A Tribute to Surrattsville
A Tribute by Paul Gwynn, '49
In 1936, I entered school at five years of age in Lolita Kline’s first grade. Her husband was T. S. Kline, principal. They enjoyed lunch together every school day. In the second grade, Polly Benbow was the teacher and also a first cousin and she failed me. In this grade, on Fridays, I was able to enjoy the accordion playing of our maintenance man, Jimmy Hawkins, and looked to forward to a break from schooling.
In the third grade Ms. Testamen was harder than the previous teachers. She required script to be more legible, numbers more exact and presentations up to par. Between second and third grade, there were occasions where I learned to use 4 pencils writing, “I must not talk in class” 200 or more times. This messed up my writing for years. Fourth grade started with Miss Vivian Bound, and she became Mrs. Vivian Edelen. (She attended the 2005 class reunion) She is quite a lady! We played softball and kickball at recess. Fridays were sometimes movie days in the auditorium with shows such as “Frank Buck Brings Them Back Alive” and Shirley Temple movies. In this grade, Jimmy Hawkins was carving softball bats from young pine trees for us to use. Funds for sports equipment were scarce.
In the fifth grade with Miss Wright, we were all more coordinated physically and mentally. The seeds of “need to know” took root. This was a great class and I now looked forward to school. The sixth grade was taught by Miss Marjorie Earnshaw, who later became an aunt by marriage. We were elevated to Shakespeare, Roman and Gothic architecture, music composition, crossword composition and history. My mind was broadened more in this grade than any other.
In the seventh grade, Mrs. Fred Garner took us on. Prep for high school began. Cliques formed, politics entered, sports became more competitive, dress more demanding and a complete transformation of our minds took place.
We entered high school with enthusiasm. Challenges included having homeroom teachers, classroom changes each period, striving to join clubs, and students arriving from Camp Springs. By this time John Bond was principal and teachers included E. Lang, T. Bunten, E. Bullis, D. Comby, Y. McFadden, Mrs. Sapp, Miss Hubbard, Miss Sauerwein, Mrs. Duke, D. Woodburn and Mrs. Shuler Johnson.
We became sophomores in 1945-1946. This year studies were more intense, social status became relevant, friends in upper class more idol-like, romances flourished, and alliances formed for life. In August of 1946, my mother was killed in a head-on car collision. I lost three lower vertebrae which kept me out of school for the 1946-1947 year. Mr. Bond, teachers and school friends kept me going.
School policy changed from an eleven year stretch to a twelve year program. The school colors changed from burgundy and gold to green and white. When I reentered school for the 1947 to 1948 year, former classmates were now seniors. It was decided that my senior studies would be with them. So, after a missed year, I had no junior studies and was now a senior, but not going to graduate.
The following year, 1948, 1949, I was in a junior class with students younger than I was, and I thoroughly enjoyed this position. My future wife was in this class. I was able to transport sport team from school to school, and had a ’48 Ford and several girl friends to cruise around with. My father was the dealer of Clinton Motor Co., Inc., so from time to time; I had a vehicle to enjoy.
In 1949, I graduated with accolades – first, last and all positions in between – the sole member of the class. An acceptance to Duke University in Durham, N.C. made me grateful for the Surrattsville experience. My college roommate and I joined Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity in our sophomore year.
I married Bertha Mary Russell (Mary Jo) and went to work at Clinton Motor Company. In June of 1951 I returned to Surrattsville as the driver of bus 15. This bus had dual exhausts and a radio for the benefit of driver and students alike. In 1968, my father sold the business to me, and I became the dealer for 10 years.
My wife and I raised ten children. One son died at 15, and my wife passed in May of 01. Eight of our children graduated from Surrattsville.
Paul Gwynn, 49