloomingdale, and my great uncle John Wagner was Arcadia principal after they left. 

Wolfe recalled that she was one of the girls who used to carry food from the upstairs kitchen down to the classrooms. Later, she worked 10 years in the cafeterias of Gravely, Cedar Grove and Kingsley elementary schools in Bloomingdale. She said she got her nickname after a classmate did a literal pronunciation of her name as “Beat-rice.”


Newland said the school had no indoor plumbing most of their time there, with an outhouse out back, but it had an upstairs kitchen installed and electricity. He recalled the upstairs kitchen had ice cream cooled by dry ice, and putting the dry ice on a door knob would “make it sing.” He also said the school held a scrap metal drive during World War II and split into two competing teams.

The school in the 1940s was split into two classrooms when the six attended: one for grades 1-4 and one for grades 5-8. Newland said the principal during his eight years there was Margaret Anderson, the lower grades teacher was Ruth Pectol Campbell the first three years and Roy Harr the fourth, with Anderson teaching grades 5-8.

A copy of a June 18, 1981, Kingsport Times News article by staff writer Becky Jones, provided by Wolfe, said the school once was known as Temperance Hall or “The Hall” and was founded sometime before the Civil War and originally known as Reedy Creek Academy. Temperance was built in 1864, followed by the building Newland and his classmates used in 1918 and the current building, which still stands but was abandoned in 1981 after opening in 1952, when my Great Uncle John Wagner became principal. Newland said the first school started in 1853 and became a public rather than private one in 1870.


Newland’s great uncle, J.E.L. Seneker, served as superintendent from 1893 to 1915, a term just short of the service length of the longest-serving superintendent, J.Craft “Lefty” Akard.

“We folded notebook paper into a cup. We could fold it and hold a small amount of water,” Newland said. He also said students walked to Arcadia but rode a bus to high school in Blountville. He recalled once he came to school but the teacher was unable to make it there, so school was out that day. “We just played in the snow for a while.” 

As for his old report cards? “My mother kept them.” Wolfe has all her old report cards. The chalk? His cousin found it in her mother’s house. Her aunt taught at Acadia in the 1920s. Wolfe has all her old report cards.

In the early 1940s, Newland said school started after Labor Day and often got out in April, although in later years it was May. Earlier in the 20th Century, the 1981 article said, it was in March so children could plant on the family farms.

Former Arcadia Principal Glenn Arwood, later a superintendent after the Arcadia Six tenure, said Arcadia was one of the smaller schools in the system if not the smallest but did well in spelling bees. Newland said he feels students got a good education there. 

“Small schools are better,” Newland said.

Rick Wagner is an education writer for the Kingsport Times News and can be reached at rwagner@timesnews.net or (423) 392-1381.

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