Photo Credit: Growing Up in Athens / Facebook
Wings were added to both ends of the old courthouse when it was turned into Athens High. The cafeteria can be seen in the background.
Whenever I get a longing for a hamburger and a chocolate Frosty, I head for the Wendy’s at the corner of Prince and Finley streets. While it would be easiest to use the drive-through, it is essential for me to park and walk into the building. You see, the ground underneath the asphalt where Wendy’s, Captain D’s and the T.R.R. Cobb House now stand is hallowed ground to me. That’s where, in the fall of 1950, my Athens High class of 1954 began our freshman year of high school.
The imposing building had, until 1915, been the Clarke County Courthouse. Wings were added to either end to make more classrooms. The gym is still there, opening onto Meigs Street, and the old jail building, which is still there, was used for R.O.T.C. classes. Back then, Finley ended at Meigs, so there was more land available than today. The building adjacent to the old courthouse was our cafeteria, but it is no longer standing, either.
A field where the T.R.R. Cobb House stands now was used for physical education. Football practice and R.O.T.C. drills were carried out on a huge field between Hancock and Broad Street, where the motels are today. We played our home football games in Sanford Stadium on Friday nights.
We went to class in the old courthouse. There were cracks in the inside walls, where vines crept through. We took Latin from Miss Comer, biology from Miss Tillman and typing from Miss Bradbury. We had English with Mrs. Pickett, and the boys had P.E. with Weyman Sellers, the football coach. Miss Marion Norris was the girls’ P.E. teacher and basketball coach. Miss Brock taught algebra. One day, in her class, Jimbo LaBoon demonstrated the bold intellect that would later carry him to great success as a banker. He raised his hand and announced, “Miss Brock, this is too copious for my diminutive comprehension. Would you endeavor to elucidate it more explicitly?” All his classmates remember that performance. Afterward, Jimbo had only to complain, “Miss Brock, this is too copious.”
Across Hill Street from the front side of the school property was the fire station that is still there. Daring students would leave school by crossing Hill Street, then walk on the sidewalk past the fire station to the P.A., short for Prince Avenue Pharmacy. Time was of the essence to buy a soda and return to the school grounds before the principal—Mr. Sam Woods or Mr. Guy Driver—could apprehend the culprits and haul them off to their office.
Every day after school, those of us who lived on the south and west sides of Athens would walk to town, starting on Meigs Street. We’d cut through the Baptist Church parking lot and head east on Hancock, with the goal of having a Coke at Horton’s Drug Store or Moon-Winn Pharmacy on Clayton Street (where Wuxtry is now). Afterward, the big city buses would be waiting at City Hall to take us home.
The stately old buildings on Prince Avenue were our school for two years. The new Athens High School on Milledge, now Clarke Central, was finally finished, and our class completed our junior and senior years there. The old courthouse and cafeteria, which had served as Athens High School for 37 years, were demolished, but some of us still remember.