History of Western Alamance High School
The first step toward the construction of Western Alamance High occurred on September 27, 1958 when a bond issue for school construction was passed. A site for construction was chosen at the C.E. Kernodle property on Highway 87 at the intersection of Gerringer Mill Road in 1959. Construction on a high school to consolidate Elon, Altamahaw- Ossipee, and Pleasant Grove High Schools began in 1960. The $700,000.00 building was to include 24 classrooms, a shop building, a gymnasium with locker rooms, a cafeteria, a library and covered walkways to connect the buildings. Not included were an auditorium, music building and additional shop and vocational areas.
Mr. A.M. Primm was chosen as the new principal by a local committee consisting of two leaders from each of the three consolidated schools- J. Mark McAdams and James White from Elon; Horace Rascoe and Russell Taylor from Pleasant Grove; and Nimrod Harris and Dan Ireland from Altamahaw- Ossipee. Mr. Primm had served as principal of Elon School, Sylvan School and assistant principal as Southern High School. Mr. Primm’s experience as teacher, coach and principal paved the way for his outstanding leadership role in the welding of three separate and divergent communities into a unified, loyal and enthusiastic student body that quickly became Western Alamance High School.
Prior to the closing of the three schools, students voted navy and white as school colors with the WARRIOR as mascot. Coaches were named to put together 3A teams that had been 1A rivals one year earlier. Some of the very important earlier coaches were Pete Stout and Bobby Rainey from Altamahaw- Ossipee, Harvey Sharpe from Pleasant Grove, and Eddie Hughes from Elon.
On July 6, 1962, Western Alamance High School received its final inspection from Superintendent C.C. Linneman and the Alamance County Board of Education- Henry Dixon, Henry Scott, Claude Simpson, Vance Newlin, Carl Sellars and T.E. Powell. With only one paved driveway, no grass, no shrubs, knee deep mud, no parking lots, and no outside athletic facilities but with a great deal of determination, Mr. Primm and Mrs. Sadler set about getting the school ready for occupancy. There was furniture to be placed, books to be sorted, schedules to be made for 550 students, supplies and books to be purchased and stored. Don Iseley (ICT Coordinator) L.A. Freeman (ag teacher) and local farmers brought their plows, tractors, hoes and shovels to grade the yard with sow grass. The first librarian, Mrs. Adelia Truitt, spent the next two months sorting and shelving 3000 library books and other library materials.
August 30, 1962 marked an eventful day as Western High School with a principal, a secretary, twenty- seven teachers, four custodians and six cafeteria staff members welcomed 557 students who quickly developed an affinity for one another, an unsurpassed loyalty for their new school and faculty and a determination to achieve high standards in every area of educational achievement. All of the first faculty but four came from one of the three consolidating schools. Fifty- nine courses were offered for the student body. On February 13, 1963, the school and its programs were approved and cited by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction as “a well- planned facility with a dedicated and well- prepared faculty with good rapport between students and teachers. All areas of instruction were correlated and excellent leadership was demonstrated by the principal.”
A steady stream of more than 5000 visitors attended the first annual open house on Sunday afternoon September 30, 1962 and were duly impressed with the new school. Nimrod Harris served as Master of Ceremonies for a dedicatory program in the filled 1200 seat gymnasium.
The PTA, with Vernon Jones as president, provided funds to plant trees and shrubs on the campus- trees that are now full grown oaks. Students named and published a school yearbook, The We Hi Wa (Western High Warrior) and a newspaper, The West Side Story. Extracurricular clubs and activities were quickly organized and coordinated through an elected student government headed by Jerel Boone. Vocational clubs were formed and National Honor Society inductions were made based on grades students earned in the consolidating schools.
A committee composed of faculty members Ross Smith, Wilkes Lowe, A.M. Primm, Jean Sadler and students Jerel Boone, Judy Thompson, Anita Snipes, Keith Oakley and John Matkins designed a school seal bearing the lettering “cognita est Potentio” (Knowledge is Power) and a class ring with the seal on one shank, and Indian Warrior on the other side and a blue spinel set. This ring in 10K gold with initials sold for $20 to $25 depending on options.
By the fall of 1964 members of the Athletic Boosters Club had been able to raise money to complete a football stadium and baseball field including lights, fence, concrete stands, a track, temporary visitors stands, an underground irrigation system on the football field, two concession stands and press box. Over $170,000.00 was raised locally to support these projects. Many booster club members devoted many hours of their time to the construction.
In August 1963, Pomula Lee Shaw, the first black student to enroll in a segregated school in Alamance County, entered the freshman class at Western without incident. Her sister, Mary Nancy Shaw, followed her the next year. More black students, Wilma and Gwen Gilliam, enrolled the next year. In 1966, the first black faculty member, Mrs. Clara Hawkins, was hired all of which paved the way for the achievement of full integration in 1968-69. New zone lines were drawn to divide the county into four zones. Eastern, Western, Southern, and Graham.
