Portland’s first school designed solely for elementary students was opened in 1956.  

Prior to that all 12 grades attended the Sumner County High School built in 1915 “on Portland’s Eastern Border.” Portland continued to grow and in 1931, a new Sumner County High School was built to house the older grades.  

The two buildings sat side by side around the flag pole that is still in place in Richland Park beside the current Portland Public Library.  

Children born between 1946 and 1964 are called the “Baby Boomer” generation which began after the close of World War II.  Yearly the class sizes fluctuated and often some of the older elementary classes were housed in the high school basement. 

Often, instead of a teacher continuing to teach the same age group, they would promote with the students to the next grade. Significant growth continued and the need for another school was realized.  A site not too far, just up Portland Boulevard on Gibson Street was selected for a new school just for elementary students.  

Robert Dawson served as its first principal in 1956. Later, Thurman Cothron became principal and served many years in that capacity.

Recently Alice Walker shared a picture of a group of elementary teachers who served at Portland Elementary during 1960.  A little test might be fun, so look at the picture first to see how many teachers you can name without peeking at the answers!  

I believe they are correctly identified but if there is a mistake, please let us know.  On the front row (l-r): Rebecca Crafton, Floy Wilkinson, Sue Riggs, Vallie Legge, Clyta Street, Edith Bradley, and Dot Cummings.  Second row: Lillie Bigbee, Edith Harris, Lola Mae Empson, Jeanette Johns, Viola Jernigan, Juanita Grantham, and Beulah Reddick.  Back Row: Bobby Thompson; Clara Deasy; Agnes Hendrix; Thurman Cothron, Principal;  Mrs. Mischnick; Norma Young; and J.C. Bigbee.  Hope we all get an “A” on our test!

Johnnie Freedle is a member of the Highland Rim Historical Society.

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