On October 6, 1916, The Pioneer News was pleased to publish a transcription of the speech delivered by J. R. Zimmerman at the Pitts Point Academy Reunion. It is printed below.
Address of Hon. J. R Zimmerman delivered at the Reunion of Prof. W. B. Gwynn's old pupils at the Old Pitts Point Academy, where he began his teaching thirty-seven years ago.
You have gathered here today after a period of twenty-five years and more to renew friendships, revive sweet memories, clasp friendly hands and look through the glasses of men and women of mature judgment at the man who was your master and teacher in those golden days and who gave the best years of his vigorous manhood to the grand work of teaching the boys and girls how to prepare themselves for the great conflict of life.
In that end, and for that purpose, a great throng of former pupils and friends have assembled upon these historic grounds, men and women in the form, but school boys and school girls in spirit, come hither to walk once more the neglected streets of this once populace village and to play upon the green sward once teeming with their playmates, to stand again by the onrushing river and watch the mellow tides flow seaward and hear the bell which rang so joyously there more than a quarter of a century ago.
You are larger of form, slower of step, and your voices have lost the silvery tones of childhood, but today, you are school children once more; today, time has turned backward in her flight; today the deserted village has been re-peopled by many of those who peopled it then, and today, the golden gleams of the same September sun lave this beautiful valley that vied with your childish spirits back in the eighties.
As has been so beautifully said by Scott, "Time rolls his ceaseless course the race of yore", and as we look in vain today through tear bedimmed eyes for loved schoolmates whose forms have long since passed from the habitation of man to the dwelling places of the dead, and listen for the sweet tones of voices which are heard no more, save in the sacred halls of memory, we are sadly reminded that many years have gone the way of all the past centuries, since the dear old building which stands here today, storm-beaten and devastated by the destructive years, pulsated with life and rang with the harmonic music of childish voices.
To those who have been busy with the cares of life, it seems but a summer since those who have gathered here today were boys and girls, going to their homes at the close of school with newly acquired knowledge gathered from their master and books, and come back in the morning with well studied lessons prepared to begin the new day, but when we look upon the destroying touch of time, and look upon the names of those who fail to answer the roll call, we are conscious of the fact that many years have passed since we gathered here as pupils, and with those fleeting years have gone many of our brightest and best pupils who have crossed the bar and rest upon the farther shore.
"Do you remember sweet Alice, Ben Holt, sweet Alice, whose hair was so brown?
Who wept with delight when you gave her a smile, and trembled with fear at your frown?
In the little churchyard in the valley, Ben Holt. In a corner, obscure and alone.
They have fitted a slab of the granite so gray, And Alice lies under the Stone."
Looking back today, through the many years which stretch away from the present to the school days here, how many, oh, how many of our sweetest and best pupils have been placed in some little churchyard in the valley, beneath enduring slabs of gray granite, to await the call of the Great Teacher of all teachers when the appointed day shall come.
Today, while we look into friendly faces and clasp friendly hands, and hold sweet conversation upon these dear old school grounds, let's hold in sweet remembrance our beloved fellow pupils whose lives ended before the great battle of life had fairly begun.
No section of Bullitt County possessed a stronger minded, sturdier and thriftier population than this when this school was in its zenith. There were names that carried respect and admiration wherever heard, and they were among the best socially, financially, politically and otherwise.
The Dawsons, Hardys, Hays, Lees, Hibbs, Pearls, Greenwells, Hargans, Fosters, Chambers, Hornbacks, Myers, Godds, Tydings, Glenns, Quicks, Ellisons, Ashbys, Fromans, Griffins, Hills, Smiths, Raymans, Cowleys, Vessals, Cochrans, Howletts, Brashears, Wises, Wooldridges, Moores, Stovalls and many others whose names have temporarily passed from my memory, were strong factors in building up Pitts Point, and making the Academy what it was.
My mission today is to tell you of the influence this school wielded and still wields in Bullitt and surrounding counties. In my opinion, a more appropriate subject would have been, "In Kentucky and other states", for wherever a Gwynn scholar is found, whether it be in the grand old State of Kentucky or in some other state, there you will find an influential man or woman impressing their high ideals upon those with whom they come in contact by their clean lives.
From this institution, forty female teachers and twenty-five male teachers have been sent out into the world equipped for the great profession of teaching the young. They carried from this old building, out to sixty-five other school buildings, the Gwynn idea of discipline, industry and ambition, and from no other school within the memory of my audience, have such splendid and efficient teachers gone forth.
Two of our leading physicians, who have high standing in their profession and otherwise, once came to this school, and three of the boys who came here to equip themselves for life's labors, became members of the Bullitt County bar, and of those three, one has become one of the leaders of the Kentucky bar.
Politically, the pupils of this school have done well; one has been County Attorney, one of them was Clerk of the Bullitt County Court; one was Circuit Clerk; two have been sheriff, one deputy circuit clerk, one deputy sheriff, and Henry Cochran has been highly honored in his Missouri home, so has Dave Lee.
It has been along the cool, bequestered walks of life that the pupils of this school have displayed their real worth. In the school room, they have demonstrated beyond all question, their worth as teachers, and in their homes, as mothers and fathers, and husbands and wives, they have shown their true value as citizens.
Wherever found, on the farm, in the office, or school room, in the home or profession, they have shown themselves courageous, honest and worthy, and such traits must be traced back to the homes in which they were born and the school room in which they were taught.
We are here today to rekindle old fires, rebuild fallen shrines, drink again from the fountain of inspiration which flowed here in the glowing days of childhood and carry back to our homes at the close of this day, sweet memories and high resolve and clearer ideas of life.
