Bennie Newroth and Althelia Butler

Recorded October 20, 2021 Archived October 20, 2021 34:00 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby021161


Sisters Bennie Newroth (77) and Althelia Butler (69) talk about their elementary school in the East Highland community. They remember their teachers, the high educational standards the school set for the students, and the impact the teachers had on their lives.

Subject Log / Time Code

BN talks about the special school she and her sister, AB, attended in the East Highland neighborhood.
BN talks about the school's relationship with the PTA.
BN and AB describe a typical day at school.
BN talks about why rainy days were special for her.
BN talks about the different responsibilities the patrols had.
BN and AB talk about the teachers that made a lasting impact on their lives.
BN remembers her brother repeating kindergarten because he wanted to attend school at an early age.
BN shares that she was a smart student and she talks about the expectations she created for her siblings at the elementary school.
BN reflects on how the school taught students life skills and also helped them make lifelong friends.


  • Bennie Newroth
  • Althelia Butler

Recording Location

Mildred L. Terry Public Library



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00:02 My name is after 69 years old. Today is Wednesday, October 20th, 2021 and I'm interviewing with my sister being in the wrong.

00:14 My name is Bennie. Newroth And I'm 77 years old. Today is Wednesday, October 20th. We're in the Mildred, Terry library in Columbus, Georgia. And I miss being with my younger sister after your Butler. And today, we're going to discuss a special school that we both attended in a neighborhood called East Highland and East Highland was would be considered a disenfranchised Community. Most of the people there had low and limited income. But that's cool that we both attended was was very special. And so Joe. What size you think it was? It had six grades, but when I was, when I attended it went from first grade and then started killing got, it didn't even have a kindergarten. It's went from first grade to fourth grade and when you

01:14 When I started, it was K through 3rd, okay, but before I finish, they had added on fourth, fifth and sixth, right? So it looks cool Groove between the eight years between us, but what stands out about, the school is its teachers, and I think the role of the school in the community when I went as a first grader, it was expected that the teachers would do home visits. And so, if you had 20 to 25 students in your class, the teacher had to a lot for making 25 home visits. Now, most of the students lived within walking distance of the school so far, all that was some seems like a

02:09 A lot of time, I guess the teachers went home with the students after school, a surprise, the students. I can only think of one teacher who lived in the neighborhood that they have home visits when you were there yesterday. Did, but guess what happens at one family would have three or four kids and one teacher.

02:32 He did it. So they didn't have to do as many like my teacher, even though she didn't teach the kids. She could do the home visit. Oh, okay. So just so that a home visit was made now home is where important because it gave us. I think it gave the teacher another glimpse into the child's life and let them know what whether or not they even have the equipment to do homework. Simple, things like a pencil, a crayon or a tablet. And in the cases where they didn't see it at the home then that the teacher provided it. Now, doing my time, the students didn't have to bring their own pencils to tablets. That was something that was given by the school system did that work for you? That's truth and gave a tablet and a pencil like every 6 weeks. So you had to do some of your things but they did give you a tablet.

03:31 And it's got a composition book as well as a tablet. Okay, it's so there was very little financial burden on on the families at that at that time at that school. But most of the teachers, when I went with female, there was not a male teacher. The only male in that building was the janitor. When I was there was that the same for you and to the annex. And when they are next to other Grace, then we had a 5th grade and 6th grade male teachers with those female teachers were special and because they worked in an area where most of the children, like I said had limited income. It did not interfere with their expectations of the students.

04:26 They expected that every child would learn to read and to write, and they sit in my opinion, very high standards. And so because they the school would never call the name of the school. The school is pure Street School in his name because of the street that it's on.

