Townley Jr. High School: A backward look and a harsh ending
by Ruth Baker
Apr 01, 2012 | 1316 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ruth Baker
Ruth Baker
slideshow
I was the youngest of 12 children who lived on a 250-acre farm two miles out of Townley on Highway 102. I began attending Townley School in 1933.

There were three large underground mines in a three mile radius of Townley. Europeans poured into the area to work in the coal mines.

Townley School was a large two-story white building built on top of the hill overlooking the town. The school taught grades 1-11.

There was a train that students could catch to go to the high school in Jasper. The ones out in the surrounding rural area had little chance of going to high school.

The length of walking from the outer fringes was too much for most children. When the day of school buses came, it opened doors of opportunity for more students to further their education.

When I was a student, the teachers took each child as far as they were capable of going. We were challenged to stretch our goals and study to meet them.

The principal was severe and authoritative, but he had to be to keep a semblance of order so that teaching could be done. He was a great math teacher and had an excelled class for the ones who were moving ahead. I remember the challenge of algebra in the 8th grade.

The large school on the hill was replaced by a modern building down in the town. It burned not long after our move. The cause was the coal heaters placed too close to the walls. It was replaced.

The one in use now is the third school in the same spot. My son attended the second building in late 40’s and early 50’s. He left there a strong student and had a good career with Alabama Power Company.

I taught at Townley School for 14 years. I helped organize the academic tournaments in Walker County. I knew these children, their parents, and their home life. I used this knowledge to fill the gaps in study habits and subject matter that they needed in order to excel not only here but in their high school experience.

It was in these teaching years that I was named “Alabama’s Favorite Teacher, 1980.” This was the last year for this award. In 1982, I was named “Alabama’s Teacher of the Year.” I was finalist in “Jacksonville’s Teacher Hall of Fame.” BPW honored me as “Woman Ahievement” both locally and District. “Mother of the Year” followed and then three Legislative Awards. Why am I listing these? Because it reflects the job I was allowed to do in Townley School with total support for my innovative teaching procedures by faculty and principal.

Drummond Coal Company moved us out of the town because of the strip mining which took our property. My husband had had a massive heart attack and open-heart surgery which was not successful. He lived 22 years as a semi-invalid. We moved to Smith Lake where retired men would take him out for a short period to fish while I was at work and working at night and weekends in Graduate School.

After his death, I moved back to Jasper. After marrying again, we built a lovely home in Townley and moved back to my roots.

Townley School has the total respect and support of the community. It is one of the best-kept secrets in Walker County. Students going from this small town have no problems carrying honors in the high school and college studies. The campus is a beehive of activities with a strong principal in charge and good, quality teachers in the classrooms. The parents volunteer in many areas in order to give the teachers full time for instruction. All special events are well attended and fully supported.

If a ratio were taken of the number of leaders in every area of life who had their beginning in Townley School, it would be astonishing. Two National Congressmen were Townley students, Congressman Tom Bevill and Congressman Carter Manasco.

Mickey Blackwell became an Aeronautical Engineer and has become the leader of Boeing in Atlanta, Georgia. Jerry Guthrie serves as Tax Commissioner of Walker County at the present. Jasper has two practicing physicians who were Townley students. There are too many teachers in the public schools to list.

And the list goes on.

Townley School has always stood for excellence and I do not see this changing in the near future. With the completion of Interstate 22, the artery for industry broadens. Many are returning and building nice homes on family lands. The interchanges of the highway brings industry. Hwy. 102 is a direct artery to the Interstate. All of these affect a school and its enrollment. I see a bright future gone.

The recent closing put our children on long bus rides to various schools. Hearts are broken and a town killed. That is the simple truth.