The memories of Pitts Point Academy shall live as long as the pupils of that Institute shall have life; and the influence of this school shall live long after the lion-hearted, strong-minded Master and his beloved pupils shall have gone to rest eternal, for this school was founded on Truth, Justice and Fear of God and such foundations shall never be destroyed.
More than three hundred pupils came here to gain knowledge and they drank from the fountains, pure and undefiled, and when school days were ended, went out into the world to teach and live the lessons which they had learned here.
They were taught the lessons contained in the text books, and were taught more than that. They were taught the value of industry, the beauty of truth, the glory of self-reliance and personal independence, and the love of God, for trusting, obedient men; and when the Master sent them out into the world, they were not burdened with useless knowledge, but went forth armed and equipped for the fight.
In Bullitt, Hardin, Nelson, Meade, Jefferson, and many other Kentucky counties, hundreds of happy homes are presided over by former pupils of this old Academy. They are tilling the soil, keeping house, teaching school, practicing medicine and law, selling merchandise, and engaged in almost every honest calling and wherever found, they are, as a rule, honest, industrious, law abiding, God fearing, independent citizens. The old building which sheltered and protected you in your school days is rapidly yielding to the inroads of time, the roof is decaying, the walls are giving away, and in a few more years, the pitiless hand of time will have swept it from sight, and the wild winds shall sing their mournful numbers above the spot on which its four walls rest, but the glorious truths there shall never die; and long after the master and the last of the pupils shall have given back their souls to the Maker, the influence of this situation shall be felt in this and other counties.
What influence has this school had? It filled the homes of Bullitt and other counties with educated boys and girls, boys and girls who were taught the values of personal independence, the values of industry, the value of patience, the value of intellect, the value of personal effort; the value of good citizenship; the value of virtuous womanhood; the value of a manly, courageous manhood, and above all, the value of a Chrstian life.
Do you wonder that it has wielded a great influence at home and abroad? Do you marvel that the pupils of this man and this school have been so successful in life, with such teachings and such splendid codes of spiritual, moral and social laws?
Every living pupil of this school who is not here today in person is here in spirit, and many prayers have ascended heavenward today from many portions of the earth from men and women who were scholars here, asking for the success of this day, and that heaven's blessings may rest upon those who came. And while we mingle and rejoice with the living who are here, recounting the many experiences of our past lives, may we not forget those who are not here, and who are not among those who live, but who are sleeping somewhere the last long sleep. They may have sunk to rest far from the green fields and smiling streams of their old Kentucky homes, but today, while we shed tears of joy over the return of some beloved friend, let's shed tears of sadness because some dear one has fallen into sleep eternal and cannot come.
Today this village wears an air of joy which it has not worn in the past twenty-five years. The vanished have returned, master and pupils have come back and the whole countryside is here to bid you welcome. Many, very many, who were here in those days are not here today to welcome you back. Since you left, buildings have gone to decay, trees have vanished, familiar landmarks are gone, but the Old School Building still stands, and some of the older friends who were here then are here today to bid you welcome and help make the day enjoyable to you. Wafted back from the invisible shores of long ago in the tender breezes are the voices of loved ones who once stood beside us here, and we can picture their youthful faces today as fair and animated as in the days when they walked arm in arm the play grounds or bravely contended in the class rooms for the approbation or praise of the master. Would that those absent ones could stand once more with their fellow pupils about this storm beaten house and recount the happy events which transpired herein those unforgotten days.
Would that all the pupils might stand beside their teacher today and listen to his inspiring words, but the decrees of fate have been written and they decrees of fate shall never be revoked.
With your permission, I shall say a few words regarding the man to whom you own so much. He did more for Bullitt County than any other teacher who ever taught in this County.
He taught more than the contents of school books. He taught the ten commandments, he taught a philosophy which transcends the philosophy of mere text books, and he taught industry of body and brain, honesty of heart, mind and body in theory and practice.
He filled his pupils with energy and ambition and taught them the beauty of forgiveness. He taught them thrift, independence and reliance and courage. He taught them how to live and how to die and having so taught them, sent them forth to the great battlefields of life, ready to take their places and fight for name, wealth, position and respect.
I deeply regret that I never knew him until after he had left this school, and I feel profoundly sorrowful because it was not my great privilege to sit in his school and learn life's lessons from his lips.
How firm should be the friendships and how lasting the love of this accomplished teacher's pupils, and friends who have gathered here on this memorable day, their lives, health, and minds spared and protected by a loving God and how full their hearts should be of thanks as they journey off toward the silent, shadowy hour of sunset.
Looking today upon this historic building, and looking back towards the days of its glory, I can see in my mind's eye the scores of happy boys and girls who came here to drink from the fountains of knowledge and truth. I can see the girlish pride and boyish glory as they played upon these grounds and passed in and out of the old Academy doors.
Death has thinned your ranks, and disease has wasted many forms and sorrows and joys have come side by side and golden hopes have been blasted; wedding bells have rung out their glad message of joy and the solemn tones of funeral bells have told their story of sadness.
As we say good-by at the parting hour this afternoon, for many it may be a final farewell on this earth, and may faces which wear here today the smile of gladness may before long, be dampened by tears of sorrow.
May you meet here again in reunion as you have met today and may your lives and the life of your beloved teacher by filled with joy, may your years be many and may your good influence live and spread as the waters which cover the sea and finally, when your day has ended and the shadows fall eastward, may the former Principal of this famous old Academy and all his pupils be gathered over yonder on the ever green campus of that Eternal School, whose Principal is God.
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