Monday, November 18, 2019


By Ronald James Caldwell, Ph.D.,
Professor of Historty, Emeritus,
Jacksonville State University,
Jacksonville, Alabama,

November 18, 2019


Dedicated to the memory

of Mr. James E. Hall,
Principal of Blount Junior High School,


The Blount Junior High School building, in Pensacola, Florida, has been demolished. It was razed a few years ago to make way for houses to be built on individual lots of the old property. 

The school was known officially by four different names:  the J.B. Lockey Grammar School, 1916-1938 (grades Five-Eight); the J.B. Lockey Junior High Schoool, 1938-1941 (grades Seven-Nine); the W.A. Blount Junior High School, 1941-1969 (grades Seven-Nine); the W.A. Blount Middle School, 1969-1980 (grades Six-Eight). 

At its height, in the years of the 1950s, the school enrolled 1,200 students. Along the way, there were thousands of young men and women from the west side of Pensacola who enjoyed a large slice of their educations within its expansive brick walls. I was one of those lucky ones. Although the physical plant is now gone, the school lives on in the hearts and minds of countless men and women whose lives were profoundly affected by it. We, the fortunate children of Lockey-Blount, should not let the memory of our old home place disappear. The following is my contribution to keeping this special place alive. It is my memoir of Blount Junior High School. I offer it as an encouragement to other alumni to record their memories of our beloved old school. 

When I came along, Blount offered three grades, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth. I attended all three years, from September 1955 to June of 1958. I was born in Pensacola, in the old Maternity Hospital, on north Palafox Street, to be exact, in 1943. For my first twenty-one years, I lived in my family home in Pensacola, on the corner of Barrancas Avenue and Cypress Street, a stone's throw from Bayou Chico. The house was only a few short blocks from Sanders Beach. From 1949 to 1955 I attended Hallmark School, from First through Sixth grades. I was at Blount from 1955 to 1958, then at the Pensacola High School from 1958 to 1961.

I will divide this memoir into three parts:

I. History of Blount to 1955

II. My Memories of Blount, 1955-1958

III. History of Blount after 1958

TO 1955

Talk about a new school on the west side of Pensacola began in 1914 as a result of overcrowding in the existing schools. Pensacola's exploding population growth in recent years had overwhelmed the few small school buildings that had started to appear in the 1870s. The Board of Public Instruction could hardly keep up with the demand for schoolroom space. In 1900, a four-room school housing grades One through Four had been constructed on Garden Street between Spring and Reus (later called old Hallmark School). The Pensacola High School was in the old Public School Number 1, on Lee Square. It served grades Nine through Twelve. It graduated its first class of seniors in 1905 under its first principal, Professor Joseph B. Lockey. Meanwhile, population kept streaming into the city.

No one doubted the need for a new school. By early 1915, the school board was in agreement to proceed with building. By the end of June, the board had hired local architect Walker Willis to design the new school. They wanted a structure large enough for 500 students, and one that could be enlarged. Willis got to work immediately on the new plans. (PNJ July 2, 1915).

A couple of weeks after getting the contract, Willis started advertising in the local newspaper for bids of construction. He set a date of August 2, 1915, for submission, at his office, No. 369 of the Blount Building.

Then came the hard part, where to locate the building. Much of the western side of Pensacola was called the Maxent Tract and was owned by the Maxent Land Company. It had an available block bounded by Gregory Street on the north, Chase Street on the south, C Street on the east and D Street on the west. The block was approximately 2.6 acres. For many people in downtown and the "North Hill" areas of Pensacola this site presented two problems. One, it was quite a distance, nearly a mile, from Palafox Street. More importantly, it was on the edge of a large African American section of town, roughly west of De Villers Street and north of Gregory Street. In fact, the few people then living on the block were "Negroes" and there were others on adjacent streets. 

The choosing of a new site caused quite a stir in Pensacola. When word spread of the likely choice of Chase/Gregory/C/D Streets, a hundred people descended on the school board meeting of July 30, 1915. To say a lively discussion ensued would be an understatement. One has to bear in mind this was the height of Jim Crow. A virulent, strong racism permeated almost every aspect of life in the South at the time. Pensacola was no exception. Much of life at the time was defined by race and African Americans were subjected to a humiliating second-class citizenship. Schools were strictly segregated with "coloreds" relegated to smaller and poorer ones. Somehow school board chairman J. H. Sherrill managed to keep order in the meeting as some people loudly protested the suggested site and demanded instead the renovations of exiting buildings near downtown as others called for sites nearer North Hill for the new school. The unspoken meaning of it all was to keep the new school from being too close to the large African American neighborhood to the west of North Hill and in fact challenging the very notion of segregation. 

Apparently Sherrill was the key to deciding on the site. He was resolved to have the school located in the Maxent block. Shortly after the contentious school board meeting of July 30, the board met again and selected the Maxent block in defiance of the public protests. The reason the board settled on the block was that it was simply the best choice. Their decision had nothing to do with racism one way or another. The board agreed to pay the Maxent Land Co. $7,000 for the land. On August 2, the bids were submitted to architect Willis. The low bid came in from the S. F. Fulghum Company, at $17,452. (PNJ Aug. 4, 1915). Thus the new school cost less than $25,000 for land and building. 

The board may have been ready to move on, but some infuriated opponents of the site were far from ready to give in. On August 6, three prominent Pensacolians went to court and got a temporary injunction to keep the school board from buying the Maxent block. They were E.W. Patterson, H.O. Anson, and Max J. Kahn. Among their reasons, the men wrote:

"Only two blocks away is a school for colored children and so used by them exclusively, and very near is a colored church--so situated that the means of access are such as to be impossible to avoid comingling, or at least be thrown together, and invite disagreements, friction, objectionable comfort and conflict..." (PNJ Aug. 7, 1915)

At least, in 1915, racism in Pensacola was right out front. A few days later, yet another group of irate, prominent local men brought suit in court asking for a restraining order against the board's purchasing the Maxent block. They were Morris Bear, R.M. Cary, Harry Kahn, and Walter White. Their excuse was that the board had no authority to borrow the money needed for the construction. This group tried to disguise the racism but everyone knew what was at stake. 

Something happened to end these two suits, but we do not know what it was from the record. They were either dismissed by the judge or were withdrawn. At any rate, the school board ignored the challenges and charged right ahead with its plans to build a new school on the Maxent block. It bought the land and started the construction work immediately. As if they could not do it fast enough, contractor Fulghum built the new school in less than four months time, between September and December of 1915, a remarkable accomplishment for this relatively large brick structure. In fact, the bulk of the construction was done in just two months, September-November. 

(Main entrance of the old Lockey School as it appeared in August 2008. Even in this near-ruinous state, the building maintained an impressive but simple, classical elegance. Author's photo.)

