The following is reprinted from July 2005.
This week I’m glad to have a good friend of mine as a guest columnist. The unofficial “Folk Historian” of Warren County, Booster Riggan, has some mighty interesting bits from the old days to share with us:
“All during my 11 years of Macon School, no 12th grade then, I heard that an escaped convict had lived under the stage in the school auditorium. When I started working with the Warren County Schools Maintenance Department in 1969, I had the opportunity to check out what I had heard, and I found evidence of it being true. The convict would spend the day under the stage and come out at night to search for food.
Was it boresome staying under that stage? Maybe not. He could listen to Mrs. Bell giving piano lessons to her students. He heard a 15-minute sermon every Wednesday by Preacher Joe Riggan from Macon or Preacher Brickhouse from Warrenton.
The students had chipped in small change and bought an upright Philco radio that stood on the stage. All the students came to the auditorium every school day for 15 minutes to listen to the radio, which was a big thrill. James Gilliland knew how to tune the radio in and find the stations. Occasionally, the convict would hear a speech by school Superintendent J. Edward Allen. The time I’m talking about was in the 1920s and early 1930s.
In one of the four main stores in Macon there was a large wooden stave barrel that contained saltine crackers. That barrel always remained in the same spot. Someone, somehow, had managed to cut a hole in the floor a little bit smaller than the bottom of the barrel.
A person could crawl under the store, slide the barrel to one side, and enter the store. The person would exit the store through the hole and slide the barrel back in place.
Maybe this was the doings of that convict. It must have been Mr. Gilliland’s store because I don’t think anyone could get under the others.
Mr. William Grey Egerton probably, the most prominent man in Macon in his time, owned and operated the large brick store last operated as a store by Malvin Haithcock. Mr. Egerton sold coffins.
He would buy local chickens, which he kept in pens in the yard behind his store. Some of the Macon boys would bring chickens to sell to Mr. Egerton. He would pay them and tell them to put the chickens in the pens out back. The boys would go out the back door and carry the chickens back home. The next week they would bring the same chickens to sell to Mr. Egerton again.
The contractor who was building the Macon School went bankrupt before the school was completed. Mr. Egerton donated the money to complete the building in 1917. These days, middle and high schools have full time police officers on duty. The Macon School did not need one. It had its own form of discipline, called the belt line. The older high school boys would form two lines about six feet apart and pull off their leather belts. The misbehaver had to run between the two lines, receiving a lick from each belter. This gave him an unforgettable rump sensation that was usually repeated when he got home. This experience usually got him straightened out. It worked back then, and it would work now.
There was no danger of getting run over by an automobile at Macon School. No student owned a car. A very few owned bicycles. The teachers didn’t even own cars. They came to Macon on the train or bus, boarded at Mr. Edwin Russell’s and walked to the school.
Hold on, I’ll have to back up on that. Mr. Dry, the agriculture teacher, owned a 1935 Ford car. He taught agriculture at John Graham High School in Warrenton in the mornings and at Macon High School in the afternoon.
Malvin Haithcock owned a motorcycle and would give the Macon High School girls a ride on it, that is, those who were brave enough to ride with him.
If Raymond Harris, Jr. and Arthur Nicholson, Jr. were alive, I’m sure they would verify this article. Whatever happened to the convict? I don’t know. Maybe someone out there knows.
In closing, I would like to say that my friend, Marvin “Spud” Tharrington always said that “one year at Macon School was equivalent to four years of college.”