Noble Hill alumni to reunite for Labor Day cookout

In its 26th year, the Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center’s Labor Day Homecoming Cook-Out on Sept. 7 will reunite the former school’s alumni. Now operating as a cultural museum, the building — originally named Cassville Colored School and later referred to as the Noble Hill School — provided instruction for black children in the first through seventh grades from 1923 to the mid-1950s.

“It is [a reunion], because we are asking all of our alumni that graduated or either attended the Noble Hill School to come back and reminisce with us and be part of this,” said Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center Curator Marian Coleman, who attended first through third grades at Noble Hill in the early 1950s. “Most of the time, they’re talking about the times when they went to school here, the teachers, the classes they took, the times we spent on the playground.

“... They always remind us of the bear ditch. That was a place — it’s on the east side of the building — where they would play. It’s like a little dirt hill that they played on. A lot of them would talk about the times they got spankings for playing in that red clay dirt. This is something that they enjoy talking about.”

Known as the first Rosenwald School in northwest Georgia, Noble Hill cost $2,036.35 to construct. The Rosenwald Fund contributed $700, with the remainder raised by the Cassville community. Built in 1923, the school stayed in operation until the educational site was consolidated into Bartow Elementary School in 1955.

After sitting vacant for more than 25 years, the building at 2361 Joe Frank Harris Parkway in Cassville was transformed into its present state with the help of state grants, private donations and fundraisers. Now referred to as Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center, the venue serves as a cultural museum that reveals what life and education was like for black residents during the early to mid-1900s.

According to Noble Hill’s information panels, “Noble Hill School, officially named the Cassville Colored School, was built in 1923 and is unique in the history of Black education in Bartow County. Constructed to replace the condemned one-room Cassville School that served black children from the 1880s until 1921, Noble Hill School was built with substantial support from the Rosenwald Fund as well as from local Black citizens. The Rosenwald Fund, established in 1914 by Sears, Roebuck and Company President Julius Rosenwald, was one of the most influential philanthropic efforts in the advancement of common schools for rural Black children in the South. Between 1914 and 1932, the Rosenwald Fund contributed $28 million toward construction of 4,977 Black schools in 15 states; 242 were built in Georgia.”

Along with the former school’s alumni, the public also is invited to the Homecoming Cook-Out from noon to 5 p.m. The event will feature activities and various food dishes, including fish, chicken, pulled pork, coleslaw, potato salad, Western baked beans, desserts and lemonade.

During the gathering, Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center’s supporters will continue to conduct alumni interviews for the venue’s archives.

“[The interviews] reveal a lot of happy times at Noble Hill and the special treatment that they got from the teachers to help them along their way,” said interviewer Johnnie Mae Heard, who also attended Noble Hill in the 1950s. “... Times were a lot different. We had to take our lunch to school. We had outdoor facilities — bathroom facilities — and potbelly stoves.

“When I talked to them, they told of the appreciation they had for the time that they went there. [These interviews are important] because the youth ... will be able to know what they had to go through.”

Even though the Labor Day Homecoming Cook-Out will be a free offering, donations will be accepted. The contributions will go toward the organization’s Unsung Heroes Banquet.

For more information about Noble Hill and its upcoming cookout, call the museum at 770-382-3392.

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