By the start of 1916, the school was all finished, fully furnished, and ready to greet the hundreds of students patiently awaiting their gleaming new home. The new building was by far the grandest school structure yet built in Pensacola, bypassing the earlier, rather rickety wooden structures, none of which has been preserved. In fact, this structure started a building boom of great brick schools in Pensacola. There would be numerous ones to come. Willis, the architect, designed many of them and enjoyed changing styles. After the simple classical form of Lockey (the local newspaper called it "Colonial Style"), he designed a collegiate Gothic high school (1921), and Renaissance Revival Hallmark (1928), all vastly different architectural styles.

In December of 1915, the school board resolved to name the new school for Joseph Byrne Lockey (pronounced Lock-key), the first principal of the Pensacola High School. He served as principal from 1904 to 1908 when he was commonly called "Professor Lockey." The school met in old School Number One (built 1886) on the east side of Lee Square, on North Hill. He virtually created the high school (grades Nine to Twelve) and presided over its first graduating class, in 1905. The school board officially named the new school The Joseph B. Lockey Grammar School.

(Photo from PNJ, April 2, 1914.)

Lockey was born in Campbellton, Florida, February 2, 1877. A graduate of the University of Nashville, in 1902, he came to Pensacola to create a new senior high school. He served as principal of the Pensacola Senior High School from 1904 to 1908. By all accounts he was an exceptional educator, greatly admired and respected by students and townspeople alike. Upon leaving Pensacola, he earned a Master's degree at Columbia University. For five years he worked developing public schools in Peru. He returned to Pensacola for a visit in 1914 and was showered with attention and praise from a grateful town. No doubt, this joyous reception spurred the school board to name the new school for him, a man who had contributed so much to the fledgling public schools of Pensacola. He went on to get a Ph.D. in History from Columbia and to become head of the History department of the University of California at Los Angeles. He was an authority on Florida history and on Latin American history. He died on September 24, 1946, and was buried in Chipley, Florida.

Not everyone was happy with the name of the new school. On January 16, 1916, the local newspaper published a letter to the editor by W. Chipley Jones who wrote:  "But Escambia county has been served in the past, and is still being served, by educators infinitely more deserving of the school board's encomium and recognition than is Professor Lockey, which services, as stated above, covered but the brief period of about three years." Jones went on that the best choice would have been James M. Tate, a long-time, beloved educator in the rural area north of Pensacola. In fact, a few years later, a school was built at Gonzalez and named the James M. Tate School. My mother, Gladys Enfinger, attended high school there in the 1930's.

The naming of the new school in 1915 for a local person prominent in education started a trend that was to last for years replacing the old school numbering system.

In the Fall of 1915, the 140 students of the new school were housed in the old Classical School building on north Palafox Street. With the new building finished and the name chosen, in December of 1915, the school board announced the dedication for January 7, 1916. This was postponed to Friday, January 14, 1916. An official dedication ceremony was held at the school at 3:00 p.m. on that day. The architect, Willis, the school board, the faculty, and hundreds of townspeople joined the students for a joyous celebration featuring musical selections and speeches along with tours of the beautiful and grand new building.

The new school had nine classrooms of which five were presently occupied. There was an office for the principal, a teachers' work room, lavatories upstairs and down, cloak rooms, and drinking fountains. The building was served by electricity and gas and was heated by a steam boiler fired by coal. Basketball and tennis courts were ready behind the building. 

Lockey was what we would now call a "middle school." It housed grades Five to Eight. Children in grades One to Four would go to School No. 74, at Garden and Spring Streets, later named Hallmark School. Nine to Twelve would go to Pensacola High School, on Lee Square. At its opening it had five classes, two in grade Five, one each in grades Six to Eight. The first principal was Mrs. W.H. Crawford. She served until 1921 when she became the first principal of the new P.K. Yonge School on north Palafox Street. The first teachers at Lockey were Mrs. Crawford, who also taught Eighth grace, Mrs. Anna K. Martin, Miss Emma Ellis, Miss Helen Sandusky, and Miss Goldine Jacoby. As of January 1916, the 140 students and 5 faculty of the new school settled in to finish the school year amidst the wonder of their state-of-the-art new surroundings. (PNJ January 15, 1916). Mrs. W.H. Crawford served as principal of P.K. Yonge school from 1921 to 1951 when she retired. She died on April 2, 1971, at the age of 87.

Mrs. Crawford was the perfect choice as the inaugural principal of the new school. Among her accomplishments at Lockey was the start of the lunch program of the public schools. In the early days, there were no school lunch rooms as schools did not provide meals. Students either brought their lunches to school or, if they lived close enough, went home for lunch. In her first year, a boy fainted at school from hunger whereupon Mrs. Crawford learned that numerous students were going without lunch, some without breakfast too. She began by making sandwiches which she sold, for a small amount, from a little table in the hall. Soon, the teachers joined in. In winter, she added hot chocolate and soup, all at nominal cost to the students. From this modest beginning at Lockey, the school lunch program gradually developed in the Pensacola schools so that by the 1940s schools commonly had kitchens that prepared and served hot lunches to the children for small charges, typically five cents. It all started with Mrs. Crawford and Lockey School, in 1916. (PNJ September 17, 1960)

(Photo of Mrs. W.H. Crawford, PNJ September 17, 1960)

As people continued to pour into Pensacola, the west side of town grew rapidly in the 1920s and 1930s. It was the "working class" side as opposed to the more affluent North Hill and East Hill areas. The people on the western parts of town were mostly laborers, workers, clerks, salesmen, commercial fishermen, drivers, policemen, firemen, teachers, nurses, and the like. Enrollment at Lockey reflected this explosive growth. From 140 students(4 grades, 5-8) in 1916, it rose to 724 in 1939 (three grades, 7-9). 

When Mrs. Crawford left in 1921, Miss Sue Yant was appointed principal of the J.B. Lockey Grammar School. In 1924, Mrs. J. C. Lee served as principal of Lockey School, a post she would hold for the next twenty years. Mrs. Lee was the longest-serving principal in the history of Lockey-Blount.

(Mrs. J. C. Lee, PNJ, October 26, 1940)

By the mid-1930s, Lockey's student body had outgrown the original building with its nine classrooms and there was pressing need for expansion. However, in the midst of the Great Depression of the 1930s, there was no money for this. The school board struggled just to keep open the existing schools.

