The corner of Fifth Avenue and Church Street in Guyton looks different now than when Guyton High School stood there from 1919 to 1956.
However, the camaraderie among students who attended GHS has remained.
About 40 former Guyton High students gathered Saturday to dedicate a plaque commemorating the school where they made many memories.
“You don’t know how much this means,” Bobbi Kennedy Powell said to the crowd, choking back tears of joy. “There’s nothing like friends and family, and that’s what we learned when we were going to school.”
Powell, a member of the school’s final graduating class, continued: “To see these gathered here, to honor something that we believed in and worked for and our parents strived to send us each day … what a blessing.”
The class of 1956 spearheaded the effort for the plaque, Powell said. The Guyton Historic Preservation Council took on the project and got support from the city of Guyton, which provided the funding for the plaque on the site of the old school.
Guyton Councilman Franklin Goldwire said, “It’s a real pleasure to participate in having this plaque unveiled in honor of the staff who taught obviously some outstanding students by your achievement in life, and to the memory of those teachers who worked so diligently on your behalf.”
The plaque, which stands in front of the old school gym and faces Fifth Avenue, is adorned with a painting of Guyton High School. Alongside the painting are the lyrics to the alma mater and below it are the words, “In loving memory of the students, teachers, parents and staff of Guyton High School, 1919-1956.”
The former students reminisced on their days at GHS, alternating between stories of the capers they pulled and the valuable life lessons they learned. Guyton High housed grades 1-12, so it was the only school several students ever attended.
Claudette Jordan recalled learning math lessons without the benefit of a calculator and perfecting her typing skills on a typewriter on which the teacher had used nail polish to cover the letters on the keys. Along with the other girls, she took home economics classes at a building across the campus, where they learned to cook, set a table and sew.
“That was a good thing because I wound up with four girls, and I would never have been able to buy dresses for them,” Jordan said.
The GHS gym is showing its age, but Jordan prefers to think of how elegant it looked decorated for school dances — especially the prom.
“It was amazing how they could take that gym and make something so very nice for junior-senior prom,” she said. “There was no such thing as going to Savannah, to the ballroom at the civic center, and having limousines and everything. We were just fortunate enough to get here and to enjoy that.”
Fellow 1956 graduate Alton Davis shared a story of a less formal night at the school — with visitors that walked on four legs rather than two. He spoke of “the days when the cows roamed free” and “used to spend the night on the school grounds.”
“I don’t know who did it,” Davis said, “but several guys got together and they rustled these cows up into the auditorium and they spent the weekend up there. I’d like to know how they got ‘em up and how in the world they got ‘em back down.”
Davis gave the crowd a few more laughs with tales of other school pranks. However, Jordan added, the playfulness never got in the way of students being respectful — in the classroom and even in the lunchroom.
“They fixed your plate, and you didn’t get up until you finished it,” Jordan said. “Whether you liked it or not, you ate it because, if you didn’t, you didn’t go out for recess.”
Jordan described the honor that came with being the student selected to lead the school in prayer at the start of the day. She said Guyton High students learned to respect their principal, their teachers and each other.
“I’m very proud,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of people come through this school who have made good names for themselves and have been very productive citizens, because we learned character. We learned some very important lessons in this school.”