The Bullitt County History Museum


The following article by David Strange was originally published on 24 Jul 2016.

So, I ask you. What does "GED" stand for?

I was surprised recently when I was given several different answers, even from official sources. Education web sites that I checked never clearly said. They just used "GED."

But most everyone knows what it is. Whether called "General Education Diploma," "General Equivalency Diploma," "General Education Degree," or "General Education Development" (according to Wikipedia, what the initials originally stood for), GED programs offer a way for those who, for whatever reason, did not graduate high school to earn a certificate of graduation.

Wavy Mayes, age 15

Wavy Mayes, Master Mason

Wavy Mayes, Today

GED programs generally develop and measure proficiency is science, mathematics, social studies, reading, and writing. A series of exams is used to help participants proceed through the process.

Longtime Bullitt County resident, Wavy Mayes, is a much respected and beloved member of the county.

He is also remembered as the first graduate of the Bullitt County GED program back in 1965.

Wavy was born in 1933 to a poor family in a poor coal-mining community in Muhlenberg County in western Kentucky. His father was a coal miner who suffered from black lung disease (a disease of the lungs that is caused by inhaling coal dust). It was a hard life for a young boy and siblings to grow up in, not to mention the struggles of the parents themselves.

Wavy didn't get to finish high school when he was a boy. Despite various family difficulties and needs, Wavy managed to complete the ninth grade in 1949 at Hughes Kirk High School by selling his only possession, his shotgun, for $15 to buy his school books. But when tenth grade came along, he had nothing else to sell, so he had to drop out of school. He would have graduated in 1952.

So at 16 years old, along with working a few odd jobs, Wavy took a job on an ice delivery truck for a dollar a day. At 17, he moved to Chicago in search of work, where he managed to get on at a machine shop, learning that trade. After five years there, Wavy came back to Kentucky, settling in Bullitt County with a family of his own, and getting a job in Louisville's new General Electric Appliance Park. When Wavy was laid off from GE in 1961 (a too-common occurrence in those days), friends helped him get a job with Republic Welding (later, Republic Diesel). Wavy worked there for 35 years, serving in outside sales for the last 24 years of that time until he retired. "It was a good job," he said.

But back to the GED. Wavy had become very active in the fraternal order of Masons in Shepherdsville. As he progressed in leadership positions in that organization, he became more aware of his need for more education. Seeing that he would likely become "Master" (similar to president or chairman) of the lodge, he set a goal to obtain his GED before taking on that responsibility.

So in September of '65, Wavy entered the new Bullitt County GED program, taking an entrance exam to assess his needs compared to what he had learned himself over the years. At that time, it was a 13-week course, roughly September through December. Classes were held at the old Shepherdsville High School. Wavy remembers fellow classmates included "the Sears boys" (maybe all four; Ed, Shelby, Clayton & James), and Nancy Armstrong. There were about 25-30 students in all. As Wavy remembers it, the courses were very tough, but he thinks every student graduated.

The normal next step would have been to wait for the next GED final exam, that was scheduled to be given at the University of Louisville. But you see, Wavy was, and always will be, an avid University of Kentucky fan. Learning that the GED examination would be offered down at Elizabethtown Community College (at that time an extension of U of K), Wavy drove down and took the exam there.

The rest, as they say, is history. Wavy received his GED certificate on February 17, 1966. He became Master of his Masonic Lodge in 1967. He has been a key figure of that lodge ever since.

He says his GED education helped him a lot in that, as well as in his work career and in life.

The Bullitt County GED program has evolved over the years since then. Jim Boswell served in the program in the local public schools for twenty years. Jim and his staff struggled through most of those years with funding and expanding the program, obtaining grants and working with as many as 28 other counties. In the period from 1991 to 2007, the program graduated 2,014 who would have not otherwise had a high school diploma.

Shortly after Jim Boswell retired in 2010, the GED program was transferred to the local college adult education system. More information about the current GED program in Bullitt County can be found on Facebook at "Bullitt County Adult Education" or by calling the Adult Education Center at 502-213-7979.

Whatever "GED" stands for, we all know that it stands for improvement.

Copyright 2016 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.

The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 08 Sep 2018 . Page URL: