Friday, December 13, 2013

Massie School, Savannah, GA


I had three older sisters and their favorite saying was ‘Sit down George and shut up.’ For many years I thought my middle name was shut-up! We had all gone to the same high school, all six of us. One high school teacher once asked me how many McGaughey children are there left behind you? I thought I put him at ease and said “only two but they’re the worst of the six,” he didn’t ask again. As long as I could remember there was always two or three of us in the same school at the same time. We lived in an urban school system in Jefferson County, Colorado. Not a one room schoolhouse, thank God, like Massie School. Or maybe not “Hey McGaughey, spell bacteria”, then I could just point to one of my brothers or sisters.
 Massie School in Savannah Georgia was started by a Scotsman, Bernard Mallon in 1856. He saw many of the children playing on the street not attending any school. Leave it up to a Scotsman to make sure everyone is productive. The Massie Heritage Center has seven different unique areas to view. The old school is just one of these areas.


In the old school, boys and girls were kept separated in all areas, the courtyards, classroom and even the staircases. All children no matter what their age or level of learning were taught in the same room, boys on one side girls on the other. Many of them were boarded in the same building but in different wings. Old maps of the early 18th century depicting the area and school rules hung on the walls. Glass cabinets held pictures of attending alumni throughout the years. Hanging in one corner were old clothes depicting the era, you could try them on if you wanted but we passed. The principle’s office was just off the main teaching platform from where two teachers taught all grades. They had a large teaching staff, which surprised me, with a principle, two teachers and four assistances. Long benches covered both sides of the walls where parents could observe their children as they studied. In the front was a ‘Dunce Cap’ where bad students might have been required to set. I guest this might have been my seat after the spelling bee. The tour guide gave a great adaptation of this history replica’s teaching practices, curriculum and the long history of the Massie School.


Above the front door on a sign reads ‘Your first stop in Georgia’s first city’. This truly is a great place to get a history lesson and an overview of the city as it first started and then grew. In one of the rooms down stairs is an enormous scale model of the city to orient you to Savannah. It demonstrates how James Oglethorpe laid out the city in a grid formation. Within each grid square he placed parks, commercial and residential areas. Over the years the city kept that same grid pattern and now has 21 park squares. Each is beautifully landscaped with a variety of old trees, fountains, monuments, bushes, flowerbeds and sidewalks. Each square was given a name to honor a person in history. A light show using this impressive scale model not only demonstrates the grid layout but also illustrates the history of Savannah. Lighting up the different areas it displays where the battles in the south were fought during the Revolutionary War where Sherman camped in the Civil war and where German subs were sank just off the harbor in Savannah.  It also showed where different fires demolished the city’s main buildings several times over the years and how park squares were added on from the two original squares to its current size and elegant style.


In the boys old boarding wing there is a complete history of the early Native American settlers before Oglethorpe arrived. It demonstrates how Oglethorpe embraced the friendship of the American Natives, even taking their chief back to England to meet the King. Oglethorpe met Mary Musgrove in Charleston SC and took her with him to be his translator. She helped him develop friends, explore the area, grow different crops and travel with him to see the King of England. The exhibit depicts the lifestyle, tools, and history of the people who lived in this coastal region before European settlers.



In the girls boarding wing is an inspiring exhibit comparing the world’s most well-known architectural structures. This teaching exhibit shows the varieties of architectural styles as seen throughout the downtown of Old Savanna. Walking from the front door you can see these styles in use in the many commercial buildings, apartments, houses, monuments, banks and restaurants even in the water spouts.

Standing in the boy’s courtyard I wondered what games they might have played, tag, hoops, hide-and-go-seek because baseball had not yet been invited. “Sit down George and shut up” I heard a voice shout from the girl’s yard. Oh I’m so glad I’m retired and not in a classroom any longer.   

Happy feet (in the classroom) RV travels,

George (with Peggy & Coco)





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