In preparation for this move, a new building program was begun adding eight classrooms, new locker rooms, three shops housing auto mechanics, carpentry, electronics and drafting, two additional science rooms, two homes economics rooms, music facility with band and chorus rooms, offices and practice rooms, a student commons area and a thousand seat auditorium. This addition almost doubled the space, added 14 new staff member and brought the enrollment to 950. By 1980 there was a peak enrollment of 1200 students and a graduating class of 238.
Early Athletic Success
Six football and numerous varsity basketball and baseball teams advanced to state play-offs and wrestling, golf, tennis, and track teams became a part of the sports scene. Coach Pete Stout set a record with a 10-0 football team in 1963 and another conference winner in 1964. Coaches changed frequently after 1966 and 1967 a former A.O. and Catawba College basketball star returned to his hometown to coach J.V. basketball. John Garrison later assisted in football and became head basketball coach and head football coach. In 1972 he produced an 8-2-football team when pressed into being the head football coach. Beginning in 1985 he held the athletic program together as athletic director. Perhaps the most outstanding football player at Western was Don Brannon. In 1964, he was named MVP for the conference and all-state team. Jerry Matkins, Tommy Thomasson and Wes Gilliam were members of that same all-conference team and worked as Western Boosters for the teams on which their sons played.
Magazine sales have always added much –needed revenue to the school treasury. By 1982 sale totaled $30,000 for the year. From 1963 until 1990, profits from the magazine sales have provided paving for the school parking lot, a 15 seat passenger can, a tractor and mower, a storage area between the home economics department and the library, tennis courts, operating expenses for many clubs and the student council, trophy cases for the commons and office, ceiling fans for all classrooms, a new intercom system, new mini blinds and many other needed and expensive items.
Successful Music Programs
Music programs hold important roles at Western High School. In 1962-63 Lacy Fogleman began a choral program. Over the years his choraleers and concert choirs became well known and in demand throughout the area and in the state. The Chorus made three appearances at the New York World’s fair in 1965, went to Pascask, New Jersey; Rising Suns, Md., New Orleans, Atlanta, Florida and performed in many state and national contests. They became known as “Ambassadors of Song” from Western High School and were invited to the International Musical Festival in Llangallen, Wales in 1968. In 1970, the choraleers toured England, Germany, Switzerland and France and entered competition at Dijon, France. When no one was available to direct the band in 1966, Mr. Fogleman directed the band, majorettes and boot girls.
A young, wet-behind-the-ears Eddie Harris made his debut at Western in 1967 and for twenty-three years brought fame and success to the Mighty Red, White and Blue Band with as many as 200 members at times. His bands captured hundreds of trophies as they participated in festivals, parades and competitions. On October 19, 1974 the first Annual Central North Carolina to the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Parade twice, to Washington, Atlanta, all over North Carolina and Virginia and numerous times to Disney in Florida. An enthusiastic Band Booster Club with 200+ members provided money, food, transportation, uniforms, instruments, a van and loyal support to the band. The Western Jazz Band is an outstanding branch of the band program and gets better each year.
The Field House
In 1982, after saving and working for a number of years, the Athletic Boosters and school officials completed plans and broke ground for a field house. With $125,000 local funds and $55,000 from the county a facility including lockers, showers, along with Coach Tommy Pursley. J.C. Cheek, long-time booster president and a driving force behind the project, was honored by having a field house named after him.
The Western High School staff is noted by educators inside and outside the system as one of the most highly-trained and dedicated high school teaching staffs in the state. In 1970 Gordon Plumblee came to Western’s science department. In time, he became the school photographer, science department head, NHS advisor and was honored 1979 as the outstanding Biology teacher in N.C. Betty Reynolds was accorded the 1981 honor of outstanding N.C. Chemistry teacher by the American Chemical Company. Adelia Truitt and Mary Shaw Cunningham brought the Western library far beyond state standards; Dorothy Westafer added a touch of Drama for language arts; Clyde Fowler made a lasting contribution to the art program and became head of the art program at N.C. School of Arts; Don Iseley, Sr. became the “Voice of Western” at football games, band festivals and other programs; J.W. Busick became the “builder of duck boxes, stadium lockers, greenhouse and lawns”; Barbara Roark yearbook sponsor and head of the business department; Ross Smith devoted years of his time to the math department and selling tickets at school events.
Larry Rayfield was an outstanding assistant principal at Western since 1967. In 1983, following a tragic car accident on slippery ice in which two students drowned, Mr. Rayfield dove into the icy waters of Haw River at Gerringer Mill Bridge to rescue Suzanne Woody. He was awarded high honors for his heroic act by the North Carolina Kiwanis Club.