The fatal flaw of Lockey School was its small land space, 2.6 acres, with no possibility of expansion. Private houses faced the school block on all four sides. In the early days of schools, there were few organized sports so schools did not need much land space. A "play ground" was about all that was necessary. By the early 1920s, however, schools were developing team sports and playing scheduled matches with other schools. The first sports match between Lockey and Clubbs was in 1922. There grew a need for space for football fields, baseball diamonds, basketball courts, tracks and the like, especially for middle and high schools. Lockey simply did not have the space and would not have the space. What the school board needed to do was to find a much larger land space for a middle school on the west side of Pensacola but this was not possible under the economic conditions of the 1930s.

Then stepped in the federal government. F.D.R.'s New Deal offered a myriad of programs to help local governments deal with issues beyond local means. In 1937, the Public Works Administration made an offer to the school board it could not refuse. The catch was that the offer was to build and renovate buildings, not to buy new land. The PWA offered the Escambia School Board a total of $764,681, an breath-taking fortune in the dark Depression days of 1937. The money would be to build and renovate seven school buildings in the district. The PWA offered to pay 45% of this out-of-pocket, that is, out of Uncle Sam's pocket. It was a gift of the federal government. The other 55% would be left to cover bonds that the school board would issue and repay at modest interest. Naturally, the board jumped at the offer. What it meant though, was that Lockey school building would be greatly expanded but not the school ground. The school board really had not choice. It did not have the money to buy a new site for Lockey and it could not turn down a dream gift of the federal government. Ironically, though, in the long run the deal spelled the doom of Lockey school, but that was something hardly anyone considered in 1937.

On January 6, 1938, the school board let the first contract for expansion of Lockey school. Local architects Yonge and Hart designed the expansion and made it in keeping with the 1915 building, that is, in simplified classical, or "colonial" style. Construction was done in the year 1938 by the F.R. (Forney Rutledge) Dauguette Company at a cost of $104,472.12 (four times the cost of the land and the original building in 1915). (PNJ February 13, 1939) Dauguette was a general contractor of building construction in Jacksonville, Alabama. He was the son of Clarence Daugette, president of the state college in Jacksonville AL, and grandson of General John Forney, C.S.A., of Jacksnville AL.

The new construction dwarfed the old building as well as the lot. It went around three sides of the block. From the original building, there was a long expansion southward along "C" Street. Facing south along Chase Street, from "C" to "D" Streets was a long facade with two imposing entrances flanking an auditorium. The auditorium had six large, two-story windows facing south. Around on the west side, on "D" Street, the new wing had numerous classrooms upstairs and down. The extension on "D" Street went half way up the block. This left as open space, the edge of Gregory Street and the northern half of "D" Street.

By my count, the new construction provided 24 new classrooms and a spacious two-story high auditorium seating between 600 and 700 people. The auditorium had graduated seating and featured a large hardwood stage fronted by a heavy, dark curtain (blue as I recall).

(Photo in PNJ, February 13, 1939. On the right is the "C" Street facade with the original building in the distance. On the left is the Chase Street side showing the two entrances and the auditorium between.)

(The Chase Street facade in ruinous state,  2008, 28 years after the building was abandoned. The entrances were still impressive as were the six tall (boarded) windows of the auditorium. Author's photo, August 2008)

(Chase Street facade on right and "D" Street facade on left as they appeared in 2008. Author's photo, August 2008)

The new building was dedicated in a formal ceremony at the school on February 13, 1939. Judge R. Pope Reese presided as the authorities of the Public Works Administration handed over the keys to an elated school board. 

In 1938, the board designated Lockey as a junior high school and it became officially known as The Joseph B. Lockey Junior High School. It housed grades Seven, Eight, and Nine.

On August 5, 1941, the Escambia school board, under the chairmanship of Oliver J. Semmes, suddenly changed the name of Lockey school to The W. A. Blount Junior High School, apparently on the request of Semmes. There was no announcement in advance, no chance of public discussion and input. If the first choosing of a name caused a stir in 1915, the name change in 1941 provoked an outcry. The reason for the name change was not clear. On November 18, 1941, the Parent Teacher Association of the school met and resolved to oppose the change. According to the newspaper report, "They charged that the change had been made arbitrarily by 'one man' [Semmes] who had not considered 'the likes and dislikes' in the matter of the school patrons." (PNJ Nov. 19, 1941). The PTA formed a committee of eleven people to descend on the next board meeting and demand the restoration of the old name.

According to the newspaper, in order for the board to get the federal government money, it had to abide by federal rules that a school could not be named for a living person. Lockey was still very much alive in 1937-39 (he died in 1946). For a while, during construction, the board usually referred to the school as the Chase Street Junior High School, so as not to offend the feds. However, the board changed the name two and a half years after the new building was finished and federal authorities had presented the new construction to the school board. The PTA pointed out that the bonds for the school were solid and the board had no obligation left to abide by federal rules. To the PTA, there was no justification for changing the name at all and certainly not so long after federal rules had expired.

Semmes replied in the newspaper:  "Under the terms of the agreement entered into with the government by which the school board received funds with which to build the new junior high schools and other schools throughout the county, it was stipulated by the government authorities that no building should be named in honor of any person now living, So upon the completion of some of the schools it was necessary to make a change in the existing names, for instance the Allie Yniestra school was called by another name, as the Lockey school was known as the west Chase Street junior high school." (PNJ Nov. 23, 1941)

There were several problems with the school board's explanation of the name change. In the first place, the Allie Yniestra school retained its name throughout the 1930s and 40s. Its name was never changed. Miss Allie Yniestra died in March of 1941, more than two years after the federal projects ended. By its own reasoning, the board was in violation of the rules between February of 1939 and March of 1941. In the second place, the board never officially changed the name of the Lockey school during the federal project although it commonly referred to the school as "the Chase Street junior high." To change the name two and a half years after the federal authorities were involved seems a stretch. The federal government had no role in the county public schools after the completion of the PWA projects in early 1939. 

All these years later, one can only wonder at the real reasons for the name change. Perhaps it had to do with local politics. Joseph B. Lockey never married. He had not lived in Pensacola since 1908. He had no "constituency" to defend his name. William A. Blount, on the other hand, had numerous descendants of prominence in Pensacola. Interesting to note that Oliver J. Semmes now has a school named for him in Pensacola. 

Thus, the board's name change seems dubious to us today. If it were really important to the federal authorities, why did not the board change the school name before or during the federal involvement in the construction projects of 1938 and early 1939? What was the point of changing names long after the projects were finished? Too, why was the name change rushed through the board without a chance of public input?

This is not to say that William A. Blount (1851-1921) was not a worthy namesake. He certainly was important to the development of Pensacola, particularly to the schools. Blount was one of the most prominent civic leaders of the city in its great boom period of 1880-1920. He held many positions of public leadership including years on the school board. He served in the Florida state senate where he sponsored bills to expand public education. Thus, the protests about the name change had nothing to do with the new name. It was just that parents and students saw no good reason to change the old name.

