Old Photos From Alton Park School Found In House Being Remodeled

Saturday, October 19, 2019

John Roberts said he discovered a number of old photos and coins in a house he is remodeling in Chattanooga.

One is of third grade at Alton Park School in 1952. The teacher is Miss Munsey.

Another is of fourth grade at Alton Park School in 1953. The teacher is Miss Becton.

Both photos were taken by Harry Granert Studio.

Michael Lucas identified the man in both photos as the principal, Claude Johnson.

Mr. Lucas wrote, "In viewing the old photos of Alton Park Elementary School, I immediately recognized Miss Munsey.

She was my third grade teacher at Woodmore Elementary and was employed there when I started first grade in the fall of 1958. A wonderful teacher, I suspect Miss Munsey arrived at Woodmore through the efforts of the school's long-time principal, Claude Johnson. For you see, he's the answer to the mystery man in the photo. Mr. Johnson served as principal at Alton Park before coming to Woodmore. His son, now living in California, confirmed his identity."

John Shearer reports that Ms. Becton was Martha Becton, who later worked at Bright School and Hixson Elementary and elsewhere. She was also active in the City Schools Federal Credit Union and was a member of First Baptist Church in Chattanooga. She died in 2015 at the age of 87 and was buried in Auburntown, Tn., near Murfreesboro.

Below is an excerpt from a story written by John Shearer in Chattanoogan.com in 2013 as part of a series on the 100th anniversary of Bright School. He had interviewed Ms. Becton about her teaching experiences:

The Book Lady

Much of Martha Becton’s working life revolved around seeing the world close up and the world far away.

Regarding the former, she has admittedly enjoyed reading books ever since she was young.

“I always liked to read,” she said. “I worked in the library when I went to college. I got bitten by the bug.”

Growing up in Murfreesboro, she went to Middle Tennessee State University before coming to Chattanooga, where her sister, Mary Park, lived. While in Chattanooga, she also received a master’s degree in elementary education from what was then the University of Chattanooga. 

After teaching briefly in the Chattanooga City Schools starting at Alton Park Elementary, she then began examining the faraway world by teaching at dependent schools for Air Force families in Germany and Japan.

“I enjoyed it. It was rewarding,” she recalled of her five years abroad. “I wanted to see the world, and I thought this would be a good way to see the world.”

However, her world soon became Bright School. She was a good friend of Bright School teachers Adele Baker and Shirley Norris Hodge, and they suggested her name to the Bright headmaster at the time, Dr. Mary Dalton Davis, regarding a teaching position.

Ms. Becton interviewed with her during the summer of 1963, and began teaching fourth grade that year.

Within a few years, though, Dr. Davis and the board decided that Bright needed a library. And they wanted Ms. Becton to run it.

A small section of the back of the school cafeteria was partitioned off, and Ms. Becton was trained by going to Emory University over the summers and earning a master’s degree in librarianship.

Ms. Becton also found herself having to run a larger entity – the entire Bright School. 

After Dr. Davis retired in 1969 and before Sib Evans Sr. was hired in 1970, Ms. Becton served as the interim headmistress for a year.

“I preferred the library,” she said. “I did not want to stay in that position.”

In 1974, after she returned to being just the librarian, a newer gym was built onto the North Chattanooga campus of the school, so the smaller and older gym – known as the King Room – was turned into the library.

Books in a library are usually enjoyed individually, but Ms. Becton remembers how they became part of a special collective moment for the school when the King Room remodeling was finished.

“When we moved, I had every student help move books,” she said. “Everybody got a chance to help move.”

Ms. Becton stayed at Bright until 1978, and then went back to the Chattanooga City Schools and retired from Hixson Elementary in 1993.

But she has not forgotten the 15 years she spent at Bright.

“It was a wonderful place of children and parents, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there,” she said.

Can anyone identify anyone else in the pictures?


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