Flippin School

By Mary Martin

"The common school is the greatest discovery ever made by man." . . . Horace Mann.

The Flippin school has probably been in existence well over a hundred years. There have been 74 school districts in Marion County. Flippin is District No. 26.

The first school, a large one-room building, was located north of the airport on the land presently known as the Guy McCracken or Simon Osborn place. It was built by W. F. Flippin and the land at that time was owned by Jim Lynch. It was also used as a church.

Records (found in the vault at the courthouse) show the following:

1895Teacher - J. H. Poynter; Board Members -- H. C. Butler,
J. G. Matthews,
T. H. Poynter.
1896Teacher - same; Board Members - same.
Issued warrants in amount of $54.50 for the year.
1897Teacher - same; Board Members - same.
Special tax and Poll tax$ 341.71
Issued warrants$ 221.11
Balance$ 120.60
1898Teacher - same; Board Members -- J. H. Poynter
J. A. Flippin (Uncle Jim)
W. H. Lynch (Uncle Henry)
Collected taxes$ 292.75
Issued warrants$ 292.75
Balance $          0

Other teachers at this school were Con Huddleston, Mr. Bellamy, Houston Poynter and Raleigh Matthews.

Sometime after the railroad was completed the patrons of the school decided to move it near the "new town" of Flippin. It was a two-story, two-room frame building located on Crane Creek, just north of town. It set on the right side of Highway 178 opposite where Fallen Ash Road turns left off the highway.

At this place a couple of outhouses lined the creek. One was to the northwest to accommodate the boys and the other was a few hundred yards to the east for the girls. When the boys wanted to get out of sight of the teachers, they went to the "little house" and slipped down by the west side of it into the creek to smoke or fight. No doubt the teachers were aware of where they were and, of course, they could smell the scent of Bull Durham (tobacco) or see the results of a fight. Yes, they were disciplined for it when they got back to the building.

The girls also had a "hiding place" way down around the bend of the creek east of their "little house". Some of the girls were religious-minded at times, usually right after a revival. They would bring their tambourines to school. The "listeners" or audience would get to school real early to go down the creek to listen to the music and singing. Often the teachers would have to send someone to tell them that the bell had rung for "books". Of course, the girls were reprimanded for being off the play area.

Another luxury at this school, was a drilled well with a hand pump. It was located a few feet from the northeast corner of the building. Sometimes it would go dry and pupils vied for the chance to walk over to the depot in town and carry large buckets of water back to the school.

By 1917 the attendance had grown so that there was a need for two more rooms. They were added with one downstairs and one upstairs.

The play area was adequate to accomodate the number of pupils in the district. There was a front yard to the west and a big area north of the building where baseball, pole vaulting, broad jumps, and basketball were played. Then to the east of the building a nice grassy hill dotted here and there with pretty shade trees. In this area the younger children made playhouses and played various games at recess. During the lunch hour in hot weather everyone went out in the shades to eat. It was not unusual for one family to have three, four or five children in a school. It was a customary thing for them to have all their their lunches packed in one eight-pound lard bucket. Sometimes they were very good with fried chicken or ham meat. More often they were made up of something like a cup or bowl of molasses and butter stirred together and ready to put on a cold biscuit. Baked sweet potatoes was a common food in the winter. Then perhaps in the summer ripe tomatoes and corn-on-the-cob were the main vegetables with perhaps molasses cookies or a fried pie for dessert. Some families who didn't want all their cups, jars or other small containers broken by children swinging the buckets at each other on the way home from school would take the time to make sandwiches for their children to carry in the bucket.

The school term usually was divided with three months in July, August, and September, a vacation for a few weeks for the people to pick cotton and then the children went back to school for three or four more months. Some of the teachers who taught at this place were: Fred Williams, F.C. Gibson, Mrs. Bardeen, Floyd Slagle, Fay and May Barnett, Mrs. Ella Rowden, Dink Berry, Jesse Morris, lone Williams, and Mrs. Donna Phillips (Miss Don). They were interested teachers and discipline was firm.

