High School was established in 1922 and was a great asset to this
little coal-mining town and its surroundings. Before this time, the
Altoona school consisted of grades one through nine. Students desiring
further education had to travel to other areas.
There were seven in the first graduating class in 1923. Some went on to college, and at least two became schoolteachers.
The first principal
was E. L. Stoker, followed by J. O. Dickinson in 1923. Other principals
were Claud Matthews, L. H. York, H. L. Gibbs, Robert Humphries, W. A.
Gibbs, C. C. Davis, and Trice Ayers. Mr. Dickinson held this position
for twenty-five years, and then served a term as Etowah County
The day started at
8:00 a.m. in the auditorium with all grades attending. Scripture was
read and “encouragement speech” was given, and patriotic and folk songs
were sung. Chapel was the highlight of the day and was never boring.
The school was
small enough for everybody to know everybody else. It was a big
happy-family atmosphere, and many big things came from this little
school. Altoona had the lowest percentage of dropouts in the county.
Also, many professional people were first educated at Altoona High
School. It produces doctors, nurses, lawyers, dentists, engineers,
architects, and accountants along with many teachers.
Choctaws were well known for their winning ways. The first football team
was in the fall of 1922, with baseball following.
A dormitory next to
the school was where most of the teachers lived until the fifties. A
family operated the dormitory, preparing meals for the teachers. The
bedrooms were small but sufficient for the needs of the teachers. School
was dismissed early the day before holidays to give the teachers time
to walk to the train station to catch the four-o’clock train out of
town. As more teachers got cars, there was no longer a need for the
dormitory. It was demolished and a gym was built in its place.
Memories of this
great school will remain forever. The final graduating class was 1966.
At that time, the school was combined with Walnut Grove High School, and
the newly formed school was named West End High School.
(written by Juanita Phillips McAfee, Class of 1940,--edited)