(W.A. Blount, photo from Pensapedia)

Following Mrs. J.C. Lee as principal, the school board appointed Mrs. Hugh Reeves (1944-45), Jack P. Prichard (1946-48), R.C. Lipscomb (1949-50), Carl E. Eude (1950-53), and James E. (Bud) Hall (1953-58).

Even though the school had enjoyed an enormous expansion of housing in 1938, making the school several times larger than it had been in 1916, the building continued to be expanded in the next two decades, once in 1951 and again in or about 1956. On October 4, 1950, the school board, still under the chairmanship of Oliver J. Semmes, awarded a contract to the Chavis Construction Company, for $40,680 "to build two classrooms, a band room and an extension to the manual training department at Blount school." (PNJ Oct. 5, 1950) This made an extension on the original building northward along "C" Street, to Gregory Street, further reducing open space of the campus. In 1956, boys' and girls' single-story physical education dressing rooms and showers were added on the west side, extending the building northward along "D" Street, reducing even more the open space. By then, only Gregory Street and the northern part of "D" Street remained open. Much of the original 2.6 acres of the city block was taken up by the three sided-building and its accesses. When I was there, the small space inside the building "U" held several basketball courts and a picnic table area with a shed of concession machines. 


In September of 1955, I entered Blount as a Seventh Grader and left in June of 1958 upon finishing the Ninth Grade. My Seventh Grade was 1955-56, Eighth Grade 1956-57, Ninth Grade 1958-59. These are my memories now as I look back from my vantage point at age 76.

(The author, "Ronny" Caldwell, at age 12, Seventh Grade)

My first impression on arriving at school was size. The building, that virtually occupied the whole city block, appeared vast and formidable. It had approximately 40 classrooms in addition to a large auditorium (seated 600-700), lunch room, and offices. My elementary school a few block away, George S. Hallmark, had had 18 classrooms, a cafeteria/auditorium, and a couple of offices. Even more impressive was the student body. 1,200 students showed up for school. That meant about 400 students in each of the three grades. Hallmark had had 600 students in 6 grades. Blount was significantly overcrowded. A 1953 plan presented to the school board said the school should house 850 students (PNJ Aug. 28, 2011).

I look back now and marvel that anyone was able to conduct an orderly school and to do it so well with 1,200 12, 13, 14, 15 year-olds crammed into one city block. Moreover, for many of these young people school was prison. They did not want to be there. Too, the early teen years are times of great physical and emotional changes in the developing human body. At this stage, the typical person is no longer biologically a child but is not emotionally an adult either. Puberty has hit followed by dramatic growth spurts. Girls shoot up first so that in the Seventh Grade, girls often towered over the boys who did not reach their full height until high school. To say that ages 12-15 are tumultuous and anxious would not be an exaggeration. Everyone over the age of 21 can look back and recall the unsettling changes in themselves in this stage of life. Psychologists say the first five years are most important because that is when the personality develops. However, surely the 12-15 years are next most important because people are turning from children into adults. Everyone is challenged to define themselves as individuals. This is not easy for anyone. So, putting 1,200 pubescent youngsters together in one small space and expecting them to remain orderly and concentrate on learning was risky to say the least. As I recall, schoolyard fights happened frequently, usually, but not always, involving boys. The men teachers had to be on ready at all times.

To add to the stress of the large student body was the fact that it was constantly moving throughout the day. In elementary school, students had remained in one room with one teacher all day long. At Blount, students went first to "home room" and then moved five or six (I forget the exact number) times a day in "periods" from one subject to another. The students moved to the teachers, each in a different room. All 1,200 students changed classrooms five or six times a day (as I recall in a five minute break between classes). One can imagine how crowded the halls and stairs would be over and over from early to late. That alone invited tensions in the already overcrowded (and unairconditioned) facilities.

I recall that in my Seventh Grade homeroom, on the first day we all came in and took a seat. As the start, the teacher, Miss Jeanette Coleman, stood at the front and started to laugh. We did not know why and started to look around and then we started to laugh. The boys were all sitting on one side and the girls on the other side of the room. They did not want anything to do with each other.  By the Ninth Grade, it would be the opposite and the teachers would have a challenge to keep boys' and girls' hands off each other.

Junior high years are also awkward times for physical development. I remember I, and many others, had trouble not stumbling over our own growing feet. On the south side, the school had cement steps leading up to the two large doorways. The steps had no hand rails. Once when I was in the Eighth Grade I was leaving school, books in hand. I was at the top of the steps and lost my concentration for whatever reason. All of a sudden I was going down, face-down all the way to the bottom of the cement steps. My books flew everywhere. When I came to rest, my face looked like a tomato. Fortunately for me, a man was sitting in his car waiting to collect his child. He came over, helped me up, wiped my face, and was sure I could walk before he left. I was not seriously hurt. Thirteen is an awkward age in many ways.

As another example of our immaturity, we Blount students had a sort of contest every year to see who could get to the beach first. Pensacola Beach, the most beautiful beach in the world, opened on May 1 every year. We all wanted to be the first to go. To prove we were first, we had to be the first to show up at school with a sunburn. Whoever it was went around school all day long making a show by saying silly things like, "Ooh, ooh, don't touch me, I went to the beach." Of course, that meant we were sure to touch them. Getting a burn also meant we defied our parents who were always yelling at us as we left for the beach not to get sunburned. I never won the contest but I am now paying the price of too much Florida sun. I have had several small skin cancers removed.

Too, some of us had not developed good manners and we got on our teachers' nerves. I remember I had a disgusting habit of stringing my chewing gum, or bubble gum, out of my mouth and stuffing it back in. After watching me and cringing for awhile, my beloved Eighth Grade English teacher, Mrs. Virginia Stephens, could not abide it any more. She yelled at me to spit it out. I did, reluctantly. 

To be sure, times were different then than now. In the 1950s discipline was standard. It was expected and honored. These were the days of corporal punishment. No one wanted to be sent to the office for a paddling. For repeat offenders, there was suspension, for the worst, expulsion. Being expelled often meant being sent to the state reform school in Marianna. It had a terrible reputation and no one could want to be sent there. So, except for the daily fisticuffs in the crowded schoolyard, there was an amazing decorum at Blount. No one was allowed in the halls during class time except by a pass signed by the teacher. On the whole, Blount was a smooth-running ship devoted to good education. It had to be to keep 1,200 12-15 year olds under control. I look back now and marvel at how the teachers and staff did it.

The best way to keep 1,200 restless Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth graders under control was to keep them busy and this Blount did well. Classroom teaching was orderly and demanding. Any student making a disruption, and, amazingly so, there really were not very many, would be sent to the office for discipline. Outside of class there was a large array of activities. 