Subjects consisted of the three R's (readin', 'ritin' and 'rithmetic) plus physiology, geography and spelling. The pupils furnished their own books, paper and pencils. The school furnished the teachers. In order to go from the eighth grade to high school pupils were required to take and pass an examination given by the County Examiner (now known as the County Superintendent). School activities were precision marching, track meets and literary meets. An organization, the SIA, was formed. SIA stood for School Improvement Association. This was a very peppy group with a theme song that went something like this:

"SIA will shine tonight, SIA will shine
When the sun goes down and the moon comes up
SIA will shine."

There was a membership fee of twenty-five cents. The children sold candy, cookies, etc. to contribute to the cause. The older students gave group plays. Outstanding plays still remembered by former students were The Little Clodhopper and Deacon Dubbs.

Later the PTA, a state and national organization, took SIA's place. Flippin school has been active in it for many many years. Before all the state and federal funds became available to buy library books, maps, globes, bulletin boards, clocks, etc., funds were raised by the PTA in various ways to buy them.

In 1926 Mr. G. B. Keeter came to Flippin (from Bruno) to become the superintendent. At that time the first two years of high school accredited work was put on. The next year, 1927-28, three years of work was offered with a "D" rating. By this time Mtn. View school from up Fallen Ash Valley was coming to Flippin school. Some of the older boys living near Jimmies Creek were riding horses to school. So, the school board, Mr. Keeter, and some of the patrons could see the need of more and better buildings. Many hours were spent in discussions of where to build and how to finance the building. Finally, the decision was made to move it where the school now stands. Mr. and Mrs. Joe McCracken, better known as Joe and Winnie, donated the land. Mr. E. L. Huddleston (Hudd) drew the plans for the building and they were approved by the State Board of Education.

Now for the financial part! The Board asked for a raise in millage from 12 mills to 18 mills. What an uproar among the townspeople!! They were really up in the air, so to speak, especially the store owners in town. They even went so far as to bring suit. The Board won it. But at this time, Mr. Keeter and all the board members except Hudd had written out their resignations. Hudd, in his firm and forthright manner, told the others that the people of the district had voted for them as leaders and that he was going to stay with it. Before the meeting adjourned, the others had torn up their resignations and were ready to go on with their project.

The cost of the first building was about $40,000 plus donations of equipment and labor. There was no state or federal aid. Many school-minded people helped from the start by hauling rock, carrying lumber, nailing, helping cut rafters, etc. Before the building was completed, some of those who had been so drastically opposed were up there donating labor. Inside work did not stop at dark. Teenage boys and girls volunteered with any type work they could do in order to get the building finished in time for the fall term of school. By this time, eight months of school went straight through from September until April.

This new building had no inside plumbing. It had seven classrooms, a large study hall and a library. These rooms surrounded the gymnasium on the south, east, and west sides. The gym had a large stage on the south side and bleachers on the north side. The whole building was heated with wood. The stoves were huge. The first year in the new building showed that the school had grown to a "C" rating and offered four years of accredited work. Subjects offered included: Algebra, geometry, American and European history, Civics, Latin and English.

Another major improvement for the school was a school bus running the main road with children meeting the bus at the point nearest their homes. A large bus made with one continuous seat from front to back on either side and one called the "straddle board" down the center was the main, or "big" bus. For shorter routes, similarly made buses were made on the beds of pick-ups. These buses were individually owned. W. E. Rose owned the largest one. It is still well remembered that when funds were not available to keep the buses rolling, W. E. personally bore the expense until money was alloted for it.

This same year some of the pupils from the No. I district east of Flippin were walking to Flippin to high school and paying tuition, too. There had been quite a lot of controversy over their consolidation with Flippin. Some of the board members could not readily accept the possible advantages their children would have. After all, No. I was the first school in Marion County and the community had its own activities, some of which would be depleted. Finally, they accepted and school buses picked up all the children and brought them to Flippin.

The first graduating class from Flippin was in the spring of 1929. Six students graduated. They were: Eunicy Pierce, Elsie McCracken, Doyne Hurst, Clyde Estes, Murphy Mears and Robert (Doc) Pangle.

