The Idyllic Years:

1940-1968roundchs

Money was jingling in pockets again as war industries started up and the economy improved. Employment rose, but some of the young men were not taking jobs, instead they were being drafted into the military. As the United States entered World War II, teachers were given leaves of absence to serve their country. As war shortages developed, teachers, like others experiencing gasoline and tire rationing, had difficulty getting to work.1

The war had no major effect on Lyon High. There were scrap drives at the school. Current events were easy to teach since the students had fathers, brothers, and other relatives in the armed services and were eager to know what was gong on and where the fighting was. More boys wanted to go into military service than didn't want to, and Mr. Plummer had to talk some into staying in school while they were still so young.2

Again the name was changed in 1945 from Lyon High back to Covington High since the law was that no school could be named after a person still living. The old stands at the athletic field were replaced by a new stadium built by the WPA in 1941 and became familiarly known as "the cow dome." Sound equipment connected every classroom by radio. The greatest change, however, was the principal.3

Mr. James Plummer, a tall, muscular man with a determined square jaw, became principal in 1939 serving until 1963. He had been contacted in Arkansas about taking the position of coach at Lyon High. However, he was promoted before he even arrived at the school after Miss Rayne's unexpected resignation. School was already in session, and he walked into a "hornet's nest." None of the teachers had ever done scheduling, and there were 75 in one class, 5 in another. A much greater problem was the ill feeling among the faculty. Of the eighteen teachers, about half had idolized Miss Rayne, but the other half despised her dictatorial ways and their feelings reflected on the new principal. Mr. Plummer feels his greatest accomplishment was in bringing the faculty together as a unified, supportive unit. During the ten minute recess in the morning he urged teachers to come to the cafeteria for coffee and to talk. Every year before Christmas, after he'd been hunting, he and his wife gave a duck and quail dinner for the faculty. Gradually the poorer teachers were eliminated, and the faculty in later years was considered exceptional.4

plummer

As for the students, Mr Plummer had rules and regulations and meant what he said. He wouldn't stand for any foolishness and believed in corporal punishment. Male offenders were taken down to the boiler room for their licks; he never took girls although some parents asked him to. Suspended students could not return to school unless accompained by their parents. He was his own truant officer and often took his own car to patrol the streets of Covington.5

basketball

In the early years of the school, basketball was the outstanding sport. Both the boys and girls had teams and had double-headers with the girls playing first. Under Coach Carmen Beall, the girls' basketball team won first in the District and first in the State in 1939-40. In 1942 the girls' won the District tournament for the twelfth straight year. Under Coach Hubie Gallagher, the boys' basketball team was first in District and then Class A State Champions in 1946. In 1958-59 both teams took first place in District 7AA, and with a good offense and smart teams the boys won almost continously in District becoming State Champions again in 1960.6

For almost thirty years, 1939 to 1969, Coach Hubert S. "Hubie" Gallagher was an outstanding coach and teacher, and in 1983 he was named to the Louisiana High School Hall of Fame. In 1939 he not only coached all sports, but taught Civics, Social Studies and Physical Education. He got his first assistant coach in 1942, and in the following years some of his assistants were Freddie Seal, Tommy Bell, Jack Salter and Allie Smith.7

Football, although it was played from the beginning, didn't become an outstanding sport until the later years. The early squads averaged 32 boys. There was no separate offense or defense so they had to go all the way. Three out of four players were in the south Louisiana play-offs. In those days a guard might weigh as much as 225 pounds and a tackle only 125 pounds. They went into a four man line. Since there was no football before high school the youngsters had to be taught everything, even how to put on their uniforms. Allie Smith, a student from 1954 to 1960, remembers the Notre Dame songs and cheers as well as the techniques Coach Gallagher brought from his alma mater.8

football

In the early days the schools bid to have the games played at their home school. Sulpher had an oil man backing them and bid $1500 to have Lyon High play there; they outbid Lyon High for three years straight. After scheduling was changed to home, on home determined by the odd and even years, the team picked up a following of fans, and gate receipts increased at the current 25 to 50 cents a ticket. Another source of income thought of by Coach Gallagher was selling ads in a football program. This helped in buying the football shoes at $5.00 to $7.00 and the leather helmets which seemed to last longer then.9

There were two hours of practice during fifth and sixth period, but none after school because of the transportation problem. However, when Coach Gallagher wanted to practice until 5:00 on Tuesdays, Buster Lyon, son of the former superintendent, rounded up cars to be available to take the boys home. When the school got its own bus, with the coach as driver, some of the transportation problems were solved.10

Academics were not neglected by any means The faculty decided to require more than the state minimum for graduation: three years of English, two of mathematics, two of science, and one year of American History plus civics. Electives included agriculture, woodworking and shop; home economics; Spanish, French and Latin; art, band and chorus; and business math had been added to typing, shorthand and bookkeeping courses. At one period students were allowed to take any courses they wanted, but that was quickly abandoned.11

A tribute to the fine faculty was the school being chosen to be one of three in the state of Louisiana to have representatives attend six week sessions at various colleges in the South. The many fine teachers of the period are too numerous to mention. However, Mrs. Helen W. Boyd wrote a manual in Biology that was adopted and used in other states for their schools.12

These were the idyllic years as Covington High School was still a fairly small school with few new people. Teachers knew the parents and even grandparents of the students, so there were few discipline problems. No student had his own car, and although students came from as far away as Bush and Sun, they traveled by school bus. In 1952 the total enrollment in grades seven to twelve (the twelfth grade was added in 1947) was about 600, with only 51 in the graduating class.13

There was a lot of school spirit and pride. Parents supported the P.T.A. and social life still revolved around the school. The Friday night dances continued with the girls wearing long formals and the boys slicked up in their good suits. Community dances still involved the whole family. Everyday after lunch there was an assembly. Sometimes there was an outside speaker, but mostly the programs were put on by the clubs or classes or departments "advertising" what was going on in Covington High. The old school smelled of the oiled floors and needed repair; classrooms were often painted three or four colors with war surplus paint, but students past and present loved it.14

The old school was growing and changing, though. In 1957 a new band room and classroom addition were built; in 1961 a new gymansium was built across the street; there was a new cafeteria and classroom addition in 1964; and finally, in 1966, the new library building, language laboratory, and classroom addition were added. For about two or three years after the war when new schools were being built, the building bulged with grades seven through twelve, but then it settled back to being a four-year consolidated high school again.15


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