The following article by David Strange originally appeared in The Courier-Journal on 16 Mar 2014. It is archived here with additional information for your reading enjoyment.
I guess a measure of a person being really old is when he can talk about something and needs to clarify that he isn't talking about just the old something or other; he means the one before that. The old, OLD one.
That is how I feel now as I tell you about the original Shepherdsville High School building. NOT the old one that was replaced in 1970 with the modern Bullitt Central High School; but the old, OLD one that sat across the parking lot, near the railroad tracks, where a Park'n TARC lot is now.
Let me mention here that the measure of old and new is completely different here in America than, say, in Europe. In America, 100 years is quite a long time. In Europe, well, my brother was once told to meet some friends at a place called "the new well" in Germany. Once there, he learned that the "new" well was actually over 500 years old. The "old" well was a little further down the road.
With that said, let me tell you about the old, old Shepherdsville High School.
That building, built in 1905, was apparently the first public high school in Bullitt County. In fact, an early photo (shown here) calls it the "Bullitt County High School."
Times, and expectations, were so different back then. Let me show you a quote from a 1918 "Bullitt Booster" booklet that was praising the school as being a modern facility. Pay attention now, children, because the heart of this particular story is in the details of that quote.
My, how times have changed. Where does one start in comparing such a school back then to one of the modern schools of today?
Of all the points made, and that could be discussed today, one that caught my attention was that "boarding houses" for high school were needed. But in those days just one century ago, travel was far more restricted than today. We complain about pot holes in our roads today, but a century ago there were hardly roads at all, at least in rural America. County roads were little more than dirt and maybe a little gravel, and travel was often still by horseback and wagon. If you were wealthy enough, you might have a car "for city driving." By 1918, WWI had speeded up advancement in automobiles. But lack of good roads still kept most people in their local communities. That's a major reason why the lower grade, one-room community schools were so needed all around the country.
Going to high school thus presented an even tougher challenge for some students than the studies. Students who lived just five miles or so from school could have a really serious problem getting to school every day. So, especially in winter and times of high water, students who wanted education bad enough might have to stay in town, "boarding" with some family or stranger.
But SHS was advanced for its day. As early as 1914, it was among the first schools to offer both boys and girls basketball teams. I'll have to tell you about those teams another time. By 1918 it had electric lights and new, single desks. But there was no lunch room (kids and teachers brought lunch in a tin or sack), and no indoor plumbing.
The old, old SHS was replaced in 1938 with a new, much bigger building that most of us call the old school, and that one was replaced in turn in 1970 with the current Bullitt Central High School when three county schools were consolidated into one.
The old, old building held on for many more years, used for a while for elementary school classes, among other things, and used at the end of its life for a clothes closet and storage. It was finally torn down in July 1980, used for a fire-fighting practice exercise. Looking back, it's a wonder that it didn't burn down long before, like others had. The old building had oiled-wood floors and a furnace in the stairway, making it both a tinderbox and a fire trap.
Lynn Eddington fondly remembers the sliding-board fire escape in the building. The teacher would sometimes allow the students to end the day by sliding down the sheet metal escape from their second floor classroom window. Something that would never be allowed today. In fact, Lynn remembers cutting herself almost every time on the metal edges, but that it was still a thrill.
My, how times have changed. The Bullitt County public school system can now rightly boast of some of the most technologically advanced and attractive school buildings in the region, with over 13,000 students, and growing positive reputation.
As could the old, old Shepherdsville High School in 1918 with its maybe 70-student population, modern four-room school and gym, plus addition, local boarding houses, moral environment, ...and even electricity.
"Modern," as you might guess, is an ever-evolving concept.
More S.H.S. Pictures
Below is an satellite image insert from Google showing the location of the Old, Old S.H.S. (S) which was demolished in 1980, the nearer Old S.H.S. (H) which was demolished in 1999, and the Memorial Auditorium/Gymnasium (G) which burned in 1966. Also shown are the Bullitt County Courthouse (A), the Judicial Center where the Circuit Clerk's office is located (B), the County Clerk's Office where deeds and marriage records are found (C), and the Ridgway Library which contains an excellent genealogy room (D). You can use the arrows in the upper left corner to move the image, or use the plus and minus signs to zoom in or out. You may also put the cursor on the map and drag the image to where you want it.
Copyright 2014 by David Strange, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.