The biggest of these was football. Blount had an outstanding football team that often came in first place among the county junior highs. They were the Blount Junior High School panthers and black and gold were the team colors. The build up of the games was always exciting but fever pitch came when Blount was to play its arch rival, A.V. Clubbs Junior High. Clubbs was on the east, or more affluent, side of Pensacola. The lower middle class and working class boys and girls of Blount always felt that the Clubbs students looked down on them. So, football was a way of getting even and showing a thing or two to the "rich kids" on the other side of town. The Blount-Clubbs football game was always a hard-fought match. Junior high games were on Thursday nights at the Pensacola High School stadium. The high school games were on Friday nights. My friends and I attended as many games as I could and enjoyed every one. On Oct. 8, 1955, Blount won over Clubbs 13-0.

Blount also had an outstanding music program. There was a glee club, directed by Miss Jeanette Coleman, and a marching band and concert band, directed by Miss Betty Jean Allen. Each band had about fifty members. Miss Allen was a larger than life character who put all of her formidable energy into her job. She was a great band director and the students responded in kind. They were greatly attached to her. As I recall she drove a Cadillac convertible, the snazziest car at the school. It suited her flamboyant personality perfectly. Of course, we youngsters though she was cool and hip, and she was. It was great fun to hear the band and to watch it strut about in flashy black and gold uniforms. We were terribly proud of them.

Miss Allen wanted everything loud and fast and she got it from the band students who seemed more than eager to please. What could be more appealing to young teenagers than to let out all of their emotions through their musical instruments? The best of all was the concert band's performances at the weekly Friday school assembly. There were two sessions of the assembly because the auditorium could only accommodate half the student body at one time.

Miss Allen and the concert band opened every assembly I can recall with their own version of "Rock Around the Clock." This song had first been recorded by Bill Haley and His Comets in 1954. It quickly became a hit and is now generally regarded as the real beginning of Rock and Roll music. So, as we eagerly filed into the auditorium the place was jumping with a loud and fast rendition of "Rock Around the Clock" (One, Two, Three o'clock, Four o'clock rock...). We all loved it. Haley had recorded the song with a small band on a rather slow pace. Miss Allen's interpretation was big, fast and loud. You have not heard "Rock Around the Clock" if you have not heard it played by a fifty-piece, heavy-on-the-brass, mostly on right note, junior high school band who had been told to let out all the stops. It was fantastic. I do believe the windows rattled and the two-story-high ceiling vibrated. I know every student in the place could not be still. I do not remember a single word of any assembly program, but I will never forget Miss Allen's rousing rendition of Rock Around the Clock. It was wonderful. No one could leave the assembly without feeling better and more energized. Every now and then I pull that unforgettable music out of my memory and play it again.

As I recall, it was Miss Allen who played the piano at the Ninth Grade graduation, in June of 1958. There was an old upright piano in the front corner of the auditorium. For the processional she played Schubert's "Marche Militaire." I have heard this work many times since, but I have never heard a version to compare with Miss Allen's rousing rendition. True to form it was loud and fast. I was so impressed that as I walked by her I stared at the sheet music to remember the name. Miss Allen banged that piano as hard as possible to get every bit of sound out of it. She filled the auditorium even as she jumped up and down on the stool and crashed into the keys as someone turned the pages for her. "Marche Militaire" is not an easy piece under any circumstances. It requires all ten fingers practically all the time. She nailed it. I can still hear it in my mind. I will never forget that singular performance of Shubert's "Marche Militaire." Somehow, I think old Schubert would have been proud of her playing. I certainly was impressed.

Besides football and music, Blount offered a long list of other activities to keep youngsters busy. Of course, there were many other sports teams as basketball. As for me, I was not athletic at all. I enjoyed football in P.E. class although I was no good at it. I was hopeless at basketball as I double-dribbled or traveled the whole time. I had poor eye-hand coordination. My softball playing was not much better. Thankfully, there were other activities for nerdy boys like me. 

In the late Eighth Grade I decided on a whim to run for president of the Student Council. I do not know why now. The leading candidate, Sonny Foster, was more popular and better qualified and the probable winner but I gave it a shot anyway. For an assembly presentation, I had my father write out a campaign speech for me to give. Bad idea. He wrote a speech for an adult. I delivered it to the assembly in the auditorium but had no idea what I was talking about and am sure everyone could see that. Afterwards, a teacher said to me, "Did you dad help you with that?" It was obvious. I learned a lesson. From then on I would write my own words and would say what I meant. Seeing that I was running behind in the informal polls before the election, I decided to bribe my way to victory so I brought a box of lollypops to school and started handing them out as I campaigned. The Student Council sponsor sent word immediately to cut it out. I did. And then I lost the vote by a mile. That ended my political career. (Well, almost. In 2008 I ran for election as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. I lost by a hair. I did not try handing out candy. I regretted that loss because that was the historic convention that nominated the first African American president.)

Perhaps to assuage my feelings on my defeat at the polls, I decided to go for another high-profile Ninth Grade office, editor of the school newspaper, the "Put It Blountly." This paper was famous for its high prestige and quality. It routinely won second place for junior high school newspapers in the state. The sponsor, Mrs. Edrea McCloskey, long-time English teacher, chose an outstanding rising Ninth Grader to be editor and so I applied. Mrs. McCloskey chose "miss perfect" Lucianne Williamson, and rightly so. She was one of those girls in every school who made all A's and seemed to excel at everything. Actually, I liked Lucianne and we remained friends. As consolation, Mrs. McCloskey offered to make me "Assistant Editor." I happily took the consolation prize. So, throughout my Ninth Grade year, I had a "career" in journalism and learned a lot. Mrs. McCloskey tried her best to make us serious and professional journalists and we did articles on important subjects. However, we thought the customers of the paper wanted "fluff" and so we packed the pages as we could with gossip, trivia, jokes and the like. To print the paper we had to go after school to the print office downtown and set up the pages. Then, we went around the homerooms selling our copies of the paper for ten cents each. As I recall, it was popular. The money we raised went into the next printing.

(Mrs. McCloskey. Photo, PNJ, May 27, 1956.)

As these were the 1950s, sock hops were popular. And, yes girls wore pony tails, bobby socks, loafers, and poodle or other full skirts. Boys tried to be cool with duck hair dos, button down shirts, rolled up jeans, and loafers. Occasionally, a school group would hold a fund-raising sock hop at the National Guard Armory, which was then on Gregory Street three blocks west of the school. There were also dances at "The Den," a big, wooden pavilion at Sanders Beach. And, sometimes we made our own events. Once a few friends and I decided to throw a roller skating party and charge admission. There was a roller skating rink downtown on Chase Street in what used to be a synagogue. It had wonderful hardwood floors. So, we rented the place for a few hours and went around selling tickets for twenty-five cents each. We sold enough to make a respectable profit for each of us.

