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Kingsport Times-News, November 22, 1957

Old-Timers Wistfully Recall School Days At Burned Edifice

By Doyle Howard

GATE CITY Va. --- Roaring flames destroyed an historic landmark here Thursday.

     The Destruction was watched by several hundred spectators, many of whom could remember happier occasions when they had tread the halls of the 60-year-old building.

The 16-classroom school had served as a college, high school and lately an elementary school.

     Old Shoemaker School is no more but a memory of that historic institution will live forever with the countless thousands of students who have walked through its portals.

     Those memories were alive for some of those former students who watched the crackling flames eat their way through the three-story building early today.

     One of those persons was Mrs. Rhea Rose who graduated in the class of 1913.

     Mrs. Rose, who has worked for 30 years in the Scott Board of Education Office, says she does not remember the number of students in her class but she did know that only six are still alive.

     She said she was the lone member now living in Gate City.

     Mrs. Rose said one of the things she thought of this morning was the time she was corrected for throwing a vase across a classroom of the school.

     She said memories of her former classmates, with whom she had spent many ours in the school flooded across her mind.

Flames Upset Her

     She said the roaring flames had upset her so much that she had been confused all day.

      "A thing like that can get a person down," she added.

     A former principal, who served the school for 17 years, said it was certainly an "unhappy occasion" for him.

     E. R. Wolfe said the flames brought back many memories for him and they were mostly of pleasant things.

     He said he remembered the commencement programs mostly when many students were saying good-bye to the school for the last time.

     Wolfe said there were several different types of reaction among the persons watching the fire but to him the occasion was very sad.

     The former principal said some spectators seemed to think the fire was a "blessing in disguise" but he was very unhappy to see a school burn that was still serving the county's youth.

     Wolfe said he would estimate that over 1,200 students graduated from the school while he was principal and that he saw several of them watching the building breathing its last today.

Forced Him To Leave

     He said the near freezing temperature and a gnawing sentiment forced him to leave the scene early.

     R. L. Kane, Sr., a Gate City insurance man, remembered when the corner stone was laid for the building in 1897. He said he was just a small kid then but he later attended college at Shoemaker.

     He also recalled that Judge E. T. Carter's wife was a former teacher at the college.

     Kane said that when the cornerstone was laid for the college, the young town of Gate City staged a celebration and that high officals from throughout the state participated in the opening celebration.

     Kane said that about 250 students from over the state of Virginia and Tennessee attended the college. He said they boarded at homes in the town.

Recalled Leaders

      He recalled a former professor, F. B. Fitzpatrick, who at one time directed activities at the college and a former congressman who participated in the laying of the cornerstone.

     He identified the congressman as Bascom Slemp, a well-known figure in Virginia politics at the time.

 

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