By the beginning of the term of 1929-30 a new elementary school building was ready to move into. It contained four large rooms and was the first building for which the district had obtained any state aid. The amount of aid was $1,500. This year Home Economics and Agri classes were added, but they were housed in the first building. The next buildings were the Community Building and the Agri building, built through the NYA program.

In the forties two more rooms were added to the elementary building with restrooms in the basement. Then the lunch room and indoor plumbing were added and the Home Economics cottage was built where it now stands.

Mr. Keeter stayed with the school as superintendent for fifteen years. He had done much for the school and the community. He had seen the first graduating class of 1929 grow into graduating classes of twenty or more while he was there. After the depression hit and banks were closed, he stayed on. Often he took other work to help keep his family going. Sometimes the warrants that were issued to the teachers were sold at discount, used to pay taxes or kept two or three years before school money was available to pay off in cash. The teachers taught for $50.00 a month in warrants and until after WW II they were still teaching for less than $100.00 per month.

Basketball and baseball became the major sports. Mr. Keeter had coached each year. He had good teams. Especially worthy of mention were the girls' teams of 1928-29, 1929-30, 1932-33, 1933-34, 1940-41 and 1941-42 groups of Cardinals. And let's not forget the girls of 1944-45 who won four great trophies and entered the state AAU. The boys were named Bulldogs and won some trophies, too. They were great!

Interested patrons managed through those drastic depression years to support their youth. They washed (rubbed on a washboard and heated water in wash kettles) and patched clothes and sometimes toes went to school shining through worn-out tennis shoes. Teachers did not stop either; any worthwhile project for raising funds for the school was sponsored by the teachers.

Other schools consolidating with Flippin during the forties and fifties were Concord (part of district), Rea Valley, Hand Valley, Buffalo, Bird Cole, Fairview, Midway and Newton Flat. With this increase plus the families moving here to help build the Bull Shoals Dam, the faculty had to be increased to take care of the number of students and Flippin school received a "B" rating.

On a cold, windy, rainy night February 13, 1951, the first building was burned to the ground. A PTA meeting, with the third grade doing honors to a monthly program, had been held earlier that evening. Apparently the stoves had overheated. The present main building was built on the same foundation site. Then the gymnasium, with an approximate cost of $34,000, was built. State aid was available for both of these buildings. However, it did not nearly cover all expenses needed for refurnishing, modernizing, etc. Increased millage helped with this.

Succeeding G. B. Keeter as superintendent have been Guy Berry, James Holland, John Q. Adams, Exel Smith, W. E. Hayes, 0. H. Burns, K. K. Richardson, Kent Butler, Harry Morrow, Laverl Cheek and Wallace Sneed.

It was during K. K. Richardson's time as superintendent that the school recieved an "A" rating which it still has. He was with the school system for six years.

While Laverl Cheek was superintendent (1964-1972), two Federally-funded programs became part of the curriculum. Headstart, a program designed for pre-school children from low income families, was started in the summer of 1965. Later, it became, and still is, a full school-term program. The Follow-Through program, a follow-up of Headstart, was started in 1969. Both programs have brought more parent involvement in the school. The supportive services, such as medical and dental care, psychological care, nutritional and social services, are noticeable assets. These programs plus access to factory work, brought in more families and more children. A four-room building was made to house Kindergarden through second grades.

Since Mr. Sneed has been superintendent, a lounge, an office and four more rooms have been added to the new building. This entire building now houses Kindergarden through third grades.

Let us not forget the long and tiring hours that school board members have put in "free gratis" for the betterment of the school and the community through the years from 1895-1976. A special vote of appreciation should be given Mr. E. L. Huddleston, who served on the Flippin School Board for more than thirty years.

Let us also pay tribute to the many PTA officers who have served so faithfully through the years and, also, to the Room Mothers who have contributed time and refreshments for the little parties that helped to make school days interesting and memorable for their children and others in their classes.

Flippin History

Reprinted with permission from History of Marion County edited by Earl Berry, copyright 1977.