Old School

A tribute to Lelia “Lucille” (Brillhart) Garman
May 23, 1920 ~ January 23, 2019

“Old School” was originally published September 2018.


This article relates to the school history from 1928-1981 and some insight on the students, teachers, cooks and custodians. It is designed to take you down a memory lane as stories are retold by some of the former students.


” Where Have All the Children Gone”


Catawba School just sits there. It appears lifeless, non-living, inanimate which in a way is properly stated. Most inanimate objects are referred to as “it”. We do not have a gender pronoun for inanimate things. They are just called “it”. I am going to change that right now.

“She” sits there clothed in the same red brick she has worn for 90 years, staring at the Methodist church across Rt. 779 looking at the North Mountain looming skyward in the background.

What are her thoughts? Does she think perhaps she was decommissioned in 1981, much like the USS Missouri Battleship would be in 1992, considered to be obsolete? No longer needed with no legacy to leave to the good people of Catawba Valley? And where have all the children gone?

If Catawba School could speak what stories would she tell? I was born and raised in a small house in 1940 which was located right beside the School. I have an experience of personal history with her that most do not and I will take the liberty of speaking on her behalf. She turns ninety this year having been built in 1928, so she has served as a high school initially and an elementary school later on for a total of 53 years. Hundreds of students would have attended school there over that period which ceased to be a high school in 1939-40 when those above 7th grade headed to Andrew Lewis High School. Catawba School would have been solely an elementary (1st through 7th) grade school at that time until its closing in the Spring of 1981.



Irene Howdyshell Bell, Clyde Starkey, Grace Deeds, Goldie Damewood Garman, Lois Martin Campbell, Cleo Damewood Martin, Helin Lemon Conner, Avis Damewood Garman, Doris Martin, Elizabeth Garman Carroll
Carriden Grisso, Earl Starkey, Ronald Thomas, Loren Thomas, Roy Lemon, Donald Custer 1930














I believe that Catawba School was more than a school from the very beginning. It was a community center before it became a Community Center. More than just education happened there. The old Catawba Methodist Church held Easter Pageants there many times. It was normal to have fundraising ice cream suppers there which were heavily attended.

Country bands like Reno & Smiley and others would play at the school auditorium to packed audiences. The school itself had children events scheduled there for parents and community to attend. Baseball was played on the lower part of the property most every Sunday afternoon. The school was an institution that served many purposes, as they should. Little did we know that in 1986 it would become in reality the Catawba Community Center. And rightfully so I might add. May it be so forever.

To read more about the Old School, click here for the E-book.

Click here to view the Catawba School’s photo album…

Be sure to leave a comment and read the comments below.

Like articles like this? Then you would love Echoes From Catawba Volume 1, Growing Up In Catawba Valley, Appalachia.

Click here to order Echoes From Catawba Volume 1 hardcover, collector’s edition: $27.99, includes shipping. Also available on Amazon. Paperback: $18.99 and Kindle: $5.99

Also available at the Salem Museum Book Store in Salem, Virginia and The Emporium on Main Street in New Castle, Virginia.


2 thoughts on “Old School

  1. Loved your first grade bathroom story! It was so entertaining but I can imagine how a little guy of 6 must have felt

    1. Marsha, thank you for taking the time to submit a comment. Glad that you like the post, particularly the BR story. I enjoy doing these Catawba posts and enjoy the reward of knowing people, like you enjoy them, also. Keep reading and I will keep writing. —Ted

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