This year marks the 50th anniversary of consolidating two small high schools to create the present day Gatlinburg-Pittman High School. The first class that graduated the school will celebrate the momentous occasion with a reunion on Sept. 27. This week the Tennessee Star Journal is publishing the second part of a two-part series about the high school, it’s impact on the community and the role it played in the lives of the graduates. This week we present Carolyn Large Whaley’s perspective, a former student:
It has been over fifty years since plans were being made to consolidate our small, rural Pittman Center High School with Pi Beta Phi, a city school located in the heart of Gatlinburg.
Though not so far apart in miles, because we were widespread, community-based, and farm driven, we were separated from the “Gatlinburg kids” in our ways of life: social, economic and otherwise.
Practically every one of the Pittman Center students had ties to the school dating back to the opening of the school in 1921 with parents, grandparents and numerous relatives having attended the school. There was a history rich in community support and many of us felt apprehensive to be leaving our homebase. However, with the forethought and wise support of the teachers and others involved with the school, we were well prepared to go forth and meet new and wonderful challenges. While still at our old school the Pittman Center students, as well as the Pi Beta Phi students, were asked to submit and vote on choices for the new school’s name, school colors and mascot. Of course we were cautioned to be very careful in our selections because this was an honor to be a part of one’s school beginnings. The selections began in 1962 and enabled all of us to feel like the true architects of our new school.
In the fall of 1963, our first day of school was somewhat of a cultural shock when we arrived to see long crowded halls (where shiny new lockers would be installed), numbers above the classroom doors, an intercom system, a cafeteria/assembly room within the same building, and many more exciting differences. We did bring some of our teachers with us (as did the Pi Beta Phi students) as well as, administrative personnel, bus drivers and cafeteria cooks (who soon became very popular with the entire student body).
We soon came to see that our previous fears about the new kids were unfounded when we learned they were just kids like us who probably had their own fears about what the ‘new’ school would be like. We found that we all mixed well—the students and teachers from both schools. We were able to realize just how fortunate we were to have a brand-new school with modern facilities and more students to join the various school clubs and provide greater participation. Our athletes and coaches provided us with girls and boys basketball teams, as well as a football team which Pittman Center did not have.
During this time of transition we formed lasting friendships which flourish to this day. Our many thanks go out to each person involved in having made this opportunity available to us.