04:46 Superior Street, School set, very high standards and when the children graduated from that school,

04:54 The school defeated. They were a fetus school to Claflin and others the teachers at Claflin, always wanted the students from Pugh street because the students at Pugh Street will always prepared, almost Beyond so. And if you follow any of the students that went to Pure street, by the time, they graduated from high school, they were always in the top 5 or 10% of the class. And that's because that's cool. Gave such a great Foundation. Part of what happened. There. Is that the school believed in the PTA, the Parent-Teacher Association and the way they did it when I was there and I'll get same for you because it was small and they had homeroom others.

05:44 In the homeroom mother was expected to do a fundraiser to raise money for the for the class and and the teacher could use it to purchase equipment. And other things is exactly seven years difference though. Is that the way it works for you, Zack and they Boston flies. And in that classroom, they talked special ed Behavior mental. Everybody was in one classroom and they teach was able to reach all those his. I have different reading groups, but everybody was in one classroom and we didn't have an age. It was one teacher 30 students and everybody was learning. The school was also like the Hub of the community and the exciting part. Once a year, the school would give a play, they call it the operator because most of it he had

06:45 And speaking and dancing Parts in it and the the community with with pay to see it on the first evening and then we would do it again the next day for free and sometimes because we didn't have an auditorium. Sometimes, we did our programs at Claflin, which was a bus ride away from where we lived in. But still the community came and supported it. By the time I was there and didn't we had it there. We didn't have an auditorium. So we would go to Laughlin and then we did it for the community will do it in the the backyard behind the using. The steps for the girls bathroom at stage. And then they had things that would involve a community like may day and time settings.

07:40 And the other part that was exciting to me, is one school was out the playground became a community playground. And then we had a playground teacher who was not part of the school playground teacher, who would come and supervise the activities on the playground till about 6, so the kids could go home, change clothes, and come back to the school.

08:05 School setting and then spend time playing on the playground. You learn how to play board games? Like a parachute sand and you learn checketts and you learned them chest of whatever along with learning to play soccer baseball with other, playgrounds in track for the playground. So that was, that was the interesting part of the school as a hub in the community, but I think what separated at school,

08:53 From others was the quality of the education and that goes back to the dedication. I think in the preparation of the teachers.

09:07 And there were some teachers who have been at that school over a long. Of time and their phone into the community. Knew the strength of the school 4th grade teacher.

09:22 Taught our parents.

09:25 So when I got to her, she had taught her mother and she told her father. So she knew our family and I think she taught my brother. She didn't teach by the time you got to the fourth grade. She has been only so much what time principal but she taught. All of us her sister.

09:46 And I think we should call their names for record set with Miss Hannah. And her sister Miss bass was then missed. Hey, what they both were there and they both of their teachers. And one was called Miss Lori with no other ones. Call Miss B, K with two. They got married. So mislove Haywood, who became Miss bass? Taught me in the first grade. Miss big Haywood who became Mrs. Hannon taught me in the fourth grade. It's bad talk me. Ask me is bad in the first crack, OKC. That's those. Seven years difference. Made a difference now, on a typical day.

10:26 How to start your day at school?

10:29 Can be staying you got your school. You stayed on the playground until the pressure came out and she rang the bell when she rang the bell. We all got in line according to our class. We learned that and we pledge allegiance to the flag outside outside for the class. And once you get into the classroom, we had a devotion. We actually had scriptures songs. And don't you think that was important to have that. Of devotion?

11:10 By the time I start teaching, they need no longer had it, but I thought you settle down and got your mind on one Accord. What we were there for, should give it a little.

11:27 Little pep talk before we got started and that was it. You know where we've said she would do like a

11:35 Treat one another. You know, the Golden Rule as a suspect has Next to Godliness. She wants to keep you clean around your area and just sit the day we clean and you have to be purchased personal hygiene. You have to be to be clean, your nails, have to be your face wash just so they stress those, those kind of things. And so, what else would happen on a typical day and then you start, you work. Exactly. Been we was, but then we would start at work, and if we had a recess, we had recess, we had lunch. And then that was sitting out, we had Patrols.

