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Former student shares Bernard School memories
Bernard School, Bonner.jpg

Black History Month, combined with the preservation of old Bernard School, is prompting memories of days gone by from individuals who attended there.

“I remember the principal,” said Robert Bonner, whom everyone called Bub. “We called him Professor Woods. When you were sent to his office, you knew what the punishment was going to be. He’d swat your hand with a ruler. It worked. Everybody respected him.”

Featured in an issue of the Southern Standard next week will be an interview with another former student of Bernard School. 

Woods’ effective discipline was combined with friendly teachers.

“My favorite teacher was Ella Gwyn,” said Bonner. “We got attached to our teachers back then. It made it difficult to move onto the next grade. We loved our teachers. My favorite subjects were arithmetic and spelling.” 

Football was the preferred sport of the day and for a very good reason.

“We all played football,” said Bonner. “There were no other sports. Football was it so everyone played football. The school’s colors were purple and gold. I’m not sure why those colors were chosen.” 

Bonner remembers his best friends in school were Harrison “Son” Biles, Leroy Ramsey and Dick Pepper. 

“I didn’t get to graduate high school,” said Bonner. “I had to leave school in the 10th grade and go to work. I had to earn money to help support my family. A lot of boys did back then.” 

He also remembers when the school burned.

“Me and my brother, Frank, were playing and we heard a big boom,” said Bonner. “It must have been the chemical room at the school exploding when the fire got to it. That was in the early 1940s sometime. Maybe 1941. It was a big boom. Sounded like a bomb going off. I remember wondering if the war had come to McMinnville. I was just a kid and didn’t know any better.” 

To honor February as Black History Month, officials with the Black History Museum of Warren County are sponsoring a 2020 Black History Month Town Hall meeting at Magness Library beginning at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29. At 10 a.m., local authors Wayne R. Wolford and Mickey Gwyn will be offering a book signing.