Our Historical Society archives depends on the donations and gifts of people who have saved bits of old newspapers, diaries, letters or old Bible records and then share them with us. Old photos are also a great source of information about our local history. But there is nothing like a scrapbook to give us a trip through the past.
That is why we were excited to receive a scrapbook from the 1940s – and not just any scrapbook!
A local resident was cleaning out the attic and closets of an old home and came across a large scrapbook with these words printed on the cover, “Schools At War, A Report to the Nation.”
Beneath those words a smaller inscription reads, “Sponsored by the War Savings staff of the U.S. Treasury Department, the U.S. Office of Education and its Wartime Commission.”
The scrapbook was a project of the old Center Point School, which was located just off Highway 25 in eastern Trousdale County. It was a one-room school, with grades one to eight all in the same room with one teacher!
The teacher was Mrs. James Garrett.
Schools across the country were encouraged to fill the pages of these scrapbooks and show how they were taking part in the “war effort.”
The war we are talking about was World War II and it was a global conflict that struck close to home as local men enlisted to fight the Axis Powers: Germany, Italy and Japan. The fathers, brothers and neighbors of the 24 students would be putting their lives on the line to protect them, and they responded by taking part in all kinds of projects to help win the war.
In the book we see that the students purchased War Bonds. The money raised by the bonds would be used to finance the war by paying for the tanks, airplanes, bombs and fighting ships needed to win.
On one page, small photos of the individual students are pasted and written beneath each picture is what the student’s war bonds were capable of purchasing. One student’s purchase, “I have bought a life belt.” Another wrote, “I have bought a hand grenade and 2 pigeons.” A photo of a sweet-faced girl brags, “I’ve bought five clips of bullets!”
Other items were a steel helmet, sandbags, a blanket, a pup tent, a mess kit and more carrier pigeons.
But there was more!
The school had received a letter and $75 worth of war stamps from the editor of the Nashville Banner for being the paper’s first-place winner in the local student war effort.
Now why had the editor of the Nashville newspaper felt they had done such a good job?
Well, there was another drive that the students took part in – a scrap metal drive.
Across the nation, people were asked to collect their scrap metal and give it to the military to be recycled into the steel needed to build their planes and ships.
Another page in the scrapbook shows just how successful the little one-room school and its 24 students were in the scrap metal drive. They collected a whopping 61,429 pounds of iron, tin, brass and whatever other metals they could find. That averages out to 2,559 pounds per student. Each student collected over a ton of metal!
In the statewide school drive, the Center Point School came in second! Only one school, Unicoi County High School, collected more per capita, or per student.
Third place went to Tellico Plains High School.
Mrs. Garrett and her students made the news, not only for taking part in the drive in such a big way, but for being such a small school and competing against large high schools and coming in second for the whole state!
The recognition was great, but there was more!
As part of its award the school got to select a student to travel to New Orleans to take part in the launching of a “Liberty Ship,” since it was metal collected by children like themselves that was being used to build the large ships. Not used for fighting, Liberty Ships were used to carry soldiers and supplies to the battlefronts.
The class selected 15-year-old J.B. McClanahan, an eighth grader, to go to the launch. He was also treated to a full day of activities in Nashville, which were listed in an another article cut out and pasted into the scrapbook. “…Smyrna Air Base and Flying Fortresses in the morning… received citations from Governor Cooper at noon… took lunch at the Hermitage Hotel… visited Vultee in the afternoon… left on the Pan American (train) at 3:40 o’clock.”
No doubt, it was the trip of a lifetime for the young man. I am sure he shared his adventures with his family and his fellow students when he returned, just as I am sure his teacher, Mrs. Garrett, stood tall and proud of him and her class of farm kids. All part of her job!
The scrapbook, with its faded newspaper articles and photos of smiling students, is now permanently on display in our archives and the efforts of the teacher and children will be forever a part of our history!
NOTE: The Trousdale County Historical Society will hold its monthly meeting on Saturday, Aug. 10 at 2 p.m. at the County Archives building, located at 328 Broadway behind the County Administration building.
Our featured speaker will be Jeff Poppen, known locally as “the Barefoot Gardener.” All Society meetings are free and open to the public.