Yesterday's News

Barret closing was a sad day for many here

By FRANK BOYETT, Gleaner staff writer
May 22, 2005

Barret Manual Training High School's last graduation ceremony took place 50 years ago, simultaneous with the first graduation at Henderson County High School.

Barret wasn't the city's first public high school, but it filled the role for 45 years and its closing in 1955 conveyed an air of sadness. During its penultimate week as a school the senior class held a funeral ceremony called "Burying Barret."

That little tidbit of information comes from a column written by Francele Armstrong, which details what happened to some of the school's first graduates. She noted that photos existed of all the school's graduating classes, except the first class in 1911.

A more comprehensive history of BMTHS was published two days later, on May 24, written by Archie Riehl, who was principal of the school between 1938 and 1953.

Barret Manual was the result of a 1906 gift to the city from James R. Barret, whose main stipulation was that the school teach manual training and home economics.

The land was a half-block at Adams and Washington, which contained a three-story mansion originally built by Joseph Adams between 1859 and 1862.

The city school board was astounded at Barret's unexpected generosity, according to 1906 accounts in the Gleaner and the Journal.

The school board had to build an auditorium and eight classrooms before the school opened in the fall of 1910 with Alfred Livingston as principal. During its first year of operation BMTHS had an enrollment of 148.

The principal doubled as a teacher, and the rest of the staff featured seven full-time teachers, and two part-time ones providing music and art. They included Ella McCormick, Inah Cabell, Alice Y. Dorsey, W.L. Thomasson, Margaret Jonas, Lida Williams, Attowa Dyer, Margarette Tyler and Ernestine Lockett.

The first graduating class in 1911 numbered 16 and the only boys it in were Oswald Harold Hampsch and William Holloway Jr.

Riehl meticulously added up the numbers and concluded that in its 45-year history BMTHS graduated 3,266 students, far outshining the city's two previous public high schools, which graduated a total of 319.

The biggest class to ever graduate was in 1948, when there were 143 seniors, but a number of them were G.I.s returning from World War II.

An entire book could probably be written about sports at BMTHS, but I'll touch on that subject only briefly. Football, baseball and basketball were offered the first year.

Football was played at the old fairgrounds on South Green Street, where a new stadium was built in 1934. Baseball had kind of a spotty history at BMTHS, and wasn't consistently offered until the 1940s. A track team was first organized in 1913, although no roster has survived.

Basketball reigned supreme. Until 1927 the school used the gym at the YMCA, but that didn't prevent the 1915-16 basketball team from winning the national championship.

A gym and auditorium was built in 1927, which seated a maximum of 1,700 people, although only 1,200 could be squeezed in for a basketball game.

That gymnasium at various times hosted the likes of entertainers W.C. Handy and Mahalia Jackson and evangelist Billy Sunday. It also housed the last graduation ceremony on May 26, 1955.

"The school has served the community long and faithfully," Riehl wrote. "The name Barret Manual Training High School may no longer be used to designate a public high school in Henderson, Ky., but on the hearts and minds of the thousands of students who spent many happy days there, the name is inscribed indelibly."

BMTHS was converted into Barret Junior High School, but that lasted only a few years.

The building was razed in May of 1959 to make way for a new junior high, which opened the following year. That building, now called Barret Center, is currently the headquarters of the Henderson Housing Authority.

140 years ago

A blast from a Colt revolver temporarily blinded and stunned its intended victim, so close did the bullet pass in 1865, according to an article in the Henderson Reporter.

The intended target, who was not named, and a friend were sitting on his porch about 8:30 p.m. when the shot was fired.

"The gentleman referred to is not conscious of having an enemy in the county. It is a deplorable state of affairs when citizens cannot be out of their houses after dark without danger of being assassinated."

75 years ago

The American Legion auxiliary was selling poppies in 1930 to benefit disabled veterans of World War I, according to an article in The Gleaner.

"Today we celebrate Poppy Day," said Annie Heilbronner, who headed up the local effort.

"Give what you can. Any amount will be appreciated and young girls selling the poppies will adorn your coat with the flowers of Flanders field."

25 years ago

The state Highway Department announced plans to close its Corydon maintenance shop, according to a 1980 article in The Gleaner.

The proposal would require nine workers to transfer to either Madisonville or Owensboro, which caused some of them to sharply denounce the plan.


Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2005 HCH&GS