On October 23, 1973, Mr. A.M. Primm was named North Carolina Principal of the Year by the North Carolina Principal’s Association and the North Carolina Association of Educators. His sincere and warm interest in students, parents, and the community earned the highest honor in North Carolina education.
From 1962 to 1984 Mr. Primm presented more than 4000 diplomas to Western graduates. His enthusiastic support of school activities, the community, academics and athletics made Western High an outstanding school. As a tribute to his dedication the Local Advisory Council and Alamance County Board of Education renamed Warrior Stadium the A.M. Primm Stadium prior to his retirement in 1984.
On July 1, 1984, Mr. A.M. Primm and Mrs. Jean Sadler ended twenty- two years of devoted service to Western Alamance High School when the keys were handed over to the new principal, Dr. Carl S. Herman and the new secretary, Mrs. Kathy Garrison. With Larry Rayfield and Jim Melton as assistant principals, Dr. Herman and his staff launched a new era of leadership at Western.
Herman Era Begins
Dr. Herman was no stranger to the workings of a high school. He taught high school students in Gaston County, Chatham County and at Eastern Alamance High School. Dr. Herman was also an assistant principal at Eastern Guilford High School for two years and principal at E.M. Yoder Elementary School for six years prior to his assignment to Western.
Dr. Herman continued the strong academic tradition established by Mr. Primm. In 1985, he started the Gold Card and Academic Letter program at Western. The program was hailed as “innovative” and “outstanding” by educators, newspapers, television programs and parents from across the state and as far away as West Virginia. The program rewarded students with all A’s each six weeks with various incentives and gave academic letters to students with an overall A average through five semesters of work. Dr. Herman felt that students should receive letters “just as athletes receive letters.”
Athletic Program Grows
The athletic program continued to grow at Western. A new lighting system, concrete pavement, new bleacher seats, new storage building, baseball fencing, renovated press box, freshly painted gym, refurbished gymnasium bleachers and many other improvements were made at a cost of over $100,000.00 since 1984. These efforts were made possible through the hard work and dedication of boosters like Hollis Cook, John Pennington, Jimmy Turner, Jerry Matkins, Wes Gilliam, Tammy Thomasson, John Jennings, James Wallace, Vicky Hicks, Debbie Agee and many others. In 1986, Hollis Cook was recognized as Volunteer of the Year in Alamance County for his work with athletics at Western.
During Dr. Herman’s administration, cross country, soccer, and swimming were added to the list of competitive sports available to Western students. The football team, under Micky Brown, advanced to the state playoffs in 1987 and 1988- the first time in fifteen years. Mike Tolley’s men’s basketball team of 1988 advanced to the Final Four in the Eastern Division. Girl’s basketball continued to advance and improve during the Herman administration and Erma Evan’s girls have many trophies to show for it. Perhaps nothing indicated how successful Western High School was in overall athletic competition than winning the Wachovia Trophy in 1990.
The Mighty Red, White and Blue Marching Band continued to grow under the able leadership of such boosters as Dan Kelly, Charlie Harris, Terry Moss and Luther Smith. The band won praise for its two appearances in the Philadelphia Parade in 1984 and 1986 as well as its very extensive list of trophies won in band festivals in Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina and North Carolina. The Central North Carolina Band Festival held on the Western campus each October is still regarded as the premiere band festival in a four state area by many musicians.
Parental Involvement is Key to Success
Parent support at Western High School has always been recognized as a major reason for the continued success of the school. However, a new parent support group was formed in 1989 called Partners in Education (PIE) to lend support to the school in many areas such as tutoring, campus beautification and fund- raising. The group was initiated largely through the efforts of such parents as Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Harwood, Mr. and Mrs. Keith Soliday, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Blume, Mr. and Mrs. Mike Turanchik, Mr. and Mrs. A. P. Hill, Mrs. Vicky Hightower and Mrs. Beverly Anderson. The PIE group ably assisted with a writing program, developed a campus beautification program and offered a 1990 after prom party that was a huge success.
State of North Carolina ABC Accountability Model
Under the leadership of principal Ann Davis (1999-2007), Western achieved School of Distinction status for two consecutive years from 2003-2005. School of Distinction indicates that at least 80% of students achieved a proficiency rating of at least a three on a four point scale on state End-of-Course exams.
Football Program Excels
After three years of finishing in second place, the football team coached by Hal Capps finished the 2007 season with an undefeated record of 16-0 and brought home its first state championship in football.
The Tradition Continues
For over 50 years, Western Alamance High School has served the parents, students and citizens of the northwestern section of the county. Our tradition is one of academic and athletic excellence, sportsmanship, school spirit and pride. Western Alamance High School leads the way in so many indicators of success- test scores, attendance, college- bound students, etc. But the indicator that leads the way for all other success is the degree of support coming from a loving and caring community.