Thursday, May 15, 2008
By: Clint Cooper
The 17 stairs bisect an impressive rock wall on 13th Avenue and
extend up to what is now a massive empty lot on the west side of
The terraced lot with a nearly unimpaired view of Lookout
Mountain was once the home of Cedar Hill School, which served
pupils from the early part of the 1900s through the early
“It was a brick school — kind of forbidding
looking,” said North Chattanooga resident Richard Mullis, who
attended from 1936 to 1942. “There was not a lot of upkeep,
but it was an OK school — probably not on par with Normal
Park (then a newer and popular school in North
A new Cedar Hill Elementary School was built on the west side of
Rossville Boulevard in the mid-1950s and served students for
several more decades before becoming a Head Start center. In fact,
the old and new Cedar Hills co-existed in the Chattanooga City
Schools system for several years.
The original two-story school, Mr. Mullis said, housed grades
one through eight until East Lake Junior High was built in the
When he attended Cedar Hill, the first grade was segregated from
the rest of the school in a four-room frame house with front and
back porches behind the larger building, closer to 14th Avenue.
“I guess it was overcrowded,” said Mr. Mullis, whose
mother also attended the school.
The basement of the building contained two “great, big
boilers,” he said, and the man who maintained them kept the
Jerry Parker of Murfreesboro, who attended Cedar Hill from 1949
through 1955, said there were classrooms in one part of the
basement when he attended and the frame house behind the school was
He said the school population was not that big by then and
contained probably two classrooms per grade.
The building had fire escapes, Mr. Mullis said, that teachers
told the students were condemned “to keep us from playing on
He said the play areas around the building were rock and were
responsible for “a lot of damage to knees, elbows and
“It wasn’t a bad time,” Mr. Mullis, 78, said.
“We just didn’t know any different.”
For first and second grades, teachers would sit at the lunch
table with their pupils.
“Lunch was almost like a family meal,” said Mr.
Parker, 65, “with the teachers seated at the head of the
In the post-World War II Cold War era, atomic bomb drills were a
“An alarm would sound,” he said, “and the
teachers would direct us to the basement. We would kneel on the
floor with our arms over our heads.”
Among the yearly activities was a spring Flower Day, Mr. Mullis
said. Each child would bring flowers, which were in turn
distributed to the local hospitals.
“Everybody would cut their mother’s iris patch
up,” he said.
Mr. Parker said there was an annual fall festival in October and
ongoing Savings Bond drives.
In the drives, during which students pasted stamps in a booklet
on their way to a bond, the success of each class was measured by
how far an airplane suspended on a string from the class drew close
to the principal’s office, he said.
“The Cedar Hill Elementary School that I attended was
well-managed and staffed by teachers who cared for their
students,” said Mr. Parker. “Those were good
Staff Photo by Meghan Brown — Richard Mullis, 78, reminisces about the
six years he attended the former Cedar Hill Elementary School in East
Lake during a visit to the property where the school once stood.
Copyright ©2008, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.