Reflections

Camp Ground Consolidated First In County

Hello everyone hope you’re having a good week.  I hope all of you enjoyed the Casey Jones column as much as I did putting it together.  I wanted to put a human touch, rather than the cold statistics, as most accounts of the story tend to turn out.  

    Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the Saline County Singing Convention at Benton, Ar.  My old friend, Robert Haynes, has directed the event for the last 23 years. It was an emotional time when Robert announced that due to health reasons he wouldn’t be able to continue.  

    The singing  was very good as always.  We have some young singers coming along, but unfortunately not near enough.  My good friend, Marty Phillips, using his gospel music publishing company and his singing schools over a three-state area, helps expose many young people to southern gospel. Hopefully the tradition will continue.  

    I received word from Bill Sissell that the annual Camp Ground reunion won’t be held this year due to health problems of so many former students.      

    When we moved from Oakland to Papa Badley’s farm, I started the third grade at Camp Ground.  This was quite an adjustment – from being able to walk to school and go home for lunch – to riding a school bus and taking your lunch in a brown paper bag.  You have to remember we were still recovering from the depression and times were hard for most people.  

    The majority of the students came from farm families.  In the fall we went on “cotton picking” schedule.  The classes were cut from one hour to forty-five minutes and we got out at one o’clock so the kids could go home to pick cotton.

    If a school tried that today, there would be a congressional investigation.  Papa Badley didn’t grow much cotton so I went to field with a small sack, and never really got to be cotton picker.  You could always tell at school when a family had sold their cotton, the kids would have new shoes, or new clothes, and  sometimes both.  

    Today jeans are standard attire for students, but then they would wear “bib overalls”.  I can truthfully say that I never wore overalls to school, but sometimes I would wear jeans.

    In those days a pair of overalls cost about a dollar.  A jacket, called a “jumper” cost about two dollars.  The best brogans, referred to as “plow shoes” were about three dollars.  

    The best work shoe at that time was a Wolverine and cost five dollars. These shoes would last for years, so an older brother could hand down his shoes to his younger brother when he outgrew them.  

    Camp Ground had an interesting history since it was the first “consolidated school” in the area. They combined the one room schools into one large school, and kids were bussed in.  

    Odell Sanson recalled taking lunch to here father when they were built the first brick building.  This was a two-story building and later they added a one-story building on each side of the original structure. Papa Badley drove a school wagon the first year and several years after that.      His bus looked like the covered wagons we would see in later years.  I remember the bows were still in the wagon shed, but of course the canvas cover was long gone.  

    Papa said that he would hang a screen made from burlap bags over the front, which kept out some of the cold. You could see through the burlap. There was no heat so the kids would huddle together to keep warm.  

    Papa also said that some riders would bring a heated brick which offered some degree of warmth.  He always kept some of the best mule teams, even in my day. He  fed them grain, curried them, and trimmed their manes and tails.  A good mule team was prized in those days.  

    Camp Ground always had good basketball teams and the girl’s team even won the state championship one year.  Since they had only dirt courts to practice, when they got on an indoor court they were really improved.      The original land for the school was donated by Mr. Dovie Rushing.  He and Papa were good friends, and I’ve heard him tell about a man named Brigham Young. Young only had one arm, but could “snake” out logs from the river bottoms with a team of oxen.      

    The constraints of space won’t permit me to cover more so we’ll continue in a future column.  Let me hear from you as your input is always appreciated.      My email address is charlescooper3616@sbcglobal.net or write me at P.O. box 613189 Memphis, TN, 38101 and have a great week.

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