12:26 Cuz we all get out of school at the same time, it be 56 in your time. So the upper class and had to assure the safety of the make sure you could cross the street and then we come back to class. If you want to be a patrol Patrol. You had a belt. You have to keep the belt clean. You had a bad time and they'll expect you to obey to reduce. Yeah, you were kind of, that was kind of a, a status to have that white belt and that also had to be clean and I remember having to wash it and put some salt in the water so that the belt could be really really white and I wouldn't mind to really shine but on a day, what is interesting?

13:26 Let's go back and say, any style and very few roads were paved.

13:33 And so, you had dirt roads.

13:36 What happened? When it rained was a very interesting phenomena know, a lot of those children going to that school, didn't have raincoats and a very few have raincoats. And so I'm had umbrellas and galoshes galoshes or whatever. So if it rained and rained really hard, those who got to school, had a special kind of treat.

14:10 Because the kids who couldn't get there on time work, would eventually come to school and my time, but they had to wait till it stopped raining. So, and the interesting part about that was that they were not marked late, but those of us who are prepared with raincoats and umbrellas and that stuff who got to school on time.

14:35 After the devotion.

14:37 My teacher would treat us by reading black poetry.

14:43 And so that's less a around the second or third grade. I'm introduced to the whole concept of black Fortune to me. That was better than eating cake, real sick with my eyes open and they could read and

15:01 When Belinda sings, I could see.

15:12 The scene scene and I can see everything in my eyes would be wide, open. Listened, and from that.

15:22 That event, it it created an interest in Black poetry and and black literature and you talking about in the second or third grade that I I never left. And so I enjoyed rainy days. Rainy days for me would be a treat. I feel sorry for those who didn't get to hear it, but and she could also sing.

15:45 This particular teacher Miss Alexander. So not only did she read to Portrait. She was also saying, but I don't remember the singing but I remember those keys retreated to the damn Denny's. The classroom and Patrol with walk. That's how many blocks does it take.

16:20 The school system.

16:24 Have had a lot of services that we don't have now, and the school system had a contract with a dentist. Dr. Clifford Williams and had a dental office in Claflin. Elementary school. That's almost unheard of Claflin is on 5th Avenue.

16:46 And about 15th Street.

16:51 Pugh Street.

16:53 Is on 24th Street and 13th Avenue?

16:58 So, a 4th grader with patrol belt on with, have to walk.

17:05 2nd graders and 3rd graders from 13th and 24th.

17:11 To 5th, Avenue and 15th Street. So you got to walk which way do you want the song? You walk down the railroad track for others. The quickest way to follow us. Follow the railroad track cuz the train wasn't coming. But the point is the responsibility of a 4th grader that the teacher could trust a 4th grader.

17:45 To take students that they are responsible for doing that time.

17:51 Those many blocks away.

17:54 Most often they had a tooth pulled.

17:57 The come back to school with the packing in the bells and that, that same little student. A single patrolman with his badge and belt on or her vaginal got to walk them back in, then, you know, and make sure they are. Okay. Well, the mouse bleeding so it was a lot of responsibility black, glad you brought it up five.

18:20 In the neighborhood. We had a buck Ice & Coal Company and while I was there.

18:29 You can look at it baby penguins, and we could take a picture of me to walk to see the Penguins. I mean, could also see but bonding company, but they have any way you can see them doing their books. So this is not a block away from the school. So I forgot about the field trips because we had a brownie.

18:51 Bought a Brownie troop at at that school at Pugh Street and the brownies went to Warm Springs to the little white house. We went to Atlanta to the zoo and to the

19:05 Stone Mountain Inn in Atlanta, and then

19:09 The place in Atlanta where you see the Civil War about learning that we had, we had these three so some Girl Scout cookies earn from that we were able to do those kind of

19:32 Trips and academically, we always had a a spelling bee.

