School Days At ‘63’ Community


White County Historical Society


ears ago there were numbered school districts.  Students walked to school – two months in the summer and six or less in the winter depending on the amount of money for the district. It was necessary to have two sessions so students could work during “strawberry picking time” and the fall harvest. The schools became community centers for residents even to being used by churches for revivals, Union Sunday Schools, Christmas “tree” socials, ball games on the school ground or nearby pastures. Rev. O.D. Mullin, Bald Knob’s long-time Santa Claus, organized a Sunday School at “63” Community.   Mrs. Dorothy Wilcox Brandon and twins Gus and Jess Prince's mother were two of the teachers. Ray Etheridge, some cousins and friends joined the Methodist church.  They were baptized in Cedar Hole, Overflow Creek.  Owens Rural Special District #63 was named for Billy Matt Owens, a Baptist minister and Johnnie Wilcox’ grandfather. 

The first building was a log two-room on the place where Robert (Bob) Heard and family later lived – now, his widow Bonnie. Next, a new two-room was built on land that later became Johnnie and Pearlie Mae Wilcox’s farm, Heard Road. In 1926, a three-room was completed in time for the winter term. I have a photo taken during the summer term.  There were 12 barefoot boys sitting on the ground in front including seven-year-old Ralph Etheridge. There were 73 in the photo including the two teachers, Miss Alma Ray and Willie Richards. Ralph’s five-year-old brother Ray was visiting! We have most of the names. The last school term before consolidating with the Bald Knob School was 1944-45.  The “63” Community was more than a school district.  It was a place where families gathered.  Two, the Gaskins and Lefords, living in the area now attend the reunion. The building is gone but the community spirit lives on as students, kin and friend meet to share good food, pictures and memories.  So many things come to mind about living and going to school “out in the country” -- perhaps there will be time to write more. 

A total of 55 were present September 27, 1997, for our reunion. It takes Ray Etheridge’s shrill whistle to get attention!  Johnnie Ford led in prayer.  Newcomers were recognized. We remembered the deceased since last time –John Grayson, Epter Hamrick, Robert (Bob Heard), Geraldean Lawson and Roy Gaskin’s mother.   We missed the Louks, Smithees and Verneal Spicer who attended family reunions the same day. As all ate and visited, Carl Ledbetter did a good videotape. Clark Thompson ended it with reminiscing of “back-when”! We have a copy if anyone wants to borrow it or come by and see. 

Five of “63’s” school teachers were present – Ruth Blanton Chaney, Mary Thompson Lassiter, Mavis Emde Ramey, Cecil Sterling and Odus Webb.  Out of state: Ruth Anselmi, Illinois; Dorothy New, Kansas; Dollie Long, Indiana, and her grandson Jeff Long, Bald Knob. Local area of Bald Knob, Bradford, Judsonia, Kensett, Searcy:  Ruth Chaney, Ralph and Bera (Dude) Cullum, Bill and Wanda Emde and his mother Irene Emde; Alleene Emde, Esther English and daughter Diann; Jerry and Margaret Etheridge, Louise Etheridge and daughter Betty Lowery; Ray and Lois Etheridge, Johnnie Ford, Orda and Faye Foster, Roy, Julie and Jessica Gaskin, Barth Grayson and son James; Bonnie Heard, Harold Heard and Margie Wallis; Gene and Bulah Jones, Louise Kempson, Paula Knight, Gladys Lassiter, Mary Lassiter, Hazel Lassiter,Raymond Lawson, Carl and NaDean Ledbettter, Joyce Thomason Querry, Mavis Ramey, Aubrey Scrape, Bertie Shimek, Geneva Smith, Cecil Sterling, Amos Thomason, Harl Thomason, Clark Thompson, Odus and Hazel Webb. Others:  James Adams, Hot Springs; Billy Down Brown, Little Rock; Ollie Hilton, Thomas Hilton, North Little Rock; Mildred Hilton Lacy, Cabot.