Graduation Exercises at Temple Hill, Dante, and St. Paul – 1940

© Jerry F. Couch

In 1940, what was about to become WWII had already begun in Europe.  The question of “Will the United States enter the war?” had largely been supplanted by “WHEN will the United States enter the war?”  Our country’s allies were under attack.  Even with the clouds of war on the horizon, local graduation exercises were occasions of hope and glory – as “The Greatest Generation” emerged to take its place in history.

From the pages of the Tri-County News, Thursday May 30, 1940

All Local Schools Wind Up Sessions This Week


The largest graduating class in the history of Temple Hill High School, 49 strong, had its closing exercises during the past week.


On Sunday morning, Rev. V. M. Rose, of Belfast, delivered the baccalaureate sermon.  Special music was furnished by Miss Janie Mason accompanied at the piano by Miss Louise Barker.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Home Economics Department, under the direction of Miss Nancy Mason, held an exhibit in the auditorium.  A number of interested patrons were present, and enjoyed the display of work done by the girls of this department during the year.

The Seniors presented the second of their two plays on Tuesday evening.  The title of the play was “Simple Simon Simple,” and was well-received by the large audience.  Mr. H. L. Stallard directed the production.  Those taking part in this play were Carolyn Hale, Aletha Elam, Joe Osborne, Mae Castle, Ralph Ball, Howard Wardreys, Varice Harrison, Vergie Jessee, Amma Johnson, and Davie Cantrell.

The graduation exercises were held Thursday night.  The valedictorian of this large class was Herbert Lyttle and Paul Castle was salutatorian.

Other seniors taking part in this program were:  Amma Johnson, Joe Osborne, Agnes Herndon, Mae Castle, Harry Couch, Beatrice Chafin, and Aletha Elam.  Superintendent G. H. Givens was present and awarded the diplomas.

DANTE SENIORS GIVE TALKS AT FINALS — Dante graduation exercises held Wednesday.

Sending forth its annual crop of hopefuls into the only country on earth where there is much hope left, the Dante High School, Wednesday night, held its graduation exercises for an average-size class of 22 seniors.


Henry Kinser, class president, was given the honor medal as being the student, who, during his four years of high school, had been the most exemplary in all departments of school endeavor.  As a result, he gained the right to have his name graved among those who, during the past ten years, have had their names placed on the honor plaque which adorns the wall of the school library.

The commencement program, opening with the processional, was largely student- conducted.  Jack Sublett gave the salutatory address, followed by three student talks on Virginia:  Virginia’s Cultural Progress, by Louise Wood; Virginia’s Economic Progress, by Henry Kinser; and Virginia’s [illegible] by Bob Harr.  Mary Elizabeth Thompson, class Valedictorian, concluded these talks with a discussion of the Future of Virginia.

School Superintendent G. H. Givens awarded the diplomas before the recessional, which concluded the program.


The Senior Class of Dante High School held their Class Day exercises on Tuesday afternoon at 3:00.  The program was held in the order of a class meeting.  Class President Henry Kinser brought the class to order, and Secretary Retha Mae Holbrook called the roll.  The president asked for any “Old Business” and the Class History was given by Buford Ring, and the Last Will and Testament by Roy Talbert.  Under the discussion of “New Business” the Class Prophecy was given by Billie South.  The Giftorian, Retha Mae Holbrook, then gave out appropriate little gifts to members of the class and their families.

The Senior Annual, “The Spectator,” was officially dedicated to Mr. Bob Ferguson who for the three preceding years had been the Class Sponsor.  He was presented with a copy of the book.

The exercises were closed by the entire Senior Class singing “Auld Lang Syne.”


Before a packed auditorium, 22 seniors graduated Friday night from the St. Paul High School.

St. Paul

The program opened with an introduction to the seniors as they were 12 years ago, enacted by the first and second grades.

Following this, came a play “Alma Mater’s Children,” enacted by the graduating class.

In the course of this drama, which depicted Alma Mater as being the Old Woman in the Shoe and the seniors as being her children, a class history was given by Alonzo Monday, Jr.  Carl Fleming acted as doctor, introducing each senior on the pretense of giving him an examination.  Chad Hilton answered some of the questions that so bothered some of the seniors.

Preceding the recess, Evelyn O’Dell read the Last Will and Testament of the Class of 1940.


1940 Graduates Photo

1940 seniors

After the recess, M. V. Damron presented the American Legion medals to the grades for citizenship, following which Coach Noel presented letters for football and basketball.  The evening’s climax was the awarding of diplomas and medals to the seniors by Principal W. D. Richmond.  The English medal went to Jimmie Sutherland of Dwina; the medal for math went to Arthur Holbrook; Commercial medal to Emerson Fleming; Biology to Gertrude Meade; History to Maynard Holbrook; Dramatics to Chad Hilton; and the coveted Valedictorian award to Howard U. Holbrook.

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