“When the school was restored [in 1989], they started [holding] the Labor Day Picnic and this was an attempt to get a lot of the alumni, people that went to school here, to come back,” Noble Hill’s Curator Marian Coleman said. “So we continued to do it, to invite those that are still here. ... [People enjoy] meeting old friends, schoolmates and people in the community. A lot of [people] that don’t live here in Cartersville or Bartow County, they come back from different places. It’s mostly reminiscing and the fellowshipping part is the most important part of it.”
Known as the first Rosenwald School in northwest Georgia, Noble Hill was backed by funds from Julius Rosenwald — a philanthropist and president of Sears, Roebuck and Co., who wanted to provide quality education for black children — and the Cassville community. Constructed in 1923, the school stayed in operation until the educational site was consolidated into Bartow Elementary School in 1955.
After sitting vacant for more than 25 years, the building at 2361 Joe Frank Harris Parkway in Cassville was transformed into its present state with the help of state grants, private donations and fundraisers. Now known as Noble Hill-Wheeler Memorial Center, the venue serves as a cultural museum that reveals what life was like for black residents during the early- to mid-1900s.
Open to the public, the Labor Day Picnic and Homecoming will be held Monday from noon to 5 p.m. Along with serving as an informal reunion for the former school’s alumni, the event also will feature games for children and various food dishes, including fish, barbecue chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, slaw, potato salad, baked beans, fried apple pies, cake, soft drinks and lemonade.
Along with greeting old friends, one of the picnic’s highlights will be the viewing of alumni interviews recorded during last year’s event.
“[We wanted the] alumni that attended the school to reminisce about the days when they were going to school here,” Coleman said. “[The video] is to help our children and their children and the community to understand about the school, to learn more about the school during that time.
“I think we had about 14 that were interviewed and we also had some of the foundation members [who] spoke on the video. Some of [them] didn’t actually go to school here but they have been a part of Noble Hill since it’s been restored. So most of the questions were to ask them about their favorite subjects, favorite teacher, what they did during classes, if they enjoyed coming to school here, what grades they attended, what year. ... [By watching this, people] will see how far we’ve come and how far we’ve got to go. It’s just something to help ... teach [young people] about African-American education in the early years.”
For interviewer Johnnie Mae Heard, who also attended Noble Hill in the 1950s, the video highlights the strong bond that existed between the students, Noble Hill and the community.
“They revealed that they enjoyed going there, that [they were close-knit] ... and they have stayed that way down through the years pretty much by keeping in touch with each other,” Heard said. “[They also said] their parents [were] pretty much involved [with] the school in that day in time. Children that went there, the teachers were really involved in their daily life, home life too, because the parents gave them the opportunity to be also in charge of the children. They really loved the kids and they tried to take care of them and teach them.”
While the picnic’s activities are free, donations are sought to help fund the center’s annual Unsung Heroes Banquet in November.
For more information about Noble Hill and its upcoming picnic, call the museum at 770-382-3392. In addition to the Labor Day event, people can view the alumni video weekly at Noble Hill — Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.