19:38 We always had a haha to try her. Why? And how wide was related to the YMCA. And so if you were members of that, you were a supporting the YMCA and then we had

19:54 Spelling bee contest. We had Bible contest, we had, we had all of those kinds of activities. But another thing that that stands out, I think about that school is also the teachers and the love they had for the students. And every time I'm asked to speak about teachers, I talk about Miss Alexander.

20:23 The one who did the portrait and was single everyday. I like to tell people, if ever what time I knew I was a teacher's favorite. I knew that Miss Alexander loved me. And I kind of love that. I didn't know anything about because she followed me from third grade.

20:47 Throughout college and I don't know too many teachers would do that. And so every time I when I got ready to go to college, she came by and gave me an inspiration to talk and then put some money in my hand.

21:04 Every time I came home from school, be at Christmas, so, whatever special Christmas cuz I went so far away. I went to North Carolina. It wasn't like, I could come home every week. I knew that when I went in the fall, I wasn't coming back to Christmas, and then I was going to come back again to the end of the school year, but whenever I came back home, she would make her business to come to our house. Before I left asked, how I was doing and put some money in my hand for the next message. And she did that till I graduated and not, I don't know of another teacher that would do that and and followed me. Even when I went to New York and came back to Columbus. A daughter said, she would keep up with whatever I was doing of do as she saw me on television or whatever. She said, you know that that's my student. I taught her in the third grade. So she she remains in my mind.

22:04 Kind of teacher that was needed. And

22:08 The East Highland neighborhood by to try to avoid her. That we get to 3rd grade. I'm in traffic and I can better appreciate her rid of us. Claiming next year to have your nails. Clean your pepper clean handkerchief. She was yours.

22:39 Red hot on a fax to, but it made me a better student.

22:45 I have a good Med Foundation as a math major. Thanks mysterious. She made me study. You had to be prepared to do everything when you get home.

23:00 I tried to better myself and I wasn't, I don't want to be the meanest.

23:06 But I want to make sure that I prepared them fast when I hit the third grade, but the basic facts cuz if you have the basic facts, you can build on in the state-mandated. So I just followed Stacy. Now, what stands out to me about Miss Perry and you're right. She she lived in the neighborhood is that she walked to school?

23:31 So I never saw her driving a car. I never saw. I don't think she never had a car, but she had to walk past our house.

23:47 And my brother who is not quite old enough to see her everyday and begged. Her could he go to school with her? He want to walk with her to school. So she must have gone to the school to talk to the principal said I got this little boy in the neighborhood wants to come so I can get my brother said. He's the only kid who repeated kindergarten because they

24:15 Because of the community, they could bend the rules. And so she picked him up and he walked to Tender Garden a year before he was old enough to go.

24:27 So he spent two years in kindergarten thanks to Miss Perry. I'm not sure. Teach you today. Would do that with try to bend the rules and say I got this little boy who's to standing out there every morning begging me to go to school and I'm not sure this is what you want about me. Anyway, a lot of men that bust that's one and we don't have a lot of teachers who lived in the neighborhood of the children that they teach and that's another teaches adults. Teachers dress, professional that lady walking through E-Town and she wore high heels.

25:10 Shoes. High heel shoes and it's just dressed up. I've been there. You can hardly tell teachers from students. Yeah, you could tell about address. Yeah, you could, you could tell her you could tell her teacher when you went into the you can tell the teacher from a parent because most of the parents were doing, I'm going to call the hard labor, don't answer with domestic work. So when they came to the school, the teachers were dressed very professionally and and you're right. There was a lot of respect for the teachers at that school. The parents.

25:54 And the teachers were in Partnership. If you acted up in school in the teacher, told your parents.

26:03 The parents were always on the teacher side. And so there was never any conflict there and you were going to get us an additional punishment when you got home. If you had been disrespectful.

26:19 To the teacher at school and the neighbors were watching walking home. That's okay. Now, let's talk about the partnership between the school and the neighbors you had people who sometimes didn't have children at that school was still volunteered and helped and have came over to the school and make sure you you did. All right at the school.

