Nebo High School 1941 - Graduates Remember
By Kim Merryman - Pike County Express, November 19, 2014
Contributed by Bill Browning
In 1941 Nebo opened the doors to a newly completed gym after three years of work and struggle, that would service it's community for generations to come, but began with the first two events in it's long line of history with that years either grade graduation and two days later, the Commencement Exercises for Nebo Community High School's Class of 1941.
Eighteen students from the Spring Creek Township made that monumental step from childhood to adulthood May 30 in that gym. Today there still remains eight of those childhood friends that came together in the small rural school making friendships and memories that have lasted nearly 77 years and continue to get together at least once a year.
Area residents might recognize some of the names from that first ever high school graduating class to grace the gym floor Lavern Elledge, Bryce Grossman, Leo Martin, Eudell McCann, James Greenstreet, Bruce Boren, Glen Shaw, Iretta Ransom, Helen Davis, Margaret Long, Kenneth Elledge, Carroll Borrowman, Lyndle Stark, Eileen Turnbeaugh, Vera Garrison, Veva Benz, Vivian Ruyle, and Junior Turnbeaugh.
The class motto was "Honest Effort Brings Success" and with achievements from their school days and thoughts of what the future would bring the class set out about their lives with hopes and dreams of any high school aged graduate.
Benz had been active in band, Glee Club, G.A.A., and Dramatic Club. She had a part in the Junior and Senior plays and expected to attend business college.
Boren was in the junior and senior plays, Dramatic and Glee Clubs, played basketball and baseball and wanted to study law.
Borrowman was a member of the Dramatic Club and took part in the Junior and Senior plays, played basketball and baseball, and wanted to be a farmer.
Grossman was a member of the track team, Dramatic Club, played basketball and wanted to also go into farming.
Davis joined the class in her junior year after attending Griggsville her first two years. She became a member of the Glee Club and her ambition in life was to attend a beauty culture school.
Elledge was on the baseball team and wanted to become a professional boxer.
Garrison liked dramatics and expected to attend the Liberal Art School to specialize in dramatics and English. She was a member of the Dramatic Club and in the Junior and Senior plays as well as the Glee Club and G. A. A. She received the Citizenship Award given by the D.A.R.
Greenstreet wanted to be a farmer and was starting work on the farm at once. He had been in the Dramatic Club, played baseball, and took part in the Junior and Senior plays.
Long expected to enter nurse's training the next year and took part in the Senior and Junior plays. She had received her eighth grade diploma from the Holford School.
McCann had been in the Glee Club, track team, played basketball, and taken part in Dramatics including the Junior and Senior plays.
Martin wanted to go on to take a mechanics course. He had participated in Dramatics Club, Junior and Senior plays, was on the baseball and basketball teams, in the Glee Club and band.
Ruyle was a member of the Glee Club, Dramatic Club, G.A.A., and took part in the Junior and Senior plays.
Ransom was in Dramatic Club, Junior and Senior plays, Glee Club, Pep Club, and G.A.A.
Stark wanted to study business administration in college and had been a member of the Dramatic club.
Shaw played basketball and was a member of Dramatic Club, Glee Club, and took part in the Junior and Senior plays.
E. Turneaugh wanted to attend Business College, was in Junior and Senior plays and spent her grade school days at Sideview.
J. Turnbeaugh planned to seek employment as soon as he graduated from NCHS, Nebo Community High School.
The class of 1941 began their school days in a time when there was no bussing system, no school lunch program or even a cafeteria. The kids would make food the night before for their lunches the next day, sometimes walking miles and miles or catching whatever ride they could too and from the building just so that they could go to school.
At lunch time the out of town kids would quickly eat whatever they had brought with them for their meal as they sat in the Nebo furnace room or nearby hallway or classroom before hurrying off so they could play softball if the weather was nice before heading back to their studies.
"Back then teachers could do a lot more than they can now days," remember Carroll Borrowman. "One time before a spelling test I had gotten up to sharpen my pencil and on the way back to my desk I put my pencil on each of the kids papers making a little mark as I went by down the row. When I sat down I looked up to receive a slap from my teacher Mrs. Applegate. Back then you learned real quick what to do and what not to do"
The residents of the time, school aged kids and citizens alike, enjoyed events like pie suppers and box suppers for fund raisers at the school, both of which meant mom's and/or area girls would be cooking and baking to compete for who would be selling the highest bid winning contribution going to a lucky fella.
All country schools had around 40-50 kids and offered activities like PTA's, plays, spelling bees, and sports programs including baseball, basketball and track that almost everyone in the community showed up to watch and support. "I think there was more support back then from the community for everything that went on in the community," said Borrowman. "But now days it's just too fast, things and people are going all the time and there is so much going on all the time."
Every Saturday night everyone would head into town to trade eggs, milk, and cream for coffee and sugar or other everyday supplies that you didn't raise on your farm. According to Borrowman the average 40 acre farm made a good living for a family in those days but families of the time also lived by making use of everything including full gardens, orchard trees, and grape vines.
"It was an altogether different time," he said. "Besides your cows for milk and meat, pigs for meat, chickens for meat and eggs, and hunting, every family had gardens that they tended to and put up everything they could in cellars, and they would have grape vines 70 foot long eating grapes in the fall and then juice in the cellar for winter. There would be pear and apple trees in yards that the families would take care of and put up fruit, everyone made use of everything and anything that was extra they used for trading in town to get stuff they couldn't grow or make themselves."
"We had a small old gym from when the second school was built," said Carroll Borrowman. "I think Lucille Chamberlain was the first cook and the last cook from when they started having lunches and meals there to when it closed. When any of the school dignitaries were traveling around to all the different schools they would always make sure they ended up in Nebo just about lunch time because she and the ladies would be there and they would see what they had fixed for meals everyday."
