A Brief History and Some Fond Memories
C.F. Vigor was
Assistant Superintendent of Mobile County, Alabama Public Schools for more than 30 years, serving from 1910 to November 3, 1941, and was mainly in charge of rural schools in the system. He was a
lifetime resident of Mobile, having graduated from Barton Academy, and was the first president of the Mobile Education Association.
It was fitting that in January of 1944, a new elementary school at 913 N. Wilson Avenue in Prichard was named for him. (This aerial view of the school was taken in 1957. The view is toward the Southwest with Wilson Avenue at the bottom of the picture). Originally there were eight grades in the school. After its opening, the student enrollment quickly increased to such an extent that three grades were put on double sessions.
Three years later, relief for overcrowding came when the elementary grades were absorbed by other schools in the area. Eight additional classrooms were added to the existing facility and Vigor began concentrating on the upper grades. Before then, all public high school students in the county had to travel to midtown Mobile to attend Murphy. In those days, high schools had only 11 grades. Vigor’s first 11th grade graduating class was in 1952, the same year the auditorium was added to the complex, and the last 11th grade graduating class was in 1953, according to Clark Havard, whose brother, Victor Neal Havard, was in that class. The first 12th grade graduating class was in 1954. Elvis Presley, before he became the King, came to the campus in 1956 for an assembly program that ended abruptly when Principal J. M. Laird had the curtains pulled because of Elvis’ gyrations and unconventional style.
In the fall of 1956, when some of the class of 1960 entered Vigor in the 9th grade, a 12th grade had been added and Vigor was becoming an up and coming member of the Big Four in Mobile area high schools (Vigor, Murphy, University Military School and McGill). The crowning night of recognition in 1956 was when Vigor beat Murphy in football for the first time. The celebration at Ladd Stadium lasted long after the end of the game. In fact, Vigor beat Murphy for three of the four years that the Class of 1960 was in residence.
This was not the only threesome that comes to mind for the Class of 1960. There were three Valedictorians: Jimmy Hannah, Dickie Bass and David Dennis and there were three co-captains of the football team: Que McMasters, Haskell Dunn and Gary Bullock
In addition, Kenny Middleton was President of the Class, Albert Gaston and Carolyn McDonald were voted Most Likely To Succeed, George Mayfield and Sarah Jane Little were Mr. and Miss Friendship, Pat Mastin was Miss Vigor, Joy Winfield was Homecoming Queen and Suzelle Cranford was Head Cheerleader, just to name a few. Vigor had its first exchange student, from Denmark, Rolf Albinuissen. Vigor also had one of the most unique pranks played by two classmates who skipped school one day and flew over the campus in their plane, dropping flour bag bombs on the unsuspecting below. Harry Noble wrote a poem in English class in tribute to the event. Ask him to recite it. He can still remember it word for word.
Some graduates have been curious as to what happened to Rolf. As you may remember, while attending Vigor he lived with Billy Smith and his family in Chickasaw. Billy kept in touch with Rolf for a number of years. Rolf went back to Denmark and completed his senior year of high school there and went on to a Denmark university. Billy and his sister, Lynette, visited Rolf in 1964 and had a great time touring Germany and Holland. After a few years the Smiths lost contact with Rolf. However, in the Fall of 2006, Rolf found us through Google and this web site! He is a Physician in a small town in Denmark and says, if able, he'd love to attend our fiftieth reunion. We hope he can make it!
One of the lesser known facts about the Class of 1960 is that our baseball team won the Alabama State Championship. The playoffs took place in late May, well after the class had walked the aisles and collected their diplomas in a ceremony that was for the first time held in the newly-built Prichard Stadium adjacent to I-65. One of the reasons the team did so well was that Coach Terry Durham kept the team together the summer of 1959 and enrolled them in a semi-pro league in Mobile where they competed with experienced adults. As a result, Coach Charles Williams took over a well-practiced and well-skilled team in 1960 that consisted of lots of seniors. They included Buck Knizley, Que McMasters, Ronnie Williams, Jim Livings, Winston Weaver, Orville Green, Jim Evans and Dendral Lewis. Dendral Lewis went on to play baseball and basketball for Spring Hill College and underclassmen Vernon Newbill and Paul Crane went on to play football at the University of Alabama. Vigor won the championship in a best of three series against Tuscaloosa High School. The last game was won 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Who could forget swimming at Johnson’s Lake in Eight Mile, sizzling delicious hamburgers at Tom’s near the campus and the Kreame Bar in Chickasaw, roller skating at Rambo’s in Saraland, bowling at the Smith Brother’s bowling lanes near the campus, waterskiing on Bayou Sara and fishing in Chickasabouge. There was the “Stairway to Stardom” teenage talent show on WAIP Prichard radio on Sunday afternoons which Vigor dominated, dancing at the Teenage Haven over the Prichard City Hall on Friday and Saturday nights and, if all else failed, there was always the "Kali Oka Road light show".
Mobile had only three television stations in those days and there were movie theaters in both Prichard and Chickasaw. Prichard had the Waterall, the Prichard, the Rex and the Gem. Chickasaw had the Air Sho Drive-in and earlier the Chickasaw Theater in the Chickasaw shopping center on Craft Highway. There were flat tops, 45 rpm records, full skirts and bobby socks, ‘Dixon on Disk” television show on Channel 10, sock hops in the gym after games, and much, much more. SOURCE: Mobile County Public Schools
Office Of Communication
Personal Memory of Clay Swanzy and conversations with 1956-1960 graduates