Mrs. J.C. Roe and Mr. Spurgeon Stroud entered North Greenville as students on the day school opened, January 16, 1892. Recent Interviews with them brings into the present some of the excitement they felt on that first day.
Mr. Stroud lives less than a mile from the North Greenville campus. Seventy-five years has not dimmed his impressions of the first day at North Greenville, nor of many events that took place during the nine years he was here. He was a member of the first graduating class from the academy in 1902.
Dr. Neely: Can you tell us something about the first day?
Mr. Stroud: Yes, I remember walking to school. I lived about one mile from the school. That first day, Miss Cancie Hill came up from Greenville on an express wagon. I remember that she was slightly crippled, having had polio, and that she stumbled a little when alighting from the wagon. She wasn’t hurt, but this made an impress on me as a boy.
Dr. Neely: What was your impress of the building?
Mr. Stroud: Well, I was already familiar with the building, because I watched it being built. My father’s first cousin, Mr. Gibson, was the overseer. I went to watch the construction almost every day.
Dr. Neely: How did it compare with other schools at that time?
Mr. Stroud: Compared to other schools, it was a fine building. The school I had been attending was a one-room building with slab seats. At North Greenville we had three rooms – the music room, one room for boys and one for girls. You might say we were segregated. There was a porch which ran along two sides of the building; the girls’ room opened onto one side and the boys’ room the other. Boys and girls were not allowed to speak to each other. In the classroom, instead of slab seats we had desks. We also had chalkboards and a globe (the first I had ever seen).
Dr. Neely: What grade were you in?
Mr. Stroud: We didn’t have grades then. We studied by subjects.
Dr. Neely: Were there any boarding students?
Mr. Stroud: Many boarded in homes nearby, but the school didn’t have boarding facilities at first. Those who lived near enough walked to school, and many others rode horses. I remember two girls who rode ponies, and their fathers built them stalls on school property to keep their ponies in.
Dr. Neely: What do you remember about your graduation?
Mr. Stroud: What I remember best is the fiery little speaker. He was Mr. Wingo from Campobello. He was small in stature, but I was impressed by his message.
Dr. Neely: Where was graduation held?
Mr. Stroud: It was held in the school building. The walls between the rooms were constructed in such a manner that they could be taken down and a platform made of them. This made a nice auditorium for parents and other visitors.
Dr. Neely: What kind of diploma did you receive?
Mr. Stroud: A State High School Diploma.
Dr. Neely: Did you keep in touch with your classmates after graduation?
Mr. Stroud: Yes, most of the graduates began teaching school. I started teaching in grammar school.
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Mrs. Roe is the former Miss Nora Neves, and now lives at Travelers Rest. Her father is considered one of the founders of the school, and gave liberally to get it started. She attended several years, and then transferred to Greenville Women’s College (Furman University). Diplomas were not issued during the early years.
Dr. Neely: What do you remember about the first day of school?
Mrs. Roe: Oh, I was very excited. We were all very excited. Some of the children were very shy, but I was not as shy as some. The teachers were coming in from Atlanta. Miss Cancie Hill taught that first year. I remember that she always wore a hat. I never saw her without a hat, from that first day until the last time I saw her. I had most of my studies under Mr. Brock. He was a very dignified, very quiet man. Mrs. Brock helped some. She was a tall, slender woman. The music teacher was Miss Pearl Powers from Commerce, Georgia.
Dr. Neely: Had you seen the building before starting school?
Mrs. Roe: Oh, yes. My father, T.P. Neves, and Uncle Ben Neves had a store where Wood’s store is now. I was up there every day. Papa gave $500 toward the building and Uncle Ben gave the land. They knew they had to educate their children, and they figured this was cheaper than sending them away to school. Money was hard to get in those days.
Dr. Neely: What did you do after you left North Greenville?
Mrs. Roe: I went to Greenville Women’s College and then got married. I majored in piano and voice, and I taught music at North Greenville one year. Once when the music teacher quite suddenly just before commencement, I came in and finished the commencement music. The students worked hard, and we had good music that year. North Greenville always had good commencements.
Published in the Spring 1967 North Greenville Junior College Alumni Magazine.
Photo: Mr. Spurgeon Stroud