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History Corner By Pat Ross & Fran Snead

August 30, 2017

Spotlight on the Southside:  “Bassett School Traditions”

By Pat Ross and Fran Snead

Just like the town of Bassett itself, the school system in Bassett has a rich history.  The first Bassett school was a one-room log structure located at the corner of Pine Valley Drive and Bassett Heights Road prior to 1900.  As Bassett, or Bassetts as it was then called, began growing due to the town saw mill, more residents looking for work moved into the area bringing their families with them.  John Henry Bassett, father of the founders of Bassett Furniture Company, donated land for a two-room school to be built.  Bassett Furniture Company was founded in 1902 and an even larger school was needed to accommodate the town’s growing population.  John Henry Bassett, once again, donated land next to the Riverview Primitive Baptist Church near the home where Reed Lewis Stone later stood.  A new school was built at this location in 1909 and was also enlarged that same year.  Mr. Bennie Price was hired as the school’s principal.  At this time, only two years of high school were offered, and in 1912 commencement programs were instituted.  The school was used until 1915 when a “new” Bassett High School was built on the site where the office building of Bassett Furniture Industries stands today.  In the year  1916-17, a third year of high school work began.  The school at that time employed five teachers:  three full-time grade teachers, one full-time high school teacher, and one teacher who divided her time between grade school and high school.  Other principals during these transitional years were Miss Emma Carter, Miss Nannie Mitchell, Mr. Barnes, and Mr. Coe.  The school year of 1923-24 was the first for the school to be accredited by the State Department of Education with a full four-year course to be offered.  Miss Nora Crickenberger was the school’s principal.  Under Principal Crickenberger’s eight year leadership, the publication of “River Ripples”, the school’s first newspaper and the first school newspaper in the county, was printed.  The first publication was December 1, 1924 for Volume 1.  The newspaper was filled not only with student written articles, but also with advertisements from area businesses. These advertisements have been quite handy over the years, as there were some of which we had never heard. Advertisements included Stanley Mercantile Company, Wood Mercantile Company, Woody’s Department Store, H.T. Williams and Company, First National Bank, Bassett Cleaning and Pressing Shop, Mountain Drug Company, and Adams Insurance Company which were all located in Bassett.  Advertisements also in the school’s newspaper were for The Henry Hotel, C.P. Kearfott and Son, H.A. Ford and Company Real Estate and Insurance, Richardson Electric Company, Piedmont Trust Bank, Milliner’s Department Stores, Byrd and Company Jewelers, Peoples National Bank, Coleman-Bryan Music Company for everything in music…all of which were businesses located in Martinsville.


 Below are a few excerpts taken from the December 1, 1924 edition of “River Ripples”:


For the first time in the history of Bassett High School, we have a study hall, where pupils can study without being subjected to the noise made during the recitation of classes.  Each period during the day the study hall is supervised by one of the teachers who does not have a class at that time.


The annual Red Cross Roll Call began on the eleventh, Armistice Day, and continued through Thanksgiving week.  We hope the people have responded promptly throughout the entire county to at least have paid one dollar as a membership fee.  In our own county the Red Cross furnishes us with a school nurse whose work not only in the schools but in the county cannot be estimated.  Never fail to heed the call of the Red Cross.


Colors for Bassett High School were suggested and voted on in Chapel.  Blue and White were chosen and pencils were ordered in these colors with “Bassett High School” printed on them.  The pencils will be on sale at the school and we hope that all of the pupils are patriotic enough to buy them.


Just like most things, the Bassett High School newspaper changed over time and so did its name.  “ River Ripples” became “ ‘Fessor Hoover’s Gang” in the 1930’s and early 1940’s in honor of the school’s principal at that time who was Mr. E. Carl Hoover;  in 1945 the paper became  “Under the Bell at Bassett Hi” which was suggested by Patricia Philpott  (Petty).  It later became “The Bell” when it was incorporated with the “The Bassett Journal”.  The mid 50’s brought on the title of “Ben-Growl”.   The paper was also known as Aquarius, River Rap and Bengal Pride throughout the years.


Marjorie Clark, later Marjorie Stanley, moved with her family from North Carolina to Stanleytown.  Her father, O.C. Clark, had worked in the furniture production business most of his life.  What better place to bring your growing family than to the Bassett/Stanleytown area?   During the 1934-35 school year, Marjorie Clark (Stanley) was a freshman at Bassett High School.  During that school year, a contest to name the school’s first yearbook was held among the students.  The name “Timber Tints”, submitted by Marjorie, was selected as the winning entry.  She explained that the name came to her as she thought about what made the town of Bassett most notable:  furniture production.  Timber was certainly a necessary component to make the furniture, and because she had grown up with a father who produced furniture, she was aware of the different stains and finishes that made the wood beautiful…the tints.  Marjorie put the two words together and the idea of “Timber Tints” was born.  Eighty-two years later, it still remains.


 Like other area schools, Bassett was big into sports.  But it wasn’t until 1947 that Bassett adopted an official school mascot.  Until that time Bassett teams were simply known as Bassett or the Bassetteers during competition.  The girls’ basketball teams of the late 1920’s and early 30’s wore the bulldog emblem on their uniforms…Bassett Bulldogs?  In 1922, John D. Bassett, Sr. was in need of an electrical and boiler man for the new J.D. Bassett Manufacturing Plant.  He went to Lenoir, North Carolina to find that person and brought James Gaither Clay and his family to Bassett.   Another family from North Carolina’s furniture scene was now here in Bassett!  Mr. Clay’s oldest son, Charles Eugene Clay, a 1932 graduate of Bassett High School, coined the school’s nickname, the Bassett Bengals, in a contest.  A committee that consisted of Ed Bassett, W.W. Sale, Mr. Berry, and Coach Bruce Lemons chose this winning submission.   Even after consolidation, the Bassett Bengal remains to this day.


Although we have some information on most schools in Henry County, we are missing information, too. For other schools other than Bassett High School, we need the origin and name of the team mascot, origins of the name of the yearbooks, the school newspaper, and any information and/or photos that someone would like to share with us.  We have some annuals for, again, most schools in Martinsville and Henry County, but we would like to have information that you might let us copy if you would not want to donate them to the Center.  It is fun for many people to look back on their school days as there are many memories for them.  For those who have lost their yearbooks and memorabilia that was saved, patrons appreciate what has been shared with us for the files and yearbooks that we can share with the public.  Thank you for your sharing with us so that we can share with others who are patrons of the Center.

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