Ringing Today For the Success of Our Children TomorrowBlock Number: 122
By Ginger Todd
BELL HERITAGE LIVES ON THROUGH QUILT BLOCK
Pleasant Gardens School became the host of Block #122 on the McDowell Quilt Trail on Thursday, August 16, 2012, adding colorful excitement to students and teachers returning on the 27th to begin the new school year. The school of approximately 425 students, K-6th grade, has titled the block “Ringing Today for the Success of our Children Tomorrow”.
What began in 1908 as a one-room class in a log home near the present location grew through the years, enlarged in 1911 and then in 1926 a new building was erected. The combined elementary and high school became a part of the Pleasant Gardens school district with consolidation of several other area districts. The campus originally consisted of 13 acres, a part of the estate of the founder of McDowell County, Joseph McDowell. In 1927 the first graduating class of five students was honored with a cook-out and in 1934 the first P.T.A. was organized. In 1938 a new wing was added to include four more classrooms to accommodate the rapid growth in student population.
The first school Annual (yearbook) was published in 1948 entitled “Tahoma”. The first lunchroom served mainly soup and hot chocolate however, in 1950 a new lunchroom was opened serving up to 400 children daily. A large bell was situated outside the school building, which was rung once as a warning to students on the playground to return to class, and a second time for them to actually be seated in the classroom. Its peals were often heard as a means of announcement for a function, special occasion or celebration.
Through the years, as the old school building underwent considerable renovation (and more recently, eventual replacement done in stages) the bell had been removed several times from the campus as a prank, possibly by graduating seniors or school rivals. It had always reappeared or was found, (sometimes in the river) and returned to its traditional position on school grounds. That was until its disappearance in 1971 when it vanished for over 30 years.
In 2005 Principal Joe McMinn contacted Mr. John Roach, long respected for his dedicated service in the education field, and requested his aid in recovering the original bell. Mr. Roach was principal of the school from 1958 until 1971 (the year the bell disappeared) and was anxious to help “get the ball rolling” in order to find the long-lost bell.
With the help and investigations of several others who were avid about returning the bell to their Alma Mater and its rightful home after all those years, the bell was located. It had been gifted to Sunnyvale Baptist Church on N.C. Highway 80, where evidently nothing was known about its past.
After more than three decades the beloved bell was finally reinstated to PG School. The exterior had been painted black, but the bell was identified by a vertical crack in its side. A replacement bell was provided the church and with the help of volunteers the original PG bell was moved and refurbished by Dennis Killough and his son Scott. They worked diligently to restore the P.G. bell to its former condition and its burnished silver color, including construction of a sturdy platform for the bell to be displayed upon.
The 250 pound bell now sits securely on a stand just inside the school commons area, where it celebrated a homecoming on December 4, 2005 with a special first “ringing of the school bell” at the end of the ceremony. The speaker at the program was Mr. John Roach, the school’s oldest living principal and who was so instrumental in initiating the groundwork for the recovery of the bell. The surrounding frame includes a depiction of the four white columns on the original school building and is highlighted by the school’s mascot, the Indian. A special plaque reading “Home at Last” is a reminder of the many years it remained undiscovered.
The school’s quilt block was funded by an employee collection account, originally designated for retirement and promotion gifts to past school personnel but which was declined by them and thus earmarked for something special. The use of those funds ultimately provided the hosting of a McDowell County Quilt Block.
The 3.5’ X 3.5’ wooden quilt block, installed by volunteers Mike Lucas and Jack Raker, features the school colors of gold and blue and is easily viewed centered over the front entrance of Pleasant Gardens Elementary located at 100 John Roach Drive off of Highway 70 East. The bell is a golden hue on a maroon setting, surrounded by points of four shades of blue in a hexagon backdrop. The block, visible from the outside, is a reminder of the historic treasure and its remarkable past, now safely stationed inside the school building, broadcasting its name “Ringing Today for the Success of Our Children Tomorrow”.
Jill Lucas, Chairman of the Quilt Trail, presented a Certificate of Authenticity to Principal Susan Westall and other school staff. Mrs. Helen Lancaster Roach, wife of the late renowned John Roach, was present at the installation of the block however she was unavailable for the photo.