By Lynn Moncus: QCS Columnist
Recently, Bill Stratton gave me a postcard with a picture of the first large high school in our town, located on S. Third Street at the site on which Granger School now stands. His mother, Winnie Stratton, attended school there in 1918 and had saved that card among her treasures.
That school, also known at “The Castle,” burned in 1952 and was still very much in use until that disaster. After the brick high school was built on Fourth Street, the other became known as Third Street Elementary School. It also contained the only gymnasium in town until the “new gym” was build and continued to house high school shop, ag and some physical education classes until it burned. The south end of the large building was the home of primary through sixth grade and had its own small auditorium in which many of us learned to play in the “Toy Band” or to participate in small dramatic productions. The only part of the building remaining is the addition seen on Fourth Street. It was Tucumcari Junior High in the earlier times and contained grades seven and eight.
As I looked at that picture, many fond memories poured in because I was privileged to attend third and fourth grades there, and later, seventh and eighth grades. I can still remember sitting in the third grade class of Miss Gertrude Montgomery and can hear her burst into song when tension was building. Everyone joined in and began to relax until the next upset would occur. Although she was fairly strict, she made learning a lot of fun and saw that we made all the progress possible. She also gave us three chances to act inappropriately before applying the paddle and made believers out of most of us very early on because we weren’t eager to count all the way to three.
Such wonderful teachers didn’t have to bother to tell us to use our “indoor voices” or to recommend we take “time out.” They just took care of discipline problems and held our attention so we could learn. Of course, they knew our parents were on their side and would help correct our behavior without having to send us somewhere for “behavior modification.” Teachers taught, students learned and parents applauded.
Many of you reading this will recall your years spent in that school and can tell great stories about your experience. We can remember attending the county and district basketball tournaments in the gym and being able to visit with friends from the schools involved. Some of us also had our eighth-grade graduation ceremonies in that gym. All important activities centered around that school until the high school was built on Fourth Street in 1932. Our parents used to tell about their years at that first high school and were eager to let us know we were following some of their traditions. We had a sense of continuity as we shared our experiences with each other.
If any younger people happen to listen to stories during Rattler Reunion, they will hear many told about Central, Four Points and Third Street and even more about Tucumcari High School on Fourth Street. ‘Tis great fun to recall those early years and to be able to look at some of the pictures of the schools in order to be able to point to various rooms in which memorable events occurred. Our schools and teachers were real treasures and continue to bring us together each August.