Friends grow old together

DORIS KINGRY | Guest Columnist

The Berryhill School building on Berryhill Street and I have grown old together. That school building is like an old friend to generations of its former students.

For years it housed first through seventh grades before kindergarten was a requirement. After seventh grade, students transferred to Milton High School on Canal Street in the building where the superintendent is now housed.

For some of the years I was at Berryhill, we had art and music instruction once each week, taught by an itinerant teacher. The music teacher came from Escambia County, and all students met him in the auditorium where we mostly learned the lyrics to some classical, some currently popular and some patriotic songs and then sang them to the top of our lungs.

Our music teacher, Mr. Schenk, composed a song especially for Berryhill. Perhaps no one else remembers the lyrics, but here they are:

Berryhill, the school with the will

To bring its students up right.

Our teachers are courageous.

They help us through our pages

Of learning. They keep us yearning

To study and work with determination

So we will become part of this great nation.

And when we go to college,

They’ll know we got our knowledge

From dear old Berryhill.

Many, many years later, a Berryhill teacher and former classmate friend of mine asked the then music teacher there to teach the song to students, but the idea was rejected.

In the weekly art classes, I learned to draw a cat and a rabbit, beginning with circles. I also learned to draw a few still lifes, but I do not think that is where I learned to appreciate beautiful colors and nuances of colors, but the classes were a respite from the rigors of math and science. I never considered grammar as "rigorous."

What is more, the playground at Berryhill was a joyous place for play, especially "keep-away," dodge ball and hopscotch with my friends. The grounds were surrounded by large hollow pipe, laid end-to-end through posts that were about three feet high.

While playing keep-away one afternoon after school, while waiting for the late bus, I caught the ball at the same time a strong, big boy grabbed it. As I held tight, he slung me around into the pipe, breaking my collarbone, my first bone-break. I wore a sling for weeks.

The building itself is built around a courtyard where we who brought a lunch from home often ate during the hour lunch period. Then we had time to play again. The "city kids" had time to walk home for lunch. Later, we had a lunchroom where a delicious soup was served at lunch for five cents a bowl.

Those were halcyon days at Berryhill where the building is now in disrepair—as old friends may become.

Doris Melvin Kingry, retired English and journalism teacher, was first woman elected to public officein Santa Rosa County where she served eight years. She is a native Santa Rosan, living where herfamily has lived for several generations.