History of Harrison Elementary
Harrison Elementary was the last school to be built under the
Administration of Public Works Program. The cost of construction
was shared by the federal and county governments. The federal share
was 45 percent, the highest grant awarded any county until that
time. Bonds for the local share of the cost were issued on July 1,
1938. An earlier bond issue had failed to gain public approval. The
school was built on a 10-acre site purchased from Fletcher H. and
Helen Irene Bacon for seven hundred fifty dollars. The architect
was the R. H. Hunt Company, and the contractor was the L. A.
Warlick Company. Construction was begun on October 17, 1938, and
completed on June 11, 1939. The total cost of construction,
including architect's fees and purchase of property was $87,723.44.
Cost of the equipment was $4,635.84. The original building
contained 9 classrooms, a 390- seat auditorium, a cafeteria
equipped with 8 tables and 64 stools, a library, and an office. The
8-by-10-foot kitchen was furnished with a coal stove, hot water
tank, and four fire extinguishers. Water was supplied by a well.
Drinking fountains and wash basins were installed, but the water
supply was not sufficient to furnish bathroom facilities. Harrison
and Oak Hill, which had been located on the corner of Highway 58
and Hickory Valley Road, were consolidated. The Oak Hill School was
abandoned completely. The school opened in September 1939 with a
faculty of six and 191 students. There was no playground and no
grass. The students, teachers, and parents worked together on the
grounds, planting grass and shrubs. Their efforts were rewarded
with a prize for beautification of school grounds. In 1941, the
school received a 750-dollar NYA grant for grounds improvement.
During World II, the school was used as an agency to register
soldiers and issue rationing stamps. The principal during those
years contributed many additional hours to this work. Miss Martha
Bean and Miss Angie Fleeman organized and filed old Harrison and
Oak Hill records and delivered surplus government commodities to
disadvantaged families in the community. Rex Richey delivered
cafeteria supplies to the school. For a time, breakfast was served
in the cafeteria. Sulfur fumes from the TNT plant created a
problem. The fumes were sometimes so strong that the children
couldn't go outside to play. Fortunately, the school contained
empty classrooms which could be used for recreation.
In 1945, the Kings Point School burned and Harrison hosted Kings
Point students for about three years, until that school was
replaced. In September 1948, a fire started spontaneously in the
stage dressing room. Nancy Kelly, one of Mrs. Paden's students,
discovered the fire during recess. The fire department from the
Volunteer Ordnance Works responded to Mrs. Troutman's call. It was
necessary to cut a hole in the roof to extinguish the flames, a
task which required almost two hours. The stage curtains, a piano,
some books, and other equipment were destroyed. For several years
during the fifties the school taught seven grades.
In 1952 the seventh grade fielded a baseball team, with Virginia
Webb coaching. The team won the knot-hole championship. During the
fifties, pipes were laid to bring water to Harrison. Mr. Mayberry
wanted to install plumbing facilities at the school and have
bathrooms ready for use when the water line was completed. An
appropriation wasn't available for the work, but the bathrooms were
installed anyway -- at the rate of one fixture a month -- and
charged to maintenance. The day after the water was connected, Mr.
Mayberry heard a commotion and went to investigate. The disturbance
was coming from the cafeteria. The water pressure had blown up the
water tank on the back of the coal stove, flooding the kitchen and
ruining the stove. The cafeteria staff cleaned up the mess and
served sandwiches for lunch. A new electric stove was purchased and
installed, but the school wasn't getting enough power to operate it
properly. For several months, Mrs. McGee and her staff managed to
serve hot lunches with only one burner and the oven operable.
Eventually, a substation was built near Hickory Valley Road,
solving the power problem. With an adequate power supply, the
cafeteria staff was hampered only by limited work- space. In 1964,
four classrooms, a new and larger cafeteria, and kitchen and two
bathrooms were added to the school. Remodeling converted the office
into a lounge, the library into an office, and the cafeteria into a
library. Plans were drawn by the firm of Hunt, Caton, and Holt. The
contractor was L. J. Baker, Jr. The total cost of the addition was
$148,521.00. The cost of equipment,was $20,674.62. The addition was
completely funded by bonds authorized on November 6, 1962.
Construction was completed in March 1964.
A school qualifies for a searetary when its enrollment reaches
350. Harrison's first secretary was Betty Adamson, assigned in
1965. In 1967, Quintard Whittle took over the job. In 1970, Vance
Wilson, Child Development Consultant, was added to the faculty. In
1971, Mary Ann Potter was assigned to the school in a position she
described as principal-in-training. Her time was divided equally
between Harrison and Ooltewah Elementary Schools. On December 15,
1972, Miss Potter was appointed principal of Bess T. Shepherd
School. Both Miss Potter and Mr. Wilson hold the distinction of
being a "first and only" for Harrison Elementary School.
About ten years ago, real estate developers discovered Harrison
and launched a furious building campaign in the community. The
resulting student invasion was more than the school was prepared to
handle. Throughout its existence the school's growth had been
leisurely, if not occasionally regressive. Suddenly, it was
overflowing with students. In 1959, the enrollment was 310, an
increase of 119 over a period of twenty years. During the next six
years, about 50 students were added. Between 1965 and 1972, the
school's enrollment doubled. The teaching staff doubled during Mr.
Bean's seven years with the school -- from 10 in 1964-65 to 20 in
Classrooms were improvised to accommodate the expanding school
population. Classes were conducted on the auditorium stage, in the
library, and even in the teachers' lounge. Portable teaching units,
each containing four classrooms, were set up at the school in 1969,
1970, and 1971.
On April 13, 1972, Syd Lang, Contractor, began construction of a
B-classroom addition to the school. Edwin E. Howard was the
architect. The cost of this addition was $171,500.00. The
classrooms were occupied in early September.
Harrison Elementary's current enrollment is 762 students, 41
faculty members, 8 cafeteria workers, and 1 custodian. There are 32
regular classrooms, 2 special education classrooms, a Chapter I
classroom, and a speech and language classroom. The remainder of
the faculty consists of a music teacher, physical education
teacher, librarian and guidance counselor.
Fiftieth Anniversary and History of Harrison Elementary
School - 1989
Submitted by Susan