It was 1970 when a Madison County High School senior class last graced the halls of a new high school. A few of the members of that class – the graduating class of 1971 – shared some of their memories of what was going through their minds, and what is undoubtedly similar to the thoughts of students beginning school in their own new high school building this week.
“I remember that I was excited knowing that I would be going to a newly built school my senior year,” said Class of 71 member Paulette Dillard Cooper. “It was not only in itself the excitement of being a senior, but I remember walking through the front door and seeing the library for the first time — I thought it was so beautiful with the glass across the front, and when I saw the lunchroom, it seemed so huge!”
Cooper said finding where all the classes were located that first day was a little scary, and it seemed you had further to walk to get to each class, but she eventually got use to the atmosphere at the new school. “At the end of the year, I do remember thinking how I wish that I had spent all four years there, and not just my last year,” she said.
Lee Westbrook, another member of the Class of 1971, shared some of those same feelings, though being a member of the football team allowed him to see more of last-minute summer construction that year.
“Thinking about those days 44 years ago brings back lots of good memories,” said Westbrook said. “Being involved with football the summer of 1970, we were around the complex to watch the progress and completion and actually were able to view the inside before school started. I guess the first thing that stood out in my mind was walking through the front doors (so many!) and looking straight ahead at this room, which was the library. So open with all the glass and casual feel of it.”
Eventually Westbrook says he became an “AV” (audio, visual) student, distributing projection and slide equipment, which was new to classrooms during that period.
“The lighting and openness of the school was also something that we were not use to,” Westbrook said. “The smell of new carpet and fresh paint also comes to mind along with air conditioning — that worked. At that time we still had to use the old gymnasium for basketball, P.E., and rainy day football practice. I will have to say the lunchroom was nice but it didn’t change the food, but we ate it and didn’t complain, too much.”
Seniors also had closest-to-the-school parking privileges, Westbrook remembers, and he was on the morning flag crew and had the privilege to raise the American and Georgia flag every morning.
“This was also the school year for consolidation of Madison County High with Southside High School,” Westbrook recalled. “In looking back and recalling those times, I can honestly say I can not remember any conflicts that I am aware of. I think the new school and surroundings helped ease the transition for everyone. Early on, we on the football team were concerned, but also excited, about the new students coming in. We were concerned about our own status on the team, but excited about the help we would be getting with the new players.”
Westbrook said he has since had all three of his children go through that school and has seen many changes to the “original” building over the years.
“I am eager to see the new addition and what it can do to educate the future classes of MCHS,” Westbrook said.
Pam Gober Smith was a class secretary for the Class of 71, and attended the open house and ribbon cutting for the new high school last Sunday, sharing her thoughts afterwards.
“I just remember the smell of the newness of the building,” she said of 1970 new high school, adding that the halls seemed wider and the lunchroom so much larger.
“I felt the class of 1970-1971 was responsible for continuing old traditions, yet given the unique opportunity to have a part in making changes that would benefit all students for years to come,” Smith said.
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