Former students recall West LaFollette Elementary

By: Jim Freeman
By: Jim Freeman

(NOTE: This story has been posted virtually the same way it aired, and is meant to read as a dialog between friends instead of a news story.)

CAMPBELL COUNTY (WVLT) – Thursday marked the end of an era in one East Tennessee community, as two elementary schools closed their doors forever.

The pair of La Follette schools, known as East End and West End were closed so that they can be consolidated into the new La Follette Elementary School.

When the final bell rang, even for the third graders, West End had become just a memory now.

Among the people saying goodbye was Johnny Bruce, a faculty member who also attended West La Follette as a youngster.

"Oh, we walked to school, of course," he recalled from years ago.

Mr. Bruce wasn’t the only person taking a walk down memory lane.

Former student Rissa Pryse Tamer, owner of Terry’s Pharmacy in La Follette could remember all the neighbors who lived around the school, and how things have changed.

"Mrs. Lambdin, Mrs. Porter, remember Mrs. Porter lived right up the street here? Uhm. Miss Ford. Mrs. Agee. Mrs. Sharp," She said. “And that was the one that had that stage in it."

The last time the three of us were in this school house together was more than 40-years ago, but the memories never grow old like the day when Rissa lost her week's lunch money and Mr. Wilson, the school custodian, mysteriously found her dollar.

"You knew I believed at that point that he'd really found my dollar, and you know he didn't find my dollar on the playground, he'd just given me one of his," she said.

Johnny was our resident, mischievous redhead, and former teachers are still amazed when they find out his profession.

He says they ask him, "Johnny, what are you doing? I'm teaching school, and they're going "you" are teaching school? Yes, I'm a school teacher and they couldn't believe it. You know."

In fact, the former coach has been teaching for nearly three decades now.

"A lot of people have gone through here," he said.

As for myself, one of my most vivid memories is, and everybody remembers where they were, but it was when I walked out the front door, and was walking home, when Randall Parker said, “I just heard that President Kennedy's been shot."


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