School Stories

Glenna Williams, Class of 1935

I remember the one and only visit that President Roosevelt made to the community of Arthurdale [Class of 1938 Graduation]. I was teaching at the nursery school. All the teachers, nursery through high school, had a luncheon for the president and Mrs. Roosevelt. Several days before the president came some secret service men came to plan just where and how the president would enter each building, where he was to go and to oversee the building of necessary ramps. They also inspected each ingredient used in the food preparation and tasted the prepared food before it could be served to the president. On the day of the luncheon arrangements were made to take him into the dining room before any guests arrived. When we entered he was seated at the head table and greeted us as we entered. Mrs. Roosevelt was late because she had gone to Morgantown that morning to speak to the graduating class at Monongalia High school, the only high school for blacks in our area, and to send off her daily newspaper column, My Day. When she entered the president called her a nick name and teased her about being late. Mr. Nine, the school principal, presided. It was a very informal atmosphere with much fun and laughter. When it was over Mr. Nine dismissed us and we left while the president was still seated at the table.


Annabelle Urbas Mayor, Class of 1938
In early May 1938, graduation was already planned. Mrs. Roosevelt had accepted our invitation to give the graduation address. One day Mr. Nine, the principal, called me into the office. I didn’t know why, and being called to the Principal’s office was a scary thing. When I got there, Mr. Nine told me that Mrs. Roosevelt had told him she thought the President would come if we asked him. Mr. Nine asked me what I thought about it. I was astounded. “I think we ought to ask him,” I said. Mr. Nine didn’t mention it again for a while, and neither did I. Eventually we were told the President of the United States was coming to give our graduation address. In our original plan I was to present Mrs. Roosevelt with flowers. The class as a whole discussed what we should give the President. We had no idea, so we voted not to give him anything. Since we were not giving him anything, we felt we shouldn’t give Mrs. Roosevelt anything either, so my part of the program was cut out. I have always joked about giving up my position on the program for the President of the United States.

School was not in session this day. This was the day for which everyone in Arthurdale had been waiting. The first graduating class [Class of 1935] was to receive their diplomas that evening in the Community Center Building. Mrs. Roosevelt was to present the diplomas. My step-sister, Mildred, was one of the three girls receiving diplomas. I usually did the cleaning for my mother on Friday. I had cleaned the living area, down the basement steps, and was finishing the basement area that was used for the laundry. I could hear strange voices upstairs. I heard the door open at the top of the stairs, and a voice I recognized as Mrs. Roosevelt’s. The group was descending the steps with the intent of looking at the room where the fruits, potatoes, and canned vegetables were stored. Looking for an escape, I went into that room, then finding the need to hide, I stayed behind the door. I did not feel not feel my appearance was presentable to the First Lady. I never thought of the group wanting to look in the cellar! After I heard the front door close, I went upstairs. Mother asked, “Where were you?” I replied, “Behind the fruit cellar door.” She said she did not see me. I did not want anyone to see me! This was only one of the many times Mrs. Roosevelt and her guests appeared at our door unannounced.


Beulah Nine, Wife of E. Grant Nine, AHS Principal 1936-1940
It was very exciting to be involved with Arthurdale School. As the Principal’s wife, I was expected to participate in all school activities. Everyone did. Mrs. Roosevelt came to Arthurdale to present diplomas to the graduating class every year, but in 1938 she told Grant, “I think the President would come if you would ask him.” She had been coming every year, but we never dreamed of the President of the United States coming to Arthurdale. It was a thrilling event to have him. All of Arthurdale turned out. We had a luncheon for the President in the school building. I tried to not sit by him, but they told me I would have to. I was so scared, I thought I would not be able to find my mouth. I thought “My Heavens!, he will talk about things I will not even know what he is talking about.” The President was on my right and the Governor of West Virginia [Homer Adams Holt] was on my left, and there I was, a little runt in between them. I never had a better time in my life, because he put me so much at ease. He came down to my size. He talked about things I knew about – Arthurdale and Arthurdale people. I forgot about him being who he was. I don’t think the Governor got to say a word. It was planned for me to sit on the left side of the President, and if Mrs. Roosevelt had been on time, she would have been on his right. But she was late. We waited a long time, and finally the President said he was hungry and we should eat. So we started eating without her. He just dived right in and was eating like a growing pig. “Well there comes Mrs. Roosevelt now,” I said. He yelled out, “Now Ellie, you go to the end of the table. You’ve made us late.” She said, “I’m not going to do it.” He said “You’re not going to get to eat up here at this special table.” But she did.


Katherine and William Jackson, AHS Coach 1941-1944
In 1942, as Sponsors of the Senior Class, we took about 25 students to Washington D.C. Eleanor gave a tour of the White House. We had lunch on the White House lawn at small tables. Eleanor roved to each table. She asked about our children. She gave the oldest, Nancy (three years old) a wooden Dalmatian pull-toy, and our one-year-old, rubber beads on a string.


Jettie Boggs Eble, Class of 1939

I remember very well the trip President Roosevelt made to Arthurdale. As a member of the Junior class that year [1938], I helped to usher the people attending graduation to their seats. I was impressed by the large number of people who came to see the president and be close to him. There were people standing behind the gym all the way up the hillside. Mrs. Roosevelt was a plain-looking woman. She didn’t put on […] or wear makeup or fancy clothes to be stylish. But the personal interest that she took in everyone, by trying to help them, made her appear radiant and vibrant. At the White House luncheon when I was a senior, I recall that we sat at tables of four and Mrs. Roosevelt came around to talk to each of us. I have remained interested in the lives of the President and Mrs. Roosevelt. I have visited their home in Hyde Park and read their biographies. We all viewed them with awe because of their high rank, and the interest they showed meant a lot to everyone in Arthurdale.


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