Lavaca High School

Exerpts from...."Military Road, Oak Bower and Beyond: The History of Lavaca Arkansas."
---by Jack W. James, Author

This was the old school before it burned in the 1940's.

The first school in Oak Bower (which later became Lavaca) was held in the same building that housed the church services for local Baptist and Methodist congregations. It was located where the present Methodist Church now stands. The one-room building was heated in the winter by burning wood in a pot-bellied stove. The stove sat in the center of the room so if the children sat near it they felt as if they might burn to death. If the child was equally unlucky, they might fear freezing in the corners of the room.

Mr. Walter Card recalled to Mr. E. E. Strang that some of the first teachers were Wallace Laws, Gris Johnson, and a Professor Harris.

Students ranged between the ages of five to sixteen or seventeen, unless the child had gotten a late start. It wasn't unusual to see a boy who was a year or two older that his classmates in the same grade. Many young men had to put off their education to work in local fields to support their families. Mrs. Sabra Cason Ray was two years older than her classmates when they graduated in 1928. Her family didn't have the means of transportation to get her to school until she was eight years-old.

Some boys, and also girls, were only in school for a few short months between harvesting and planting time. Teenage boys were sometimes taller and even older than their teacher.

This classroom without walls kept grades levels divided by rows. Each row studied a different curriculum and was known as "Reader #1" or "Reader #2," "Geography #1" and so on.

Recitations were held during the day in small groups as the rest of the classes sat studying quietly doing their class work. The preferred method of teaching was memorization.

It is true that some students walked five miles to school one way, in the snow and rain or even barefoot. If the plow horse wasn't needed on the farm for the day, sometimes the father would let his child ride it to school. That was very rare though. Most kids walked in the early days or by "Shank's Mule" as they called having to walk.

When winter came and the ground was frozen the journey took even longer. It wasn't easy getting to school on ice frozen dirt roads. Sometimes the little traveler would take two steps forward and three back on the frozen trails. Many could almost skate to school. As a young girl, Reba Carruth attended school at Moore's Rock. She remembers it almost too muddy to walk to school at times. She and other little girls would take an old rag with them to school so that they could wipe the mud from their shoes before they entered the school building.

The schools didn't provide great playground equipment that modern schools have today. Kids made their fun and played games that kept their minds sharp and their bodies in shape. Children played various forms of "Tag! You're It," and chasing games never lose popularity. A partial list of some of the old games from that time include: Run Sheep Run, Drop the Hat, Hop Scotch, Wolf Over the River, Sling the Statue (Freeze), Red Light-Green Light, Mother May I, Stealin' Sticks (Someone's in the Woodpile), Leap Frog, Peggy Wants a Signal, Pink Lemonade, Scrub (a form of baseball), Simon Says, Jacks, I Spy, Mumbley Peg, 1-2-3 Still Water 1-2-3 Fast Water.

A Presbyterian Church once stood on Davis Street across from the present Old Gym building. The church and land were purchased by the local school board and a modern, two-story building was built. The upper story was used as a Lodge Hall by the Masons. The school and another building were totally destroyed by fire. Another school was built in 1920.

One by one, smaller area schools consolidated with the Lavaca School system. The schools at Bugscuffle, Central, Moore's Rock, Arbuckle Island and others combined into on larger school district. The last school to consolidate with Lavaca was the Arbuckle Island School. There were over fifty families living on the Island with children attending their local school. When the Arkansas River took the Island in the 1940s, things changed quickly and the students were bused to Lavaca.

Lavaca Schools could have made history as the first integrated schools in Arkansas. In the 1930s, the children of African American families went to the Red Oak School. Like the early Lavaca schools, the Red Oak School was held in a one-room building located near the crossroads of Highway 253 and Utah Ranch Road. It stood near the Red Oak Cemetery that still remains in a grove of trees on the south side of Utah Ranch Road. This cemetery is known simply as "the black cemetery" by local residents. During the dark days of segregation, blacks and whites not only couldn't be educated together, they couldn't be buried together as well.

The local school district found themselves running low on funds and it was getting too difficult to keep both schools open. At first, the school board thought it would be simple enough to combine the two schools and move on. (Radical thinking for the 1930's!) But the students of Red Oak would have had to walk the 2 to 3 mile trip to the Lavaca School and the buses would not run there. With these obstacles in mind, the district postponed the consolidation issue by tabling their discussion until the coming school year. Charleston Schools were integrated the next fall.

The school again burned on the night of December 13, 1944. Classes were held a the local church until the present high school building, in part, was build in 1945. Additional rooms were added in 1955. The home economics and lunch room building was built in 1955 at the same time as a building for the school buses. The Vocational Agri Building was built in 1938 (a WPA project that now houses the office of the superintendent) with an addition in 1955........................