Friday, May 20, 2005

"Fruit Jar" high school

In 1925, Berea had no high school. After the eigth grade, students either went to work or attended the Foundation school at Berea College for ninth grade and then advanced to the Academy. This situation existed despite the fact that in 1922 the Kentucky General Assembly had required each town with a graded school district to provide a high school for its children or join the county school system.

Under pressure from the State Board of Education, the five-member Board of the Berea Graded School, composed of Robert Lamb, chairman, J.S. Wagers, vice-chairman, W.G. Best, secretary, Benton Fielder, and G.B. Angel, voted to establish a high school for Berea in June 1926. Wagers, Best and Fielder believed that the Graded School district should provide a high school, but Lamb and Angel voted opposed a high school, believing that Berea did not have enough taxable property to afford a modern high school

Despite apparently resolving the issue in favor of a high school, Lamb atempted to reverse course at a meeting in July when Fielder was absent. Stepping down as chairman so that he could vote, and leaving Wagers to preside over the meeting, Lamb proceeded to call for a new vote on the high school. Facing the likelihood of a two-to-one vote against providing a high school, W.G. Best picked up the minute book and started out the door, ending the meeting. Lamb, in frustration, seized a nearby fruit jar being used as a vase and threw it at Best, striking him on the head and knocking him to the floor unconscious. Best was taken to the Robinson hospital for treatment. Lamb was later indicted and arrested for "striking with the intent to kill" and released on a $2,000 bond. He was later fund guilty of assault and battery. Subsequently, Dr. Best sued Lamb for $10,000 and eventually recovered a judgment for $300.

The high school officially opened in the former sixth grade classroom in September 1926 with fifty-two students. Former Foundation school dean, Thomas A. Edwards, was the teacher. As a result of Lamb's throwing the fruit jar at Dr. Best, the Berea High School, formerly located at the corner of Chestnut and Boone Streets, was often referred to as "Fruit Jar High."

See Berea Citizen, 27 November 1919, p5 for letter by Best supporting the idea of having a high school; 5 May 1921, p5 for editorial citing the county school tax rate of 40 cents and the city rate of 75 cents and advocating merger with the county system; 19 Apr 1923, p5 for explanation of 1922 law requiring a high school; 31 May 1923, p5 and 14 June 1923, p7 for letters about the high school issue; 9 Oct 1924, p5 for text of speech by Best to Kiwanis Club describing the history of the Berea Graded School and the need for a high school in Berea; 27 Aug 1925; 7 Jan 1926; 28 Jan 1926; 4 Feb 1926 for bond issue vote; 17 Jun 1926; 26 Aug 1926 for Best assault; 2 Sep 1926 for Lamb indictment; 10 Feb 1927 for Best judgment against Lamb in damage suit; most of this entry was composed by Frances Moore.

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