My Years at Woodmont School , a personal narrative
Woodmont School, in the late 1960’s was a small school in a quiet neighborhood peopled by middle and upper-middle class white children taught by experienced teachers, some very able, some merely experienced. The school had formerly included a seventh and eighth grade which fielded interscholastic athletic teams. Their trophies were in a case in the main hall. But Metro had reorganized and moved the older kids to West End Junior High and out only sports were YMCA leagues that were organized by school but not affiliated with the school. The trophy cases made us feel that we were living in a diminished age. Some boys had older brothers who had actually played football on a real Woodmont team. We were impressed. We played our hearts out on those pseudo-Woodmont “Gra-Y” teams for the glory of the Blue and Gold Warriors, especially against rivals like Julia Green and Parmer. Paul Clements was our coach, a volunteer. He was one of the very best things about Woodmont, and had no affiliation with the school at all. Paul is the foremost historian of Woodmont School and almost certainly the foremost historian of middle Tennessee. But to me and my peers, he was simply the first adult to take us seriously as people. And we really loved him. Still do.
Most of the kids at Woodmont lived in the neighborhood encompassing Hampton (where we lived), Golf Club Lane, Lynbrook, 23rd Ave, down to Valley Vista in the north. The district also extended West down Kenner to the Jim Dandy Market. Hampton and Golf Club are now very pricey addresses whose large lots very close to town are prized. The area was solid in those days too, but not so exclusive. Belle Meade was far swankier and Hillwood and West Meade, brand new, may have been more fashionable. Kenner Avenue today is pretty swanky – its “close to town” cottages occupied by younger doctors, partners at good law firms, maybe some creative types. Fifty years ago it was as close as Woodmont School got to “working class”. The Kenner kids were a little tougher than the rest of us. Hampton kids rode the yellow bus to school. We were the last stop in the morning and the afternoon. I could drive that afternoon route today and show you where Bob Mills and Jeffry Halliburton and the Griffons and the Shermans and the Burruses got dropped off.
I had Miss Mann for 1st Grade. She was an unmarried lady and a good reading teacher. Her brother was Delbert Mann who won an Academy Award for Best Director and a Palme d’Or at Cannes. Across the hall was Mrs. Jarvis’s class, half 1st Grade and Half 2nd. (Woodmont had several “split classes”). The orderly kids got put in Jarvis because split classes relied on the self-discipline of the half of the class the teacher was ignoring at the time. I had the mumps the first two weeks of school so when I finally showed up I was in Mann. At least two boys from that class would grow up to earn degrees from Yale, not too shabby. Miss Mann put us in “reading” groups which were transparently sorted by ability. Not a single six year old in the class misunderstood the pecking order. It always makes me laugh when they give a trophy to every kid on the worst soccer team ever fielded. As if kids can’t tell who is good at stuff and who isn’t!
Mrs. Gladys B. Sherrod taught me 3rd and 4th grade. She was an opinionated lady, fully 4’10. Her ideas about racial matters were strictly “old South” and she retired almost immediately after the onset of busing. But she was competent and caring and kept order in a big class. She brandished a paddle on occasion but never used it. I think school policy forbade it. I was a pet of Mrs. Sherrod and therefore liked her. Some kids hated her. 4th grade we were the upper group of a ¾ split. The 4th graders were all smart kids and were pretty much left on our own while Sherrod taught the 3rd graders. It was a great year.
6th Grade – change was in the works. Mrs. Williams, an African American lady was my main teacher. She’d been at Murrell School, serving the Edgehill projects and nearby neighborhoods. The courts had ordered desegregation and they moved faculty around a year before they moved students. She was an excellent teacher. I wish I knew more of what the experience of coming to Woodmont as the first black teacher was like for her.
The big event at Woodmont in the spring was the Carnival. The dads set up booths in the driveway in back for ring toss and free throw shoot etc. Moms baked cakes that were given away at a Cakewalk, essentially a human roulette wheel. Seems like there was Bingo in the cafeteria. All this was a PTA fundraiser. I sure they raised literally hundreds of dollars for the school, maybe about $300. And it must have been a huge amount of work. But to me it was magic. I waited for the carnival all spring and bought tickets to use in the games of skill and chance. We won prizes like “remaindered” 45 RPM singles. Totally worthless, totally exciting to the 8 year old me. By the 5th grade some of us were asking girls to go to the carnival with us, inspired by some precocious lads with older brothers. It was staggeringly exciting. I try never to underestimate how the very young invest the trivial with wonder.
submitted by Andrew May
History of Woodmont School
From the 1973-74 Directory and Handbook
(text reproduced below exactly as written, including errors)
EARLY HISTORY OF WOODMONT SCHOOL
Written in the 1930’s
In the Spring of 1931 the citizens of the seventh district began to realize the results of a desire for a school in the neighborhood.
Mr. J. R. Stevens, in order to promote the sale of some valuable property that he owned in the immediate vicinity, offered free of charge a lot on Woodmont Boulevard to be used for a school. It was then that several of our citizens went to the Board and asked that they build a school on the designated lot. The lot was examined by the Board, and on the same day the boulevard was as crowded by the residents as a market on Saturday. Never could words in the English vocabulary describe the feeling that the mothers had when they heard the verdict, “Lot not suitable”, especially those who had children in Parmer School, necessitating driving 6 1/2 miles per day.
However, the fathers did not lose courage. A called meeting was advertised for the next week and printed circulars were put in every mailbox in the district. Telephones were used for something besides gossip and many flower beds were neglected for conversations over the back fence.
