Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wilkerson School

Wilkerson Elementary School 11-6-1959

Wilkerson School
From BPL digital collections

So enthralled was I with the movie premiere for Barber of Birmingham that I went on a full fledged nostalgia trip. You’ll notice that nostalgia is a part of my profile. I started out by visiting my elementary school. I didn’t have an appointment and couldn’t get irritated had I been turned away.
Wilkerson School's Namesake

From BPL Digital Collections
Malachi Wilkerson (1884-1934), a teacher at Industrial High School for 25 years, was the choral music director and head of the manual training department.
Birmingham's Wilkerson Elementary School was named in his honor.
*Born in Birmingham, Alabama on January 8, 1884 Member of first graduating class of Industrial High School in 1904
*Attended Alabama A & M University and Tuskegee Institute
*Joined the Industrial High School faculty in 1911
*Served as choir director at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
*Organized and directed immensely popular singing events for the community
*Died in Birmingham, Alabama on March 28, 1935
I happened upon the school nurse whom I know personally. We hadn’t seen each other in a while so amiable chatter and catching up ensued. After telling her why I was there she began to direct me to the Principal’s office. About that time one of the parent volunteers walked up saying she was headed to “the office.”

DIGRESSION :I’ve noticed that if a student is told to go to “the office” he/she isn’t usually in trouble. Things are calm. But if a student is told to go the “Principal’s Office!” that’s not a good thing and unpleasantness is on the horizon.

She (school nurse) introduced me to Ms. Tarrant (parent volunteer) and it turns out I know Ms. Tarrant's brother. I remember double dating with her brother MT and his date. (I don’t remember her name) and my date, JW . I don’t remember the whole date but I do remember going to Baskin-Robbins in Five Points West Shopping Center toward the end of the date. Baskin- Robbins always had exotic ice cream flavors . I got ginger ice cream. I really liked the flavor. My date didn’t like it at all.

The Principal, Ms. Constance Burns was very cordial. I told her I was a part of the first grade class when Wilkerson School opened. The classes went from first to eighth grade. Kindergarten was not a part of the public school system at that time.

First Grade. Do the math if it's that important to you

I asked if I could take a few pictures and also stated that I wouldn't take any pictures of the students. She agreed and offered to show me around.

Needless to say, nothing looked the way it did back then.

I didn’t really expect it to.

The school was designed with two staggered, open, overlooking tiers. Third floor could look over to second floor and second floor could look down to first floor. First grade and some second grades were on first floor. Second and third grade were on second floor/tier. Third floor held fourth ,fifth and sixth grades. The yellow wall to the right was open with decorative fencing for safety purposes.

Wilkerson was closed for a number of years I think in the 1980’s but, later reopened with an entire revamping.
This room was locked but it appears to be where our Art room and Library once were. Art teacher, Mrs. Patton. Librarian, Mrs. Robinson and later Mrs. Jones. Mrs. Robinson is the mother of Carole Robinson. She was one of the four girls killed at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.
I remember this as the Seventh and Eighth Grade hall. Also the Music room was there. Mrs. Crowell was the music teacher.

Here's something that we didn't have. An elevator! Accommodations weren't made for the physically challenged back then. Any other types of challenges weren't really addressed either. I'm glad that now everyone has an equal chance to succeed to their individual fullness.

The back of the school is somewhat similar to the old days. (yes, I said it) The window facade is different. No twisting and pulling forward to open windows. The door and walkway to the left originally opened to the Science room, Mr. Foster and the Band room, Mr. Jones, followed by Mr. Williams.
Here are some of the student's dioramas displayed on the wall in the school's entrance way

I'm not familiar with this book. Sounds interesting. I'll have to read it.
This appears to be a story quilt. Probably each person contributed a square depicting their interpretation of a story.

To Kill a Mockingbird

The Diary of Anne Frank
These are great books for use when teaching children about injustice and oppression.

The school is painted in bright cheerful colors. It is clean. The students were well mannered with none loitering about.

I thanked Principal Burns for the tour.

I've been working on this post for a while. As sometimes is true Blogger has become temperamental and will not allow me to spell check or add any additional photos.


1 comment:

  1. Great post and thanks for sharing. Cutes grade school pic. My elementary school was turned into an residential building.