Another thing that made us students happy and helped us get through the day well was the very good lunch room at Blount. The dining area was far too small for the whole school and so lunch began early, at 11:00 as I recall, and went on in sessions for hours. I am amazed now, looking back, that the lunchroom ladies were able to serve nearly 1,200 meals a day, every day, five days a week. There was no air conditioning anywhere in the school. Moreover, the kitchen had no cross ventilation and I remember it being steamy and hot.

 The best meal they prepared often came on Friday. It was fish chowder, cheese toast and potato chips. That was the best fish chowder I have ever eaten. It is hard to imagine making enough for 1,200 people but they did and did it well. The fish was fresh, I imagine from one of the numerous fish houses along Pensacola Bay. It was white fish, as grouper, cut into chunks and stewed with tomatoes, hunks of potato, and onions into roux of their own design. This dish would not be possible in school today because one cannot get the fresh fish at affordable prices. Another popular meal the ladies served was hot dogs. They mixed up their own recipe of sauce, lathered it heavily on the weiner and bun and wrapped it in waxed paper. They were the best hot dogs I think I have ever eaten. They also made memorable spaghetti. Those few lunchroom ladies, who were not paid much, worked very hard and earned every penny they got. We, the 1,200 ravenous, growing boys and girls were the fortunate beneficiaries of their devoted service.

I do not know the actual number, but I estimate there were about 50 personnel at Blount when I was there, and about 40 of them were classroom teachers. The principal from 1953 to 1958 was James Elwood (Bud) Hall. Mr. Hall was born on August 22, 1908 in Pensacola. He earned degrees from the University of Florida and Florida State University. A teacher and coach (he was one of my mother's teachers at Tate High School in the 1930s) for years, he served as principal of Ferry Pass Junior High School before going to Blount. He left Blount in 1958 to become the first principal of the new Escambia High School. Later he served as Superintendent of Education of Escambia County. (PNJ Mar. 6, 1960) He died on December 30, 1978.

Mr. Hall was a  model principal. He was a handsome man who had a kind and caring yet firm and commanding personality. He was universally well-regarded, respected by students and faculty alike. In fact, when he left for Escambia High in 1958, a number of teachers joined him in the move.

Mr. Hall did not have to handle all administrative duties alone. There was an assistant principal who helped, particularly with student matters. Mrs. J.B. Jackson was assistant principal from 1947 to 1958. As I recall, she was a rather large and formidable woman who demanded, and got, respect. She did not tolerate any nonsense. The students commonly called her, somewhat affectionately, "Stonewall Jackson." No one wanted to cross Stonewall Jackson. I look back now and wonder at the great job she did keeping 1,200 restless and boisterous youngsters in line.

(Photo PNJ June 8, 1958)

Next to the principal, the most important person at Blount was James (Jimmy) Reese, commonly called Coach Reese. He taught math and served as coach at Blount from 1946 to 1959. My physical education teacher for three years, he taught me to love football, even though I was not a good player. In addition to teaching us the positions, rules, and plays of the game, he taught us to see the game as a mental exercise. It was not just brute force that won a game but being smart and playing as a team. Too, he talked to us about moral and ethical behavior, and some of us took him seriously. There was no drug problem in the schools at that time, at least none that I ever heard about. The main "evil" then at Blount in the 1950s, was smoking; and Coach Reese talked to us often about not smoking. He also told us never to quit trying to win the game, even when the score seemed hopeless, but to keep doing your best to the end and then hold your head high at having given it your all. That was a lesson I took to heart. Coach Reese was very important to thousands of young men like me who needed adult guidance. Coach James Reese died on November 18, 2019. 

(Photo from PNJ Aug. 28, 2011)

Unfortunately, because Blount had only a small athletic space on its city block, we had to walk three blocks to Legion Field, at Gregory and "G" streets, to play our team sports (Legion Field once had a wooden baseball stadium. My mother took me to some games there when I was a child). As I recall, in my Seventh Grade year, the school added two locker rooms on the "D" Street side for boys and girls to dress out for P.E. class. The boys got to wear shorts and tee shirt. The girls had to wear what they all hated and called the "monkey suit." It was a one piece garment, a sort of shorts and shirt in one. 

On Fridays, in place of P.E. we had a square dance on the schools' basketball courts. We gangly and awkward young teenagers tried to swing our partners as a record blasted out "Marching Through Georgia" or some such. It was fun and perhaps helped us be a little more confident and graceful. I am sure the teachers got tired of the hours of that loud music right outside their windows.

Academically, the most important teacher I had at Blount was Miss Grace Ernest, my Eighth Grade American History teacher. Miss Ernest arrived at Blount in 1946 and quickly gained respect for her teaching excellence. I had already formed an attachment to history as an academic subject in elementary school and so was ready to broaden my horizons. Miss Ernest taught me several basics about an approach to history. One was to be conscious of detail. Every question or problem must be answered in factual detail to support your conclusion. She also taught me about the logical connections of cause and effect showing a sequential continuum of events. She was a rigorous and demanding teacher and I greatly benefited from her guidance. Most of my teachers along the way I did not see again after my time at school. Not so with Miss Ernest. When I went to Florida State University in the 1960s, I encountered her in the dining hall one day. She was working on a doctorate in History, which she did get. We had a grand time reminiscing about the old days at Blount and about the field of history. Dr. Ernest went on to join the faculty of Pensacola Junior College where she remained until he retirement. I was glad I had the chance to tell how how much she had meant to me. Grace Ernest died on February 5, 1999, at age 76.

Another teacher who stood out to me was Miss McIntyre, my Seventh Grade English teacher. She was one of the "W. girls." Pensacola was fortunate in the 1940s-60s to have the W. girls. These were graduates of the Mississippi State College for Women, commonly called "the W." Upon graduation some of these young women headed for Pensacola, perhaps to get out of Mississippi, perhaps to look for greener pastures, and probably hoping to meet young naval officers. Miss McIntyre was from Louisville, MS and the very essence of southern charm. This was her first year of teaching and she paid attention to me and I to her. One time I did a book report on a biography of Stephen Foster, who, of course, was popular in Florida as the author of the state song, "The Old Folks at Home." She raved about it and read it to her classes as a model. This encouraged me a lot to continue reading and writing. Miss McIntyre did indeed find her naval officer and left at the end of the year. 

I had always loved books and preferred having my own rather than just relying on the library. At Blount, I would save up my loose pennies until I had two dollars, then after school walk over to the Good Neighbor Gift Shop a few blocks away on Garden Street and buy a new book, usually history, biography, or mystery. Other boys might collect baseball cards. I collected books.

