Covington Rosenwald High School History
1800 – 1969
Mr. Kentzel, Publisher of the town newspaper, The Farmer, was considered a historian as well as a publisher, and is to be remembered as preserving much of the history of the town and the educational system.
In describing the town in 1891, he reported:
“Covington has two bakeries, three butcher shops, three blacksmiths, one cabinetmaker, fifteen carpenters, five stage lines, one drug store, two doctors, four painters, two bricklayers, two fruit, fish, and ice stands, three fine hotels, four white churches, and three “colored churches. ” (Of course, we were called “colored people” in those days.) There were two white pay schools, and one “colored pay school. “
Concerning schools, he reported:
“The public schools seemed to open and close on an amazingly flexible schedule. “
He reported on one occasion:
“The public schools closed yesterday after three months of school
– for nine months vacation.”
Confusing? In 1893, he reported a School Board decision:
“It was moved and seconded that teachers having 50 scholars, and who furnished their own schoolhouse, fuel, water, and everything necessary to accomodate the scholars – shall be allowed the sum of $40.00 a month. Schools of less than 30 scholars are to receive $25.00 a month. This is to take effect September 1, 1893. “
If money could be found, schools opened by wards for two or three months at a time.It is well worth noting here that the first building for a “colored” school was donated and moved from somewhere on Columbia Street, between Boston and Gibson Streets. It was placed on the corner of Polk and 30th Avenue and called Covington Colored School.
Two small wooden structures were built “out back” – one marked Girls and one marked Boys. These were the “sanitary facilities. ” Heat was provided by a pot-bellied, wood-burning stove. Water, at first, was obtained from a home across the street from the school . very nice neighbor furnished a dipper, which hung on the pump, and allowed the school to help themselves. Now, all these things were required by the School Board – but not always furnished by them. Later, a pump was installed on the school grounds.
1918 Because of the War and a flu epidemic, school opened for only one month. The principal was Mr. Webb, who was assisted by Marion Bell and Ms. Ashford.
1919 “Colored” children had a full seven month schooling. The principal was Mr. Thornton (who stayed about three years). He was assisted by Mrs. Thornton, Effie Williams and one other teacher. One big room was added to the building. This room could be divided into two classrooms by a curtain.
More seven month sessions followed.
Principal Dixon was moved from Madisonville to Covington and there was no school in Madisonville that year. His teachers were Mrs. Dixon, Effie Williams and one other teacher.
Principal Jefferson, assisted by Effie Williams and two other teachers, came to Covington.
COVINGTON ROSENWALD BECOMES A REALITY
1924 J.A. Harrison came from Fayette, Mississippi to be principal. He became lovingly known as “Professor” Harrison. He was a mathematician of great note! His teachers were Mrs. Harrison, Effie Williams, and one other. (Some years were shorter than others, and sometimes the pay was in “Scrip”. Scrip was a certificate to represent an amount not paid in cash, but a promise to pay at a later date, when money became available. Some stores and businesses honored the “Scrip” and would wait until the School Board collected it and replaced it with “real money”.)
Because of overcrowding and the need for a larger school, Professor busied himself correcting the situation. He found funds locally and secured more from the Julius Rosenwald Fund, and “Covington Rosenwald” found its beginning in a frame building – of course similar to the first one, with the same type of sanitary facilities , a woodshed, and pump fronting on 29th Avenue.
In one large classroom, which could be separated into two classrooms by folding doors, Professor used one room and Mrs. Effie, the other. Whenever there was a need for an auditorium, the folding doors were opened and a portable stage erected on one end. There was- always a piano available for Mrs. Harrison to play (who can forget those days!).
1934 “I, Helen Simon (Frick), joined the faculty replacing Effie Williams as teacher of second and third grades. My first day on the job, I registered over 100 students in those two grades. This was my introduction to the educational system of St. Tammany Parish! I was smaller (in size) than some of my third grade students. Because of the way the school year was (sometimes as short as just a few months), pupils tended to grow up way past the size you think of these days for second and third graders. Since Professor had a way of giving younger people nicknames, he quickly began calling me “that little freckled-face, sparrow-legged girl . ” I sure was happy to have him back me up with all those big third graders, especially since most of them wanted to know how old I was! His advise to me was, “They don’ t need to know your age, just that you’re the Boss in that room, and if they don’ t believe it, send them to me! “
Now on the afternoon of my first day, along came the new Supervisor,
Henry Mayfield. He took one look at my room and told Professor, “This girl cannot teach all these children all day. We have to let second grade come in the morning and third grade come in the afternoon. “So, I taught the basics: Reading, Arithmetic, Spelling, and Writing with a little Art and Science thrown in whenever I could. (Were those the “good” old days???) There were four teachers – Professor, Mrs. Harrison, Miss Gladys Hambrick, and yours truly.
1949 The main building facing 28th Avenue was built and the curriculum expanded. Mrs. Lillie Zoll Gordon joined the faculty teaching Fifth Grade. She later moved up to High School. (We both took years out to begin our families.) High School was begun by adding one grade each year beginning in 1947. There were six graduating classes from 1952 to 1955.
1957 Professor Harrison retires. Alphonse Fabre,Sr. a member of a local well-known family replaces Professor Harrison as principal. Mrs. Luvenia Wright Hayward became the Assistant Principal (the first in St. Tammany Parish).
1958 Covington Rosenwald became a full-fledged High School with Athletics, Band, Home Economics, Industrial Arts, Sciences, etc. added to the curriculum! Real Progress ! !
Before Covington Rosenwald became a reality, black students from Covington had to go either to Slidell (daily) or to Kentwood (where they “boarded out” in homes of the area) .
1965-66 This year saw the last graduation class from Covington Rosenwald High School. The high school students now have a new school Pine View – where Mr. Franklin Owens was named Principal.
1968-69 The last year of segregated schools in St. Tammany. No more separate (but equal ??) schools. Teachers and students were integrated. I retired at the end of the 1969-70 session, after one year in an integrated school. The parish “dragged its feet” getting it done, but in the end, it was accomplished fairly well in comparison to some of our neighbors.
Even with its meager beginnings these educators and children of “color” did not allow those obstacles to hinder their progress. The graduates of Covington Rosenwald High School have gone on to become educators, doctors, nurses, engineers, computer scientists and technicians, civil workers, clergymen, administrators, chefs, accountants, hospital technicians, and numerous other fields that could expand my list greatly.
“It is with a great sense of pride that I can recall Covington Rosenwald School and the educational system we all contributed to. The school system has made great strides and Covington Rosenwald can be pointed out as being the main contributing factor in the education of blacks of this area.
Those old days and times will never come again. . . nor do we want them to !!
– Lunches 10¢
Bananas 10¢ a dozen (when you find the dime)
– teachers of higher grades paid more than elementary grade teachers
– insufficient or out-dated books and supplies
– overcrowded classrooms and on, and on,
Thank God, we can look back and reminisce joyfully; looking forward to an even brighter future in education.
Lovingly and Proudly Submitted by
Helen S. Frick
My sincere appreciation to Mr. Leonard Badon, Mrs. Lillie Gordon, and others for their assistance in researching this historical account.