The following two-page article is an excerpt from Kent King’s book, Memories of the Hill. The book tells the story of Herbert and Fonda King who lived and reared their family on The Hill, a hill-top farm near Elkhurst. Herbert was a school teacher and spent many years as a teacher in Clay County High School.
Herbert, the Writer – During the winter of 1968 Clay County High School was destroyed by a fire. That sad event troubled the man who had given a lifetime of service to Clay County Students, much of it in that building. As a result of his deep feelings, Herbert King, teacher, engineer, farmer and parent turned his emotions into what he entitled “The Autobiography of Clay County High School”.
Time, time, remorseless time
Grim specter of the scythe and glass.
Who can stay him in his flight
Or say he cannot pass?
Fifty-six years ago I stood with shining new walls, proud in my own beauty and strength and the promise of a more abundant life just dawning for my people. Today I stand amid twisted debris and ashes. My seared, smoked-stained walls seeming to mock-the hopes and faith of the youths trying to fulfill the dreams of the people who planned my inception so long ago and to prepare themselves to meet the challenges of a troubled world.
By what criteria shall I be judged and by what standards shall the success of my people and students be measured? By the piles of gold they accumulate and leave to canker in bank vaults? By stocks and bonds sometimes bought at the price of necessities and an honest name? By false fronts of culture or fine clothes?
No! The real standards of measurement were set many years ago by The Great Teacher when he said, “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 18:11) and: “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” (Matthew:7:16)
The success of any person or institution must ultimately be measured by the services rendered to neighbors whether nearby or afar.
My building as it stood in the beginning and the scarred walls as they are today were and are but tangible stimulus to the physical senses. The real Clay County High School cannot be fenced in by steel beams or brick and concrete. The real me is that spiritual part which cannot be destroyed by fire, flood, or other physical catastrophe. That part which inspired my being in the first place and has been so evident in my students and patrons in all the years since. This same spirit shall live on as long as the people of Clay County continue to dream dreams, see visions, and make plans for a better future for themselves and their children.
There are some citizens of other states, as well as our own, who say my people lack initiative and are not very energetic. To them I should like to say, in the words of one of our board of education members, “Circumstances have robbed us.” They have robbed us of our material wealth as well as our most valuable assets, the talents and enthusiasm of our young people.
This enthusiasm and determination and talent have been exemplified through the years, as shown by the two following examples.
One of my girls walked 14 miles each day through rain, mud and snow to earn her diploma. She paid her way through Glenville State College by baby-sitting and doing housework. Today, with a master’s degree, she is one of our leading teachers.
Then there was the boy from a large family who worked his way through West Virginia University and Columbia University by washing and pressing other students’ clothes and doing any other kind of work he could find. He has a doctorate in biochemistry and is now doing research work at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
I must not forget the parents (many with little formal education) who so unselfishly sacrificed that their sons and daughters might have a better life and be of more help to their country.
You may say, “Show me some of the fruit of Clay County High School.” Since my doors were first opened in 1912 my halls have resounded with the tread of thousands of students who have gone out to fill their places in every field of endeavor. They have carried their share of the burdens and responsibilities placed upon them by their country, which many times has been unappreciative.
Of the first eight graduates, one became a home demonstration agent, two doctors, three teachers, and the others gave their time and efforts to home and community.
Since then there has been a steadily increasing stream of my graduates pouring into the political, military, economic, social, and spiritual life of our nation. Since the years have passed so swiftly and youths are gone so soon, I cannot give in chronological order a list of the individual members of my classes and their achievements through the years. However, at the risk of being thought vain, I should like to note a few as memory presents them to mind.
Without any hope of making the roll complete and with a sincere wish not to offend anyone who may be left out, I give you the following occupations chosen by my graduates: Doctors, Teachers, Research Workers, Dentists, Electricians, Welders, Lawyers, College Professors, Rehabilitation Workers, Bakers, Pastors and Evangelists, College Presidents Newspaper Men, Engineers, Superintendent of Schools, Army Colonels, TV Newscasters, Sheet Metal Mechanics, Commanders (U.S. Navy), Coaches, Counselors, Marine Lieutenants, Carpenters, and Nurses
In the above list I had hoped to give the approximate numbers occupied in each profession. I found, however, that there were so many in most instances, that the task was impossible. A bouquet of orchids must also go to the truck drivers, farmers, merchants, clerks, homemakers, barbers, beauticians, mechanics and hundreds of others gone from my classrooms to work with their hands. Even in this machine age our society would be helpless without them.
I want to pay a very special tribute to my boys and girls who were and are now in the armed services of our country. There were ten teachers and 170 students ‘from the classes of 1943 and 1944 alone who served. In the years before and since then, a proportionate number have answered the call to arms. Many of them never came back. Some found unmarked graves in the South Pacific, Burma, Korea, Africa, Germany, and elsewhere.
To the many graduates whose eyes were so dimmed with tears when your commencement arrived and to the present group of boys and girls saddened by my apparent demise, I should like to assure you I have not ceased to be. I have just been challenged to greater achievements. Opportunity is beckoning me to a new space age just appearing over the horizon. With the help of men of vision and those who care, and with your faith I shall, like the mythical Phoenix, rise from the flames to “domes” of service “more vast” than ever before.