The Bullitt County History Museum

A Collection of Memories

The following article by Charles Hartley was originally published in The Pioneer News on 8 Jan 2024.

This is going to be maybe just a patchwork of memories, so I hope you'll bear with me. You see, I was remembering my first year as a teacher, and it got me to thinking about the place where I taught that year. It was the Fall of 1965, and my first assignment found me teaching in what David Strange called the "Old, Old Shepherdsville High School" in an article he wrote almost a decade ago. The old building sat on the west side of the parking lot, next to the gym, while the main high school building faced it on the east side of the parking lot.

It may well be that some of you haven't a clue as to where all of these buildings were located, as only the parking lot remains. For directions, begin at the intersection of Buckman Street and Joe B. Hall Avenue in Shepherdsville, turn east on the latter street, pass under the one-lane railroad underpass, and continue until the road begins to curve left. At that point you are looking at the School Board Maintenance building with the little league football field off to the right. Look back to your right and there is the old parking lot.

Miss Augusta & Miss Zardetti

That maintenance building was once the school gym; not the one I mentioned before, but the one that replaced that one which burned in 1966; but more about that in a bit.

Okay, back to the Fall of '65; I was a wet-behind-the-ears first year teacher, and the school principal Frank Hatfield assigned me to teach classes of seventh and eighth graders in the old building, the one David Strange wrote about. I was the youngest teacher in the building, but fortunately for me there were some older experienced hands there to guide me on my way. And none were older or wiser than the sisters Zardetti and Augusta Dawson. Between the two of them they had more than 80 years of teaching experience, having begun right out of high school in the 1920s. This was a common practice at that time, and teachers like the Dawsons often spent their summers attending college classes to improve their skills.

I recall that Miss Zardetti was a brisk, no-nonsense teacher, while her sister, Miss Augusta was more a gentler sort. But both were excellent teachers, and I relied on them for advice many times during that first year.

The building itself was old, parts of it having been constructed more than 60 years earlier. It reminded me of elementary schools I had attended as a boy in Louisville. Debbie Lee Lentz, one of my students that year, recently reminded me about the smell of oil that permeated the wooden structure. But that wasn't the only smell, especially upstairs in the room where I taught an eighth grade reading class. During the warmer months, the smell of bird droppings filtered down from the drafty attic, a favorite haunt for nesting birds.

View of old school from east side, circa 1925-6

Memorial Hall, the SHS gym which burned in 1966, taken circa 1925-6

According to the school's 1929 annual, "the original building, containing four class rooms and two halls, was erected in 1905. During the administration of Superintendent Sanders four large class rooms, a hall and a large auditorium have been added, a modern heating plant installed, electric lights put in, single desks, laboratory and library purchased, and the tax has remained at 70 cents during the entire time."

Professor Jack Sanders arrived in Shepherdsville in the Fall of 1912 with a dynamic personality and an ability to get things done, and it didn't take long before folks knew it. Within a year, he was the school's principal, and taught mathematics. Under his leadership, the school was remodeled as described above. The school added basketball teams, both boys and girls, in 1914, and began presenting class plays in 1916. Sanders really had a keen knack for knowing how to get the community involved.

In 1919, the local paper's editor wrote, "The school is graded No. 1 and is in the same class with Owensboro and other cities. It is the only school in a town of our size which enjoys such distinction. Primarily and largely it is due to the good work and tireless energy of Professor Sanders."

One of the many highlights of Sanders' time in Shepherdsville occurred on September 28, 1923 when the community came together to discuss how to fund additional classroom space. Sanders convinced them that the best way to go was to build a new gymnasium and convert the space currently used for that purpose into additional classrooms.

Professor Jack Sanders sitting in front of the gym, circa 1925-6

The result was the Bullitt County Memorial Hall which was dedicated in October 1924 in honor of Bullitt County military personnel who had died during World War I. The community was justly proud of what they had accomplished and Sanders was given much of the credit.

Among the pictures available for viewing on the History Museum website is a collection from Mildred Bergen's photo album that was shared with us by her grandson, Mark Shepherd. Mildred graduated from the Shepherdsville School in 1926 along with Penny Pack's parents, Guy and Thelma (Crenshaw) Bergen. Her album includes many pictures of their classmates, and also several of the school itself which I've included here. One picture shows the school building from its east side and includes the original building along with the original gym which was later turned into classrooms. The second photo shows the new Memorial Hall from its west side. And the last one shows Professor Sanders relaxing next to that gym door.

By the time I arrived on the scene a new high school had been built in the 1930s and a parking lot paved between the school buildings. But the Memorial Hall was still the school gym, at least until Saturday, April 9, 1966. Spring Break had just begun. We were living in a house we rented from Dr. Bruce Hamilton next to his office, and late that afternoon we noticed bellowing smoke coming from the direction of the school.

My first thought was that the old school building was on fire. However, it soon became apparent that the gym was burning. Despite the efforts of several fire departments, the gym was a complete loss. Almost miraculously however, the firemen had been able to keep the fire from spreading to the nearby schoolhouse.

We've included here photos provided to the museum by Donald Crowe that show the aftermath of the destruction. Additional photos from his collection may be seen with another article about the old school.

View of gym remains with newer SHS in background, circa April 1966

View of old school and gym remains; boy on bike unknown, circa April 1966

View of gym remains with old school in background, circa April 1966

Both the old school building and I survived that school year. I later moved across the parking lot to the new (old) building where I worked as the school changed from a high school to a junior high, to a middle school, before I moved to Bernheim Middle to close my career.

The old, old building held on a while longer, and was used at the end of its life for a clothes closet and storage. It was finally torn down in July 1980, used for a fire-fighting practice exercise. And the new, old building? Its last years saw it house the Riverview High School until the 1997 flood once again inundated the building. With that school moving to a new building behind Bullitt Central, the decision was made to tear down the old school building too.

Each time I make my way past that old parking lot, I remember the old school and the old, old school, and the gym too. And now maybe you will too.

Copyright 2024 by Charles Hartley, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday appointments are available by calling 502-921-0161 during our regular weekday hours. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 13 Jan 2024 . Page URL: