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Ficquett celebrates golden anniversary
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All who have attended or worked at Ficquett Elementary School are invited to the school's 50th Anniversary Celebration and Sock Hop from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 10.

Principal Miriam Wilkins said both former and current students and teachers are excited about Saturday evening's event.

"The anniversary will be a great opportunity for local Ficquett alumni to recall and perhaps share experiences they had at the school," Wilkins said.

 Harriette Moss was in sixth grade when she began classes at Ficquett, which at the time housed students from first to eighth grades.

Moss remembered starting her school day on April 3, 1957 at Covington Elementary, which once stood where the Covington Police Department now sits on Conyers Street.

"We all took our books and the whole entire school walked over there that morning from the old school to the new school - it was quite an event.

"Everybody that walked over there that day remembers it."

First grade students had to carry their chairs the approximate half-mile to Ficquett.

Moss will present a slide show of old class and basketball team pictures from Ficquett's first few years at this weekend's celebration.

The school was named after the school superintendent, E.L. Ficquett. George Hutchinson was the school's first principal.

Hutchinson's son, George Hutchinson Jr., attended the school from 1961 to 1969.

"I remember all the teachers from that era so well because they were like family to me with my dad being principal," Hutchinson said. "I was roaming the halls before I even went there."

Hutchinson holds fond memories from his early childhood of Marvin Hammonds, the school's head janitor, pushing him through the halls on a dolly

He said the school, a shiny, new facility, also housed many meetings and banquets for Cub and Boy Scouts as well as other local civic organizations.

Not only was Hutchinson's father the first principal at Ficquett, but also his mother taught there and his two children currently attend. He also works next door to the school at the central office of the Newton County Board of Education as a school social worker.

Louise Adams, principal of Ficquett from 1981 to 1995, also plans to attend the anniversary celebration and reunion. Adams was the first black, female assistant principal at the school starting in 1977 and went on to become the school's first black principal.

"At first it was hard for some of the white teachers, students and parents to accept me as the principal of the largest elementary school in the county," Adams said.

However, once her colleagues and students and parents became aware of her dedication and ability to facilitate the school's needs, things advanced smoothly.

"Students knew I loved them regardless of their ethnicity and that I was consistent with discipline and praise when it was warranted."

Under Adams' direction Ficquett piloted several programs still in existence in the county today such as the first half-day kindergarten class, the first special education class, the first English as a second language program and the first D.A.R.E program in Newton County schools.

"A lot has changed in Ficquett's 50 year history," Wilkins said, "not only in the facility, but also in the curriculum and the way the school operates." 

Gail Carter, Ficquett's media specialist, attended the school from 1959 to 1967. She began working at the school in 1991 and can name several differences in its physical appearance as well as practices.

The school has added a gym and expanded the media center with additions in 1988, 1999, 2000 and 2001. Ficquett also now employs 19 trailers as classrooms.

Girls had to wear dresses or skirts to school and could not wear pants or shorts when Carter attended.

She said physical education, art and music are now separate classes for students whereas classroom teachers were responsible for those subjects when she was a student.

"My third grade teacher loved art," Carter said. "That's how I learned how to draw a tree - I still remember it."

She also remembers being timed walking home during the Cuban Missile Crisis so school officials would know how long it would take every student to reach their houses if disaster struck.

If a student had perfect attendance for the week, he or she was allowed to go home an hour early on Friday. If an entire class had perfect attendance for the week, they were dismissed immediately following lunch on Friday.

She remembers the delicious chili, Brunswick stew and cinnamon rolls the cafeteria once served.

Most students behaved well because of the looming possibility of corporal punishment.

"Principal George Hutchinson was very well respected and we all were afraid of him in a way because we thought he had an electric paddle in his office," Carter said, "but it turned out to be an electric tie press."

Today, every classroom at Ficquett has a television. When Carter was a girl, teachers brought in their own televisions on days when important events were being televised such as NASA space program launches.

Principal Hutchinson also allowed televisions in the lunchroom during the major league baseball World Series.

When President John F. Kennedy was shot in 1963, Carter was on the swing set when another student rushed out saying the president had been killed.

Carter remembered that November day when she learned of the terrorist attacks in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, standing in Ficquett's cafeteria.

Although much has changed throughout the years, the tight-knit atmosphere at Ficquett has not. Carter's mother taught at Ficquett and her father sold school supplies. Her husband and two children also attended the school.

Wilkins said the anniversary celebration is not solely for those who attended or worked at Ficquett, but open to the public.

"The event will be full for the entire family," Wilkins said. "We'd love participation from the entire community."