Another outstanding teacher I had was Miss Sally Ann Houseman (later McIntosh) who was actually a personal friend. She lived just a block from my house and our families had been good friends for many years. We were all active in the same church. I had always known her as "Sally Ann" I started out calling her that at school. She laughed and said, "At school, you must call me Miss Houseman." I smiled and agreed. She taught Ninth Grade Civics. This is where I learned a lot about how the government works. What stands out now is how laws are made in Congress. It was a lot more complicated that I had thought. She also had us do a project on what career we would like to have. It started me thinking long and hard about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. At age fourteen, I knew I would be in high school soon.

Yet another memorable teacher was Mrs. Virginia Pearl Shelton Stephens, my Eight Grade English teacher. She decided we needed to walk around downtown looking at Pensacola's interesting architecture and so one day she took my class on a walk all the way from Blount to the new First Baptist Church, on Palafox Street at Lee Square, near the top of North Hill. The church was built in 1956 at the cost of one million dollars.

(Photo from Facebook, FBC Pensacola)

We explored the new building which was then, and still is, the most impressive church structure in the city. It has an eclectic style with hints of Spanish influence. At the foot of North Hill stands Christ Church that presides over the downtown:

("New" Christ Church [1903], a jewel of Spanish colonial architecture, at Palafox and Wright Streets. Author's photo)

Mrs. Stephens also decided we needed some appreciation of some other kind of culture, fine music. She had a beautiful operatic soprano voice. One Friday at the assembly in the auditorium she got up and sang (I have forgotten the song) and some students began to snicker, then laugh. Their idea of good music was Hank Williams, Bill Haley and His Comets, and the like. Mrs. Stephens finished the piece but never sang at Blount again. I felt badly for her and was embarrassed at my fellow students' ignorance and rudeness. Although Mrs. Stephens gave up on high music, she refused to quit trying to impart some kind of aesthetic appreciation in the rough side of town. Looking back, I greatly appreciate her work. It may have been lost on most Blount students, but not on me.

(Mrs. Virginia Stephens. Photo PNJ, May 23, 1969.)

Virginia Stephens went on to teach English at Escambia High and Pine Forest High. She was twice named outstanding teacher of the county. She died on March 23, 1991, at age 84.

In the 1950s boys and girls took separate "life" preparation classes, boys typically "shop" and girls "home economics." I do not remember anything about shop, but I do remember the girls talking about what they had to do in Home Ec. There were two Home Ec rooms at Blount and each had several "kitchens" and sewing machines. One time the girls had to learn to make biscuits. The boys laughed but the girls insisted it was not that easy. Even harder was sewing. The girls had to make one garment from scratch. The results were in varying degrees of success. Home Ec was phased out of the schools around 1970.

There were numerous interest groups available to students in the 1950s. Here are the poets of 1956 (I was not one):

(Photo, PNJ, May 27, 1956)

Blount held a "graduation" every year for the finishing Ninth Graders because some of them would not go on to high school. There was no compulsory education after the age of 15. I recall I had a friend who was counting down the days until he turned 15 so he could join his dad on a commercial fishing boat. And so June of 1958 arrived and I walked across the stage for my graduation in my Sunday clothes. As opposed to my last day at Hallmark School three years earlier, I was not exactly sad to see this day arrive. I was happy to be going on to Pensacola High School. 

Blount had been quite an experience. Looking back, I can ask, What did Blount mean to me? The answer is first and foremost education, particularly in history, English, math, and social studies. My English and social studies classes were excellent, but I also benefited greatly by my math classes especially Algebra. Only my science classes were sub-par and that was because it was all textbook. Blount had no science labs. Neither was there any foreign language. My grades at Blount were good, mostly As and Bs, and high enough to keep me in the Honor Society. 

 When I arrived at the high school, I was placed in what was called "the accelerated program." This was a new plan, just being set up at PHS to prepare academically promising students for college. I was put into advanced classes across the board. At that time, I am sure PHS was the best academic public school in northwest Florida. My entrance into the college prep pipeline happened only because Blount had prepared me well. After high school, I did go on to college, all the way to a doctor's degree. This would not have been possible without those three years at Blount. They were foundational in so many ways.

Next to academics, Blount was crucially important for social development. With 1,200 typical young teenagers pressed together into a small space, I had to learn to get along well with a vast variety of people, students and teachers. I believe I succeeded. My experience at Blount left me with a profound appreciation of the democratization of life, a respect for all people. We may be vastly different, but we are all the same underneath, all equal, and all of worth and value regardless of our circumstances.

Blount also made me think a great deal about my own future, what I wanted to so with the rest of my life. Some of my classmates hated school and dropped out as soon as they could. Some were forced to leave school to earn a living or help their families. I knew I did not want this as my path and I was fortunate enough to have a family to support my continuing schooling. My father, a police sergeant at that time, assured me he would help me get education as long as I did well and wanted to go on. In that I was fortunate beyond measure. I knew education was my road to a better life and I was resolved more than ever to go as far as I could. In short, Blount greatly broadened my understanding of life, including my own.

AFTER 1958

The 1950s formed the golden age of Lockey-Blount school. It was in its full flowering providing education to thousands of students on the west side of Pensacola. For a few years into the 1960s, the school continued to flourish. Mr. Lon R. Wise was principal from 1958 to 1963 when he left to become principal of the J.H. Workman Junior High School. From 1963 to 1968, Mr. W. Gene Godwin served as principal. Mr. Eugene Rasponi was principal in 1968-69. The last principal was Mr. Willis A. Cobb, 1969-80. 

By the late 1950s, the white population of the western side of Pensacola began to move out to new, inexpensive subdivisions beyond the old city. This accelerated in the 1960s. At first, this shift had nothing to do with race. When integration began at Blount, around 1964, the white flight did have to do with race. The older neighborhoods on the west side of downtown became increasingly racially mixed.

The impact of the demographic changes on Blount was immediate and profound. In 1969, just a decade after the school had counted 1,200 (white) students, and only five years after integration had begun, Blount listed a total of 715 students. Of these, 551 were blacks, and 164 were whites. (PNJ Aug. 28, 2011) So, in a decade, Blount went from 1,200 whites to 164.

By 1969, the school board decided to change the school from a junior high school to a middle school of grades Six, Seven, and Eight. Mr. Willis A. Cobb was the principal at the time. As enrollment declined in the 1970s, the teachers tried hard to tailor the instructional structure to appeal to small groups and individuals. In spite of these innovations, numbers continued to fall. At the end, in school year 1979-80, Blount Middle School counted just 363 students, less than a third of what it had been in the 1950s. A newspaper article of Nov. 21, 1979, said that only one student was on the Eighth Grade honor roll at that time. 

