Really Good Years

Written by Teresa Dennard.

Madeline Hart Shares her Story

Madeline Hart is 92 years of age. She may not be able to tell you what she’s having for supper tonight, but ask her to recall memories from her high school years and she can tell you anything you want to know. She graduated from Carthage High School in 1940 in an era where life was simple. As teenagers they didn’t have electronics for entertainment and smartphones to communicate. They talked and laughed and made lifelong friendships that are still in tact today. Madeline is one of only a handful left of the class of 1940 and she likes reminisce about the “good ole days.”

Four girls were best friends—Madeline Baker (Hart), Anna Clair Voorhies (Keeth), Elizabeth Ann Davis (Escoe) and Myrna Smith (Hook). They called themselves the Big Four and were inseparable. “Myrna moved to Carthage when we were in the 9th grade. She could drive and had access to a car,” recalls Madeline. “We would pile a dozen kids in her car and just ride around. I don’t know how we did it!”

They went to midnight movies for a quarter and had slumber parties every Friday night. All the mothers opened their homes and took turns having the girls over. “Elizabeth Ann lived in the house where Patsy Meck Insurance is now and my family lived next to her. We’d sit out on those brick steps (that are still there) and gab for hours. If we wanted to take off down the sidewalk to town in our pajamas, we did. A group of guys in the neighborhood called themselves the West End Buddies. The Davis boys, my brother K Baker, Buddy Bounds, George Young Bounds, Phillip Koonce, and three Boren boys made up the group. I never heard of any disagreement or anything amiss. They just loved being together.”

Madeline remembers not liking school too much, but she always wanted to make good grades. She remembers teachers like Sarah Ross who taught history and was a strict disciplinarian, Miss Jenny Mae Chadwick who was the study hall teacher and was also very strict, Mr. Clarence Lambrecht, the band director, Mrs. Hazel Neal who taught math, Mrs. Orita Morrison, who she was deathly afraid of, but later became good friends, and the Superintendent Mr. Q.M. Martin. Madeline was a majorette in the band and remembers wearing homemade uniforms. “The top was a sweater and the skirt was really short. We also wore white boots. Back then the colors were maroon and grey instead of red. Where the money came to buy those I don’t know.” Madeline was valedictorian of her class and received $25, which was the cost of tuition at SFA. Her mother, Mrs. Theo Porter, taught “expression” at school. “Mother had spent a year at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York when I was a freshman. She taught the kids their declamations and speeches and charged a quarter a lesson. That’s how she made a living for K and me after our daddy was killed.”

At the 50 year reunion mark, Madeline and classmate Anna Claire, organized the classmates and also put together a memory book. The prologue stated, “It was the best of times for us--the 78 seniors of Carthage High School. We were a young, footloose and fancy-free group eager to set forth on the road to adventure. For our parents, Superintendent Q.M. Martin and our teachers, who were wise in the ways of the world, 1940 was a time to worry about our future. They knew the winds of war were gathering overhead and that many would have to go to the battlefield.”

Throughout the booklet were excerpts from the school newspaper, The Carthaginian, that helped relive the history of their high school days. Some entries in the book:

·        The Carthage Bulldogs journeyed to Center Friday 27, to play for the District Championship. The Bulldogs were in a good spirit and felt confident that we would win.  (The game was lost)

·        The Bulldogs will lose some of their best players this year. They being: George Y. Bounds, Buddie Bounds, Alton Cromwell, Milton Payne and Vernon Berber. Also M.B. Thurman, Randall Hammons, Leroy Edge, Lawrence Dickerson, George Abernathy and B.W. Spurlock.

·        As we all know, Milton Payne was one of the main stays of last year. We know that he will be missed by the students and also the coaches, as he broke his leg in the last football game. He will be remembered as a “swell sport” and a grand fellow-worker.

·        Mr. Virgil Tillery and Mr. Rob Brown gave the football squad a very fine banquet. Tickets were $1. The menu was grapefruit, a plate lunch consisting of cranberry sauce, preserved peaches, chicken and dressing and potatoes and English peas, then mince meat pie with whip cream and coffee was served.

·        The musical organization of the institute of learning of Carthage, which is under the direction of Maestro Lambrecht, journeyed to the small town of Beckville to assist in the gigantic production of the Memorial Day celebration. The symphony Orchestra, which is noted over all East Texas for its soul, inspiring music, played a concert that was enjoyed by the multitudes, which crammed the little structure used as the site of the celebration.

·        A formal dance was given by Misses Madeline Baker, Elizabeth A. Davis, Anna C. Voorhies and Myrna Smith. Music was furnished by a combination electric victrola and radio. The dancing started with the Grand March and a John Paul Jones. During the latter part of the dance, the boys had to dance with balloons tied to their ankles while the girls had them tied to their wrists.

·        The “Termites” gave a dance Friday Night, January 5, at the Community House. Many of the C.H. lads and lassies went down to “shake a leg.” The girls reported that Termites are not such bad pests after all.

“I didn’t realize how successful and how much education so many of my classmates had until I read the reunion book. Of course, nearly all the men went to war and some of them were really high up officers,” says Madeline. Everyone who commented said the memories were good and the teachers outstanding. Other memories mentioned: “going downtown on our lunch hour, dances at the Community House, listening to Glen Miller and ‘In the Mood’, Jerry Long’s nicknames for everyone, Hooker’s Drug Store soda fountain, the epidemic of the ‘Seven Year Itch’, Melvin Hargraves playing ‘The Marine Hymn’ on his trumpet, marching at football games in the snow, hayrides on Grady Hooker Reid’s truck with ‘Miss Theo’ as our chaperone, laughing at Brother Garrett’s jokes and Madeline Hart’s crush on Nelson Eddy.”

“Without exception,” says Madeline, “my classmates seemed to have the same feel for our high school days that I did. They were just really good years.”