By Christian Greco
I’d give all wealth that years have piled,
The slow result of Life’s decay,
To be once more a little child
For one bright summer day. — Lewis Carroll
As the lazy, hazy summer days of 1953 evaporated in a puff of autumnal chill, and students begrudgingly returned to classrooms across the nation, one Kentucky school district proposed an idea that almost made the prospect of starting another school year bearable for hundreds of grumpy kids: a parade! A real, legitimate parade. Full of floats, costumes, crowds, and blessed fresh air. A student-driven spectacle, designed with a singular goal in mind: to rally critical support in Lyon County for a school fund referendum on the statewide ballot that November.
The parade was a visual delight. Students constructed elaborate floats that described the ballot initiative using props and costumes, and proudly rode them up Water Street in Old Eddyville on flatbed trucks, honking and waving the whole way. (One float boasted a miniature one-room school building, built to scale with an outhouse, while another replicated a hospital room with kids dressed as nurses, tending to a bedridden student next to a sign that proclaimed, “KY Education is SICK! Call Dr. Yes!”) The younger children, blissfully unaware of the event’s political undertones, skipped along in surprisingly disciplined formation behind banners announcing their school names.
In the joyous scene pictured here, Hebron School students stroll in the parade under the watchful eye of their teacher, Mrs. Wood Ferguson.
Established in the 1870s, Hebron School was one of over 30 one-room schoolhouses that populated Lyon County prior to district consolidation. Situated on the banks of Crab Creek, Hebron’s location was picturesque — and occasionally perilous. Sandra Peek Tabor, a Hebron alumna who appears in the center of the parade photograph holding a friend’s hand, recalls a harrowing childhood experience when creek and classroom collided. At the height of an unusually rainy season in 1954, the backwater rose so rapidly during a flash flood that Hebron was inundated in a matter of minutes. Students and teacher found themselves trapped in the modest, clapboard building without an escape plan, as the cantankerous creek proceeded to swallow everything in its path.
Sandra will never forget the moment salvation arrived, in the unlikely form of Hebron Church caretaker Mark Thompson. At the first sign of flooding, Thompson waded to a parked school bus nearby, and drove through the swirling, muddy chaos to rescue the stranded children. Fear turned to relief among Sandra’s classmates, as Thompson appeared in the doorway, sporting a pair of well-worn yellow hip waders and a smile. He carried each child, and their exhausted teacher, to the safety of the idling bus. Everyone escaped unharmed. Mark Thompson was, in the grateful eyes of student and parent alike, a bonafide hero.
As for that school fund referendum on the ballot in 1953? It passed, perhaps in no small part due to the creative efforts of Lyon County students, and their colorful parade.