Thus, by the 1970s, Blount was experiencing severely declining student enrollments. This brought the old problems into greater focus. The building was too large for its shrinking population. It was a problem for the school board just to keep up the plant. The school yard offered relatively little space for recreation. The physical education fields were three blocks away. There was no chance the old ground could be expanded. Blount was hemmed in by a neighborhood of individual homes. All of these factors combined to spell the end of the old school. In 1969 a state department of education survey recommended that the school be closed because of structural reasons. Another local report in 1973 also recommended closing. By the late 1970s, the school board decided the old school could not be sustained. By then, the building was literally falling down. In early 1980 the ceiling collapsed in two areas. In one, 600 square feet of plaster fell to the floor in the entrance hall of the original school (PNJ Apr. 4, 1980). The board decided in April of 1980 to close Blount school permanently.

In 1981, the school board decided to sell the Blount school property. It advertised for sealed bids, but none came in. Then, they held a public auction to sell off Blount and P.K. Yonge schools. John Gray offered the highest amount for Blount, $61,000. (PNJ May 29, 1981). In June of 1981, the board rejected the bid as too low.

(PNJ, Mar. 21, 1994. Fourteen years of neglect left the building in ruinous state. The back of the 1915 structure is on the left. In center are the single-story boys' and girls' P.E. locker rooms added in mid-1950s. This view is from corner of Gregory and "D" streets looking southeastward. It shows the small open area of the school block.)

After 1980 the school building was abandoned and began to decay. The school board did nothing but complain that it would cost them $400,000 to remove the asbestos and demolish the old building. So, nothing happened for years on end as neighbors increasingly complained about the derelict old structure. Reportedly, it became a center for illegal drugs and prostitution. It certainly saw a great deal of vandalism.

 In 1996, Frank McGinley, who has been a student at Blount in the 1960s, bought the property for $5,000 with the intention of developing the old part into his private home and the rest into apartments for the elderly. McGinley failed to find investment money to develop the property but did put between $225,000 and $250,000 into certain renovations. He turned the first floor of the original 1915 building into a private residence. Then Hurricane Ivan came along in September of 2004 and did great damage to the old building, particularly the roof. A few weeks later, McGinley sold the property to some investors for $400,000. (PNJ May 10, 2006) They were Mike O'Neill, Sunil Gupta, and Donald Moore, who formed Blount Redevelopment (PNJ Aug. 28, 2011). McGinley and his wife continued living on the property as caretakers until 2008. When McGinley left, the place was abandoned for good. We should all admire Frank McGinley for trying his best to save the beloved old school building.

(Frank McGinley in the old school entrance hall, in August of 2011. Photo PNJ Aug. 28, 2011)

The old buildings, now standing for years in ruinous condition became a shameful eyesore of the neighborhood which was only a few blocks from the downtown Pensacola area. In April of 2009, the City of Pensacola began levying a fine of $50 per day until the property was addressed. This changed nothing. In June of 2011, the city raised the penalty to $250 a day. As of August of 2011, the total fine stood at $57,000. At that time, the owners listed the property for sale at the asking price of $725,000. The assessed value was $341,640. In August of 2011, the city council voted to buy the property from the owners at $225,000 with the aim of demolishing the structures and building individual houses on the block. The money was to come from the Community Development Block grant fund. (PNJ Aug. 28, 2011)

On March 15, 2012, the Escambia County Commission allocated $130,000 toward the cost of the demolition of the old buildings. A few days later, the Pensacola city council approved of $177,000 for the demolition. On March 23, 2012, the city advertised for bids for the demolition. Old Blount school was demolished in 2012. Everything was removed from the block.

A picture in the local newspaper, in 2017, showed the scene of the block where the school once stood:

(Photo PNJ Nov. 27, 2017. This is the southwest corner of the school block looking northeastward.)

Soon after this photo was made, work began on a bock of houses to be called the Garden District Cottages. Twenty-six individual houses were to be built under a partnership of the city and ParsCo, a property development company. The prices ranged from $189,000 under an incentive program, to $359,999 for corner houses. (PNJ Nov. 17, 2018)

I have not visited the school block in several years and cannot attest to the structures there as of this writing.

In sum, Lockey-Blount school began in January of 1916 and ended in June of 1980. It is interesting and important to note that there was a common tie to the birth and the death of the school. It was race. When the school board planned the school in 1915, many white Pensacolians protested the location,  complaining loudly that the site was too near the "Negro" section west of downtown and would threaten the strict segregation that was the norm of Jim Crow. The board ignored the protests and built on the site. They constructed the first great brick school of Pensacola, and named it for an outstanding educator. This set a pattern the board was to follow for many years to come. The school thrived. At first, it looked as if the board had won over the racists.

If racism failed to stop the building of the school on the edge of a black neighborhood, racism raised its ugly head again years later to kill the school. Blount integrated in or around 1964 when the enrollment was still around 1,000. The white flight was immediate. By 1969, only 164 whites remained out of a student body of 715. The numbers continued to fall. By 1973 the board was ready to close the plant. They finally rang the last bell in 1980. When the whites fled from Blount in the late 1960s and early 1970s and overall enrollments plummeted, the old school could not be sustained. In a sense, the racists of 1915 won in the end. They got their way. A century later, there was no school on the site the board had chosen in 1915. 

And so, it is fair to ask what the experience of Lockey-Blount suggests about ourselves as southerners and Americans? It shows us that racism is deeply set into our culture. It was embedded in life in the early part of the Twentieth Century, and it was still there in the late Twentieth Century. Jim Crow is gone in that overt segregation is now illegal. However, even now in the Twenty-First Century racism is not gone; and one could argue that it is just as strong now as it ever was. It is more covert, more subtle, but one could argue down deep, it is just as much a part of our lives as it ever was. The experience of Lockey-Blount shouts this out as well as anything in the history of Pensacola in the last century or so.

In conclusion, I would like to return to what Blount meant to me personally. I cannot imagine being the person I am today without the experience of my three years at Blount Junior High School of Pensacola, Florida. They were transformative. Ages 12, 13, and 14 are difficult times for anyone and I was no exception. I would not want to have to go through them again. The physical and emotional changes that everyone experiences in the transition from childhood to adulthood are enormous, sometimes overwhelming, always unsettling. Basically, a person is trying to understand him or herself as an individual person and what this will mean for the rest of life. Teenage angst is all too familiar to everyone who went through it. In my experience, Blount gave me a steady and orderly framework in which to deal with the personal changes while at the same time giving me the educational foundations on which I could flourish academically in high school and beyond, all the way to a doctor of philosophy degree. Today, I am lost in gratitude for Blount school and the multitudes of teachers and students within its hallowed walls who nourished me through those hard years. They will always be a part of me. I hope I did them proud.