Monday, January 09, 2017

Looking Back—Handley and Handley High School

On December 20, 1849, Tarrant County was founded and named after General Edward H. Tarrant, who had been instrumental in driving out the Indians. Tarrant County was formally organized in August 1850, when the first elections were held. The railroad arrived in 1876 and the rail line that extended to the Dallas area resulted in Handley and Hayterville (later renamed Arlington) coming into being. Handley was named after Major James Madison Handley of Georgia. After the Civil War Handley moved to the area while employed as a traveling salesman.

The first Handley School was built south of the Texas and Pacific tracks in 1877 and was located at the corner of Daggett (now Forest Avenue) and Main (now Hart Street). It was initially an ungraded school with one teacher. Later the building was expanded to accommodate more students. About 1898 construction of a new school building began on the corner of Forest and Church Streets where the old Masonic building now stands. That school was completed in 1901.

That same year Tarrant County Commissioners approved the creation of the Handley Independent School District. It operated from 1902 until 1928 when it was annexed by the Fort Worth Independent School District. Seven men were elected as trustees for the new school district: John Joseph Ferrell, William Pitt Craig, William David Weiler, William Louis Hunter, Richard Ladd, Thomas Kell, and Jacob Cook. Each of these men were buried at Rose Hill Cemetery (established in 1928) Major Handley is interred there as well. In1909 a larger school, constructed of red brick with white stone trim, was erected at 3127 Chilton Street. It was used for both elementary and primary grades until 1922 when a second brick building was built at 2925 Haynie Street that housed the Handley School from 1922 to 1959 (when the last class graduated from Handley High School).

An essay in the 1928 Handley School Yearbook reveals that the yearbook (sometimes referred to as an annual) had its origin back in 1920 connected with the creation of a school newspaper to document activities of school life. The school paper was to be called the Skyrocket. However, when the publication came about it was named "The Guidepost," but only the initial issue was so named. Over the course of the next three years (1921, 1922, 1923), a semi-monthly publication called "The Skyrocket" was created to document school activities. It was in 1924 that the first annual, a "neat" fifty page booklet, was printed. In the year 1925, "The Skyrocket" appeared rather irregularly, but the best final edition that had ever been published, it was said at the time, appeared at the close of the school term.

At the beginning of the 1925-1926 term, "The Skyrocket" was discontinued because the Handley News began devoting a portion of the space to the school reports. However, popular demand among the students resulted in "The Skyrocket" being reinstated. Curiously, the 1930 yearbook was called "Greyhound," but the football team continued to be called the Rockets. Then for some reason the name of the yearbook was changed in 1931 to "Orion" while the sports teams began using the Greyhound emblem. The 1931 year seems to have been the only year for an Orion yearbook. The yearbook for 1932 took the form of a scrapbook. Except for the years 1933, 1934, 1935, and 1936 when no yearbooks were published, Greyhound continued both as yearbook and as the school emblem until Handley High School was closed at the end of the 1959 school year.

Around 2009 (the 50th anniversary of the last graduating class of Handley High School) an effort was undertaken to find and scan as many of the Handley yearbooks as could be located. A total of 28 yearbooks were located and scanned—essentially all that were produced except for 1926, 1929, and 1939 (and the years no yearbooks were produced). Two complete sets of the scanned yearbooks have been produced (both 4-volume printed versions and digital versions of the complete set) and have been deposited with the Billy W. Sills Archive of the Fort Worth Independent School District and with the Fort Worth Genealogical Library, respectively. A third set has was produced for depositing with a suitable repository in the Handley area whenever one is located.

The yearbooks provide a wealth of insight about the history of Handley people. In the 1927 yearbook you can read the interesting guidance from the School Superintendent to students and teachers. You can read about activity groups such as "Declaimers" and "Debaters." The 1928 issue of the Skyrocket boasts that "ninety percent of the 186 students who have finished here are or have been in college." That seems to be an amazing feat for those days. Are we that accomplished in these days? 

An index of all seniors from all of the years collected is included with the yearbook sets that includes in some cases burial locations of our deceased alumni in the form of Find-A-Grave memorial numbers. A document with links to each of the yearbooks for downloading can itself be downloaded at: http://tinyurl.com/qyy8yfh.

David McConnell, Handley High School Class of 1959