26:46 The other things probably need to find them that they were still respected. So they do in the summer time. You play school. I want to be Miss Perry. I want to be with you in the summer. When school is over. You got old supplies for the deaf, anything that you brought it home. So you can play school. That's in a school year. It was a student to clean out the room. And if you would lucky enough to clean the teachers room, then you get to take the stuff home and then you get to have a school at your at your at your house in the summer and you can you can play school in and do the end. But what that did also was reinforced the learning I can remember coming home everyday and bacon my grandmother sit down while I would be the temperature and and and it was good for her because she driving could read as much as I could. So every afternoon, she had me some teacakes and she'd have to sit.

27:46 And I had a, a Blackboard with set and I get up and sit her on that sofa. And I go over my lessons from school that day. So the school, not on the top, but it was teaching my grandmother cuz I came home excited, want to tell her what I had learned and she was patient enough to sit there and and been speeding student. Let me be the teacher for a minute or two.

28:12 There was some added benefits against to that now because it was a community school in because I had a family atmosphere. It could have been a disadvantage to you and I'll brother and sister because the

28:36 The teacher got to know me first.

28:41 And I was blessed, I guess to be a smart student. So by the time but got that, he was expected to get his lesson. He was expected to do it all because his big sister have been through and so that expectation balance it can work for you.

29:01 And it can work against you for gas. If you was a smart student in your older siblings was not, then you have to prove that you were different from the one before you and y'all case you had to prove that you can except keep the standards that I had said. And I'm not saying that in a bad way, but that's what they expected, the expected that you would get your rest.

29:28 Because my mother had made me get the lesson and then don't shoot. She was going to make y'all guitar lesson. So that was that was one of them, you know, the the expectations, probably did more interesting thing about that is that we both had Miss bass and Miss Hannigan.

29:47 And we were both.

29:50 Tell them and high esteem as teachers and I was kind of afraid of them in a way and and and they they held high expectations. They had the bar real high for us to reach. I remember having to learn poems that had me know, 10 to 12 verses to it and you have to stand up and, and and recite. But we go away, we go to college, we come back.

30:20 And we end up joining the same sorority as out to teachers and then we end up on a different relationship where we got to be there drivers. We got to take them places. We got to take him to football games, take him to sorority meeting and then the then I have a daughter who graduates from high school and she's going to attend the college that these two teachers attended and so then they give her a scholarship. So the relationship comes full circle.

31:01 And then,

31:04 They become like them.

31:08 For me, then come almost like grandparents. I go eat with them, take him out to dinner and that all stemmed from first grade. What about you? Write them to homecoming to their homecoming. When they're when they got sick, took him to the hospital, took him home from the hospital so I can watch it very when they had to go into assisted living facilities, you know, we help them move. So a relationship that started in first grade or relationship that starred in fourth grade at something lasted. And that that's what was special about, that school Pierce Street, and we're not the only ones who can sit and talk about what it meant to attend that school in East Highland to have those teachers, Miss Alexander Miss Hannah.

32:08 . Miss bass. Miss Robinson. Have those teachers have an impact on your life. And when that school closed.

32:18 I'm going to school clothes, we were able to.

32:21 When best school closed.

32:25 They built the new school on that site and they named it after Miss honey. So. She is no longer a street. But on that site now is Hammond Elementary. That school is gone. And so the Hamblen Elementary School was named after the principle of Pugh Street Hannah's cafeteria.

32:48 Was named after one of the parents who lived across the street from Pugh Street, who help feed children when they were hungry. And I think all of that talks about what it was like to grow up in a neighborhood, call East Highland and attend the school that was called to your street. That was what you would expect to be a neighborhood school where it partnered with the community. It became the hub for the community, it became more than just where you learn your ABCs. You learn life skills.

33:29 It made life long. Can you be a lifelong friends? And those friends would include the teachers who taught you. So everybody should have had the experience of growing up and a school like you straight and that's a story.