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The Legacy 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 secretary 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 1970-71.

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.

In 1989, Harrison Elementary's enrollment was 762 students, 41 faculty members, 8 cafeteria workers, and 1 custodian. There were 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 Kendall
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Harrison Today

Harrison is a diverse community school with a STEAM curriculum. Enrollment hovers around 650 students and class sizes range from 18 in primary classrooms to  25 in the intermediate grade levels. We are looking forward to our new school facility which will open in January 2021 with two STEAM labs, an art class, two music classes and a gym. You are invited to be a part of our school community!

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