BLADENBORO — Contained in two rooms in the Bladenboro Historical Building are all the remnants from the nearly 100 years of existence of Bladenboro High School. On one wall in one of those rooms is a four-shelf bookshelf salvaged from a media center somewhere. On the two middle shelves of that bookshelf, right at eye level, are 60 years’ worth of annuals, ranging from the 1920s to 2002.
The 1921’s yearbook — a 30-page collection with 5×8-inch matte pages and a stapled, paper cover — contains pictures only of the graduating class. Since kindergarten had not yet come into existence and schooling was complete at the 11th grade, the school had at the time 219 students enrolled in grades 1-11, six of whom were graduating that year.
The six who had completed their academia were responsible for putting the yearbook together, and the entire volume appeared to be more of a lighthearted memorial to their erudition than anything else. Aside from the three pages each containing two photos of the graduates, everything else in the yearbook arose from the linguistic minds of the compilers.
The entry for each graduate serves as an example. Alongside each picture is a favorite quote, a list of accomplishments, and a description of the student.
“Frank truly has a right name. Who ever asked him a question without receiving a frank reply?” reads the description alongside a serious-looking Frank Jeanette “Take the advice of those who know and do not get into an argument with him unless you are very sure of your ground, and even then beware! At present he has as his aim in life to hang out his shingle as a lawyer, and if he follows up this aim, we predict great success for him.”
The booklet contained, among other things, a last will and testament from the 11th graders, written in the kind of language and intricate sentence structure that’s all but disappeared from today’s journalism, social media, and even academic writing.
“We give and bequeath to the leading paper of our county, the Bladen Journal (sic) and to the talented editor thereof, all the events of our lives, past, present, and to come, with all the wonders, sensations, hair-breadth escapes, glorious attainments, and other deserved or undeserved notoriety and fame with which we may have been or may hereafter be associated, trusting that they may furnish plenty of materil (sic) for news items and brilliant editorials for ages to come, and serve as an inspiration for htose (sic) younger students who so naturally look to us for examples.”
Other bequeathed items include “all such boys as were not able to keep pace with such brilliant girls as compose the majority of our class,” the balance of the class treasury to a Miss Daniels for the purpose of buying a pair of detective shoes, Thelma’s troubles as class secretary, and “any overlooked cuds of gum we may have left adhering to the underside of desks …”
Minus the cuds of gum, several desks call the museum home. Included in one of the two rooms are the kind of two-person, bench seats with separate tables made famous in “Little House on the Prairie,” as well as some from the 60s and 70s, when the entire seat and table were constructed of one piece of wood.
A schoolmarm ensemble from the early 1900s, a band uniform from the later part of the century, 100-year-old textbooks, and volumes written by graduates of Bladenboro High School have all found their resting place in the wood-floored museum.
The site is also home to a unique collection.
“We have, written in calligraphy done by a Bladen County resident, then framed, all the names of the graduates of Bladenboro High School,” explained Bladenboro Historical Society member Henry Singletary. “As far as I know, no other school has anything like that.”
To see the collection, as well as a Trophy Room dedicated to the athletic and academic accomplishments of the institution, visit the Bladenboro Historical Society Museum, located at 818 S. Main St. in Bladenboro.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.