Members of the Lincoln-Hubbard School will be gathering for the 12th all-school reunion next weekend and a couple alumni took time recently to reminisce about the heritage of the once all-black school on Sedalia’s north side.
The first all-school reunion was organized in 1980 and hosted in 1981, said Elaine Ray, the reunion committee chairperson.
“The first reunion, nothing can top that,” Ray said. “Some of these former students had graduated, moved away and they had never been back. Then, for them to come back and be able to come into the school building. The trophy case was there in front with all the trophies we had won in sports. Just to see these people …”
In the past, approximately 200 people have attended the reunions that are hosted every three years, with 150 expected this year. Many alumni are coming in from all areas of the United States.
The last year for the school to have classes was in 1973 or ‘74. Afterward, it sat dormant and in ill repair until 2006. The building, located at West Johnson Street and North Osage Avenue, was then refurbished and reopened as the Lincoln-Hubbard Apartments in 2008.
Ray said the apartments, refurbished by MACO Companies, now provides housing for senior citizens.
“Construction began in late 2007 and it was finished at the end of 2008,” she added. “They added a new addition in 2009, and they had the dedication and open house in 2009, around the time we had the 2009 reunion.”
The former school, that was “instituted” in 1867, eventually housed first though 12th grade.
“It was an elementary school and high school,” Ray said of Hubbard. “The elementary school closed, I believe, in 1973.”
The Lincoln-Hubbard Apartments houses a Museum Room where the school’s memorabilia is displayed.
Belva Morney, the vice president of the reunion committee, helped set up the room. She recently gave the Democrat a tour of the museum that has basketball and track trophies and old faculty and student photos. The room still contains two original blackboards and an original choir robe from the music department.
While looking at the former school principal’s photos, Morney thought back.
“He always wanted you to think,” she said of the school’s namesake, Professor Christopher Columbus Hubbard. “That was his motto. There was a big sign in the school that said, ‘Did you think?’”
Favorite memories, for alumni members, are of several teachers and principals, and how they made a difference in the lives of students.
“She was a teacher, and then the principal of the elementary school, her name was Dorothy Kitchen,” Ray said. “Everybody remembers her. At one reunion she was asked to give some remarks. So, she stood up, and here’s all these adult people, 30, 40, 50, 60, and she said ‘It’s good to see all you boys and girls.’ The audience just went hysterical.”
Dorothy Kitchen’s husband Virgil, who still lives in Sedalia, is 100-years-old and the oldest Hubbard School alumni member, Ray added.
“He lives by himself,” she noted. “He graduated in 1933, and he remembers Professor Hubbard.”
Professor Hubbard was principal of the school from 1906 to 1947 and students knew him as a strict man.
“He was principal for 41 years,” she said. “Can you imagine being a principal of a school for 41 years? It was called Lincoln School, and then in honor of him they changed the name.”
Hubbard died May 23, 1947, and his funeral was at the school.
“I went by and talked to Virgil about him, and he said (Hubbard) was a strict disciplinarian,” Ray said. “Because, Virgil said, he carried a strap in his back pocket. He was a leader in the northside community.
“They tell me that when he would take the high school chorus around different places, and when they would say they had to come in the back door; he said ‘if my students have to come in the back door we’re not going to sing,’” she added.
Most places conceded and allowed the chorus to enter through the front doors.
“What Virgil said, at that time they didn’t have the high school,” Ray said. “They had to have their commencement at Convention Hall. (Hubbard) would walk the students from Hubbard School to Convention Hall. They were in lines of twos and nobody acted up, they just walked quietly out. He had a presence.”
Hubbard also took note of students who needed encouragement.
“If there were students that graduated, and gone to other states with a profession, he would bring those students back to give encouragement to the students that were in school,” she said.
He seemed to say, “You can do this if you study.”
Ray remembered teacher Harry Browder.
Browder was a guidance counselor at Smith-Cotton High School for many years, but he was first a coach and assistant principal at Hubbard before the school closed.
“He was another person who always encouraged students,” she added.
During the time of segregation, black students had to travel long distances to attend Hubbard School.
“Some of the students, what they remember, was the ones who came on the buses,” Ray noted. “Before 1954, black students had to attend black high schools. These students would ride buses, some of them 60 miles round trip everyday, because they came from Marshall … from Warrensburg. Some of them came from Tipton … and some of them came on the train from Warrensburg. That’s the way it was.”
If students lived out of town and played sports at that time, they often would stay with local families in the north community.
“There was a lady who lived across the street from the school and she would keep these kids on the weekends,” Ray added. “So they would have a way to participate in sports.”
Black high school students at Hubbard were finally allowed to attend Smith-Cotton High School in 1956, but many didn’t want to leave the school they had come to love. Hubbard High School stayed open until 1967.
“The last graduating class from the high school was in 1963.” Ray, who graduated from Hubbard in 1962, said. “The class of ‘64, ‘65, ‘66 and ‘67, some of those students stayed at Hubbard; they had been there all 12 years. But, they didn’t have graduations anymore, it was Hubbard Division of Smith-Cotton. So they had to graduate at Smith-Cotton, and that caused resentment; some people still remember it today.”
Many memories still surface of the closeness of family, friends and teachers for the alumni of Hubbard School.
“They knew everybody in your family,” Ray said with a laugh. “The teachers knew your parents, because the parents had went to that school.”
The Lincoln Hubbard All-School Reunion will be hosted July 31 through Aug. 2 at Best Western State Fair Inn. The event will feature a Friday night fellowship, a Saturday morning breakfast, and program given by speaker Nacente Seabury, and a Sunday picnic at Hubbard Park. There will also be a bus tour of the Lincoln-Hubbard Apartments on Saturday. Scholarships will also be handed out to area high school students during the weekend event.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 826-1000 ext. 1481 or @flbemiss.