Altoona High School

Altoona 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 Superintendent.

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.

The Altoona 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)

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