"They finished construction of the gym in February," remembered Borrowman. "Since it was brand new and all we were awarded the honor of hosting the district tournament."
Although Nebo's team suffered a rough turn in play and was beaten out by Milton's team in the first round, the pride was left iintact with the fact that Milton went on to beat New Canton, and Hull for the championship. (New Salem, Baylis, and Rockport had also been beaten in the first round that year by New Canton, Hull, and Pearl. On the second go around Milton beat New Canton and Hull beat Pearl pitting the east against west in the finals.)
"It was just a wonderful time," remembered Borrowman. "It was in the new gym with everyone from all around coming down to see the place and watch the games. I can still remember it and it was just a great time for all of us."
According to a program kept all these years by Borrowman the 1941 State District Tournament held in the Nebo Gymnasium on February 25-28th included Baylis, New Salem, Pearl Eagles, Rockport, Nebo Pirates, Baylis, Hull Hornets, Milton Mustangs, and New Canton Bulldogs.
For Margaret Long (now Killebrew) those days were ones filled with hard work but appreciation for what you had and for one another.
"We were just poor people," she explained. "I wouldn't have even got to the high school if it hadn't been for the two Elledge boys. They would load us up in the back of their ol'pick up there on Farmers Ridge. There was a bench that we could sit on that they put in there and at some point they were able to put up a tarp over the bed of the truck for bad weather days."
Killebrew explained that there were no homecomings or proms, the kids were just doing good to even get to the school. Her brother Russell wanted to play basketball when he got to high school so he would walk the near five mile trek since there wasn't any kind of transportation and no one else in the area going into the building at the same times that he needed to get to practice or home from practice.
She remembered everyone just being what she describes as "plain ol'kids" none any better off and none any worse, there wasn't any distinguishing between the families and everyone lived much the same.
According to Killebrew two of the girls she went to school with would stay with their grandmother just so they could get to school during the week. And every night when everyone got home and done with their work they would bake cookies or cakes or at least something so that there was food for them to pack so they would have a meal during the school day the next day.
"Whatever you ate was what you fixed at home that night before," said Killebrew. "There wasn't much work for anybody back then, everyone had big families, and things were different, harder, I wouldn't go back to those days, not at all."
Although the days and work was hard Killebrew also paints a different picture of people in that time from now. "I think people are wickeder now days," she said. "Back then you didn't do things or act in certain ways because it just wasn't right, it wasn't what people accepted. We didn't even lock our doors at night, you wouldn't catch anyone living that way today with the way people are towards each other."
Killebrew remembers the good with the bad though and recalls everyone looking forward to get into town every Saturday night. "Everyone would come to town," she said. "Every store had a bench for parents to wait while all the kids would go to see the movie that was playing in the theater."
All growing up Killebrew's family never owned a vehicle. Their mode of transportation were mules and horses that worked the farm land pulling the walk behind equipment her father used for the corn and wheat crops. There were six children in her.family and the girls' jobs were to take care of chickens and help hand wash all the clothing for the family. In fact on a wash day one of the girls usually had to stay out to help with the work.
When WWII hit Killebrew remembered that a group of local men from her class had moved to Alton to get work but ended up getting drafted. She ended up having two husband that were killed in the war along side of many of their neighbors and countrymen.
Eileen Turnbeaugh's memories mirror those of her classmates. "It was a lot different than today," she also explained. "We never thought a thing of being out after dark or locked our doors. It's not like that today. People were more friendly back then and you knew people well enough that you could trust each other."
Turnbeaugh left Nebo in 1944 after getting married but she was born just south of Sideview School and attended there all eight years of her elementary school years under the instructor Clarence Croxville. She laughed as she remembered him aggregating her and her classmates. "He would always tell us about how the world was gonna come to an end just going on and on and on about it till we were sick of hearing about it."
After going to Nebo Community High School she remembers attending almost all the basketball games in the basement gym and packing her common almost everyday lunch of peanut butter and raisin sandwich. "It was either that or soda crackers with chocolate icing in-between," she said with a smile.
Turnbeaugh remembers when they started the construction on the new gym. Her geometry teacher used the construction site as a means to teach the class about angle's taking a short field trip to the site and having students see how many angle's they could find and identify properly.
"I think one of the things that has changed is now days the bullying is just so much worse," said Turnbeaugh. "Back then it wasn't like it is today, at least not as rough. I remember being called the teachers pet every so often but I never let it bother me and it was never something severe."
It wasn't as if the kids of the time didn't have opportunities to raz each other or be ugly to one another according to her, with play parties, chorus, band, basketball, softball, volleyball, square dancing parties, birthdays, and the usually ice skating party during the winter - there were plenty of opportunities for kids to be ugly.
"But we just didn't do things like that," she said. "We had fun without tearing things up or being terrible to others."
Even with all those memories that stuck out in her mind there was one she realized as looking at an old photograph of her graduating class, all because two faces were missing.
"Oh my," she said. "Now I remember, Margaret Long and Vera Garrison had spent the night before our pictures scrubbing the stage floor by hand. They ended up getting hot and took their shoes off and the next day when we were to get our pictures taken Margaret was sick with pneumonia."
Doing things by hand and doing it yourself was just a product of the times, to be self sufficient learning from early ages how to do what needed to be done and how to identify it with little instruction or direction. The girls would start out as children learning handiwork like cleaning and working, quilting and crocheting, sewing and cooking, gardening and canning, all useful tools and pastimes that would prove to provide a way for making life better for the children and their families. Means by which to indulge themselves as well as support their families if need be.
These were the times of their class and product of the era, a piece of Pike County that lives on and has a chance to be revived each and every year that the members get together, and a part that anyone can see can be learned from and used today.