Greenville High School 50 years ago
By Carter E. Anthony
Three of a seven part series
Mr. Painter asked me to come to his office the first day to cover a few things and then he would introduce me to my 8 a.m. Business Math class. All of the Greenville schools, black and white were going through a painful transition, integration, which had been ordered by the Federal Courts.
To ease the transition it had been mutually agreed upon by school leaders that it would be a gradual process. A few black students had elected to transfer to GHS and a few teachers were doing “Team Teaching.” Team Teaching consisted of a white teacher and a black teacher in the classroom at the same time.
Actually I was a little nervous walking back into the west side door from the parking lot as I had done so many times during my junior and senior high school days. When I joined the GHS Class of 1963 in the seventh grade in the fall of 1957, seventh through ninth grades occupied the west wing of the school. Tenth through twelfth grades occupied the east wing.
In 1968, when I came back the seventh and eighth grades were in the new Junior High School and ninth through twelfth grades were still in the high school. Classroom assignments were not as clear cut as before.
As I walked up to the west wing door, I stopped, looked up at the entrance and thought, “This ought to be interesting. Let’s see how this turns out”.
Mr. Painter introduced me to Dr. John Green, a native of Greenville, whose family owned one of the funeral homes there. His educational credentials were impeccable. He had earned advanced math degrees from the University of Chicago and had taught college math. (He preferred Mr. Green rather than Dr. Green.)
In 1967, he had returned to Greenville to help his aging family with the funeral home and he had been recruited to help with the integration process in GHS. He was to sit in on the classes that I taught and I was to sit in on his classes. Obviously he taught the upper level algebra classes. He was a brilliant mathematician and he was in a suit every day.
Business Math was easy to teach and offered such practical real world lessons like balancing a checkbook, buying insurance, financing a home, etc. There were some really bright students there that could have been in Algebra I.
Since teaching the two subjects I’ve had a mental battle as to which is more important. Business Math has real life applications. Algebra I helps prepare students for Algebra II and more advanced math classes.
There were two young ladies, Fay and Molly, who sat on the front row, one of which could not be stumped on any math question and the other who was close behind.
There were others who should have paid more attention to it because of the practical applications later in life. (As an aside, in the mid-90s I was asked to teach a freshman Business Math class in the business school at UAB. The text indicated the course was simply an advanced class from the ninth grade. One hundred freshmen with three tests per semester for $1,500 as an adjunct did not interest me much.)
One of the black students had transferred into my class. She was a very shy young lady who was always perfectly dressed with a pretty bow in her hair. She spoke when spoken to but otherwise did her homework and took her tests with passing grades. She was a sweet young lady and a fine student.
I knew her family because her dad was one of our regular customers at George McCrory’s during my days there.
Surprisingly, in ninth grade math there was a senior boy, Johnny, who just wanted a passing grade and to get out of school. Each morning as class started I could see him driving into the parking lot.
After several mornings of his walking in at 8:15, I suggested he adjust his morning schedule in an effort to get to class on time. He said, “Yes sir” and was late again the next day. As he was sent out in the hall Mr. Painter walked by and asked us both to come to his office.
When Mr. Painter heard the story he asked the young man if he would like a three day suspension or a paddling from me. Johnny looked at me and said, “If I get suspended for three days my dad will whip me so I’ll take the paddling from Mr. Anthony.” And so he did and Mr. Painter explained the next day that Johnny had opted for another class. I hope the statute of limitations for corporal punishment has expired.