A few weeks ago I was extremely proud to see that during this Bennettsville Bicentennial year the Marlboro Herald-Advocate recognized Bennettsville High School with a photo of the old school as it stood years ago. The once pride of the city played a tremendous part in the lives of many people who were launched from that school into higher education, public occupations, and the military
I cannot address the years before and after the 1955 Graduation Class but I would say that most of those who graduated during Principal Mike “Hop” Caskey’s tenure would tell you that the teachers by far were superb and did everything they could to prepare the pupils for further education or whatever careers they chose. There was a dedication of love that was demonstrated in the classrooms that while you were under their tutorage you would be given every opportunity to succeed as long as you made the effort. The principal did not threaten the pupils but promised that his paddle was available when needed for the boys and other disciplinary action for the girls.
Every morning was a new adventure starting in individual homerooms where we began the day with the reading of God’s Word. No one that I knew had any doubt our teachers were doing their best to teach us Christian values as they taught us the subjects assigned to us. If you did not hear of Him or about His Word, The Holy Bible, at home, you surely learned about Him in the classroom. Also, a copy of the Bible was usually displayed on the teacher’s desk. The students learned the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag and the Lord’s Prayer by reciting them in unison during our devotional time. No one was ever forced to participate, but always cooperated.
Weekly, our school had what we called chapel (assembly), where we sang the school Alma Mater. If you did not know it by the time you finished elementary school, you certainly knew it before leaving high school. Mr.Caskey or a student read a Bible passage and prayed at each meeting. Some weeks we sang the national anthem, Christian hymns, folk songs or a popular tune at the time. When applicable, students were recognized for superior accomplishments. Mr. Caskey would sometimes surprise us with a movie or a traveling road show. I don’t remember many times he used the time for scolding the group.
Being a small school was a tremendous advantage in that many of us learned the names of most students. We may not have had a personal relationship but at least we could greet the majority of the students as we went about our daily activities. This made everyone to blend in and feel at home. I can’t say that all were friendly, but that is to be expected in society.
Every student had the opportunity to participate in sports. Our coaches taught that we should pray before athletic events to ask God to keep us safe. None of that was for show, but to tell everyone we believed there is a God in heaven who will provide protection for his children or asking for His hand of mercy in keeping us calm in preparing and playing the game.
My days in school were many moons ago, but the picture of the high school in the Bientennial announcement surely brought back great memories of that wonderful time in my life.