The news was well broadcasted for when Mr. and Mrs. W.D. Blair at 165 Kenner Avenue lighted their beautiful lawn on the night of June 1, 1931, one hundred chairs were filled. The terrace was lined by smoking men, smoking not only with tobacco but with enthusiasm. Mr. Lurton Goodpasture was the principal speaker and later he was made the chairman of the group. Mr. Dan Mills, a member of the Board, pledged the cooperation of the Board. The following week another meeting was called. Fourteen men met again at the Blair Place and organized the Seventh District Civic Club. Mr. George J. Johnson spoke in effect, as follows:
“We cannot have a lot without money; a football will not move without the first kick.
Let us start the thing moving. All of us must give tonight and then visit the others.”
All present were in favor of the idea and when the meeting adjourned, $350.00 for building Woodmont School was in the hands of Mr. Aubrey L. Carr, Treasurer.
During the next two weeks every resident in the section was visited by either Messrs. Carr, Johnson, Sain, Blair, Kirkman, Piper, Rankin, Goodpasture, Hibbett, Thomas, Garrett or Fenn, from Kenner Avenue and Richardson or Locke from Woodmont Blvd. Did these men work? Not a one fell down on the job, and by July 1, 1931, Three Thousand Dollars was in the treasury. A lot, two hundred feet by four hundred feet, was selected; part being purchased from Mr. Jordan, and part from the Nashville Trust Company.
Unlike ancient Gaul, this procedure was divided into more than three parts. The next step taken was when the County Court refused to appropriate Ten Thousand Dollars for the erection of a school. But this happened because some of the magistrates were not present when the vote was taken. However, Mr. Lawrence Howard made a wonderful plea for a special vote to be taken that afternoon when all the magistrates would be there. He was successful in his plea and when the special vote was taken those favoring an appropriation were victorious.
It was very difficult for several of the men to prevent their wives from breaking ground for the new school the next day, but the contract was let to Tisdale and Pinson and they set the date at July 28, 1931. How our school did climb! It seemed as if a magic wand had touched the lot, for within sixty days a modern school was ready for occupancy, consisting of four large classrooms, halls, office, cloak room, cafeteria, perfect plumbing, heating and ventilation.
One month after the building was begun the Woodmont Parent Teacher Association was organized, Mrs. Turrentine presiding. Mrs. Joe Fenn was elected president. We wonder if Dr. and Mrs. Fenn realize how much Woodmont School owes to them.
Last but not least, the education of our children depends most of all on competent teachers. Woodmont was fortunate to have been provided with a strong faculty. The first and second grades were under the care of Miss Caroline Sawyer; the third, fourth and fifth were taught by Mrs. Tom Gregory; Mrs. G.C. Mathis, who was also the principal, presided over the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
During the 1950’s, the back wing, including four primary classrooms and the new kitchen, cafetorium, stage, and faculty lounge were added. Up to this time, space now occupied by the library had been used for the cafeteria. Also, television teaching became a part of the school curriculum.
Through the years, Woodmont continued to have a teaching principal as funds were cut and teachers were transferred. In 1966, the seventh and eighth grades were transferred to West End Junior High School. This organization continued (with a Kindergarten added in 1969) until the schools were changed under court order in July 1971. Woodmont, Eakin, and Ransom were “clustered” with Head School, and the fifth and sixth grades from the former schools were transferred to Head. Woodmont received eighty students from Head in the transition. Mrs. Kristofferson became a full-time principal, and Mrs. Ruth S. Walp was assigned as the first full-time secretary. Mrs. Walp was transferred later in the year, and Mrs. Gail Williams has been the secretary since that time.
The principals, in chronological order.are:
Mrs. G.S. Mathis Seventeen Years
Mr. J.B. Thompson Five Years
Mr. Jack Batey One Year
Mr. Leonard Garriott Ten Years
Mr. Jim Wright Three Years
Mrs. Jane Hill Three Years
Mrs. Frances S. Kristofferson In Her Fifth Year
Miss Evelyn Seay holds the record for years of service at Woodmont School. She taught here for thirty-six years!
Our enrollment now totals almost 200 students, including a Kindergarten and Grades One through Four. The Fourth Grade has been departmentalized with separate classrooms for language arts social studies-science and mathematics. Each classroom is being equipped with more individualized activities. Multi-level kits, listening centers, and taped materials have become a part of each child’s daily experience.
Eight full-time classroom teachers are presently assigned to the Woodmont faculty. In addition, a Reading Support Teacher, a Varying Exceptionalities Teacher, a Speech Teacher, a Physical Education Teacher, a String Music Teacher, a part-time librarian, and volunteer parents - who serve as tutors and art instructior - provide enrichment, reinforcement, and support to the regular classwork.
We are proud of Woodmont!!! We are proud of the students who pass through Her doors. We are proud of the understanding teachers who teach and guide the lives of our children within Her walls. We are proud of the energetic and enthusiastic parents whose efforts continue to build unity in our school. We hope that we can continue to work together to prepare the students at Woodmont to become worthwhile citizens in their community.
* * * * *
CUB MASTER .... Mr. Tom Walton ............... 383-7297
DEN 1 ......... Mr. Luther Weathers ............. 269-6648
DEN 2 ......... Mrs. Bonnie Seidel ................ 297-0302
DEN 3 .........
TROUP ORGANIZER......... Mrs. Barbara Olson ..... 292-8635
GIRL SCOUTS (4th gr.)... Mrs. Barbara Olson ...... 292-8635
Mrs. Roz McGee........... 297-8833
BROWNIES........................Mrs. Marjorie Shannon..327-2080
(3rd grade) Mrs. Bobbie Grubb.......298-2886