Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection

In 1884, the town of Winston, NC opened one of the first public graded schools in the South. From then until the mid-20th century, the Winston-Salem school system was considered to be one of the best in the nation. In January, 1909, the city opened a new high school next to the First Presbyterian Church on Cherry Street. But by 1920, Winston-Salem was the most populous city in North Carolina and a much bigger school was needed.


The school was on North Cherry Street, between the First Presbyterian Church and the YMCA and just across the street from the 1906 Carnegie Public Library, which also served as the school library.   1918 Black & Gold

So work was begun on a grand new school. On Tuesday, January 9, 1923, the students returned to City High from Christmas vacation. That night the school burned to the ground. Six days later, the students began attending class in the not yet completed R.J. Reynolds High School building.


R.J. Reynolds High School and auditorium…the buildings are connected by a tunnel…1926 Black & Gold…


The power house and the greenhouse…the power house is connected to the school building by a tunnel for ease of maintenance…the tunnel was forbidden territory for students…the only time I ever went in there was on the day that Gwen Bailey arrived at RJR, directed by John Tandy to try to find more paint or turpentine…

From the start, the Winston and then Winston-Salem schools had been a formidable competitor within the state, but the new high school would take that to a new level. 1926 would become, perhaps, the best year ever. In the following pictures, all scanned from the 1926 Reynolds High School Black & Gold yearbook, you will see images of a future Moravian bishop, a future mayor of Winston-Salem, and many future leading doctors, lawyers, judges, educators and business, civic and social leaders.


The seniors of 1926 dedicated their annual to Robert S. Haltiwanger, who would go on to become a legendary principal at the John Wesley Hanes High School…


Superintendent of city schools Roland Latham and RJR principal John Watson Moore…in 1933, when Latham retired, Dr. Moore became superintendent and Claude R. “Pop” Joyner, RJR math teacher and baseball coach, became principal, where he would remain for the next three decades…Moore, who lived right behind Ardmore School, and Joyner and sheriff Ernie Shore and one of the Smithdeals and others would operate the local minor league baseball team for many years…


The RJRHS faculty in 1926. Principal John Watson Moore is at left in the bow tie. “Miss Hazel” Stephenson is third from the left in the first row. She had just graduated from Salem College and was something of a fashionista, so might have had to be reigned in a bit. Others in the photo who were still around when my crowd arrived on campus include Claude R. “Pop” Joyner, Gladys Moore, Walker Barnette, Flossie Martin, and L. W. Crowell. As mentioned earlier, R.S. Haltiwanger would later become principal at Hanes High School.


The student government was created by the seniors of the 1922 class of Winston-Salem High School. Here we see the 1926 student body and senior class officers. Nancy Reynolds was the daughter of R.J. and Katharine Reynolds. You will see some of the others again and again in the pictures that are to come, as we take a look at state champions and near state champions for 1926


The state champion typing team blew away the competition with 90.5% performance at 57 words per minuteHelda Simmons won the individual title…


The football team reeled off eight straight wins, giving up only one touchdown, before falling to Gastonia 0-6 in the state playoffs…those Gastonia mill boys were always a tough opponent…principal Moore was the head coach…


In the last week of May, 1,300 musicians, representing over 100 high schools, gathered on the campus of Women’s College in Greensboro for the state music competitions. The RJRHS band won the State Cup…they would still be winning awards 35 years later…


The RJRHS orchestra came in second to Wilmington High School.  Note the great view of the West End in the background.


State champions. The RJRHS girls quartet, boys quartet and mixed quartets also came out number one.


State champions


State champions


“Paderewski” Bagwell won the prestigious state piano cup…his name was misspelled “Bagby” in the Winston-Salem Journal article.


“Caruso” Hill won his second straight state baritone championship


“Eck” Lashmit won her first contralto championship…she would add a second the next year…Conrad Southern won the bass title and Margaret Sailer came in second in the soprano competition…oh, and Broddus Staley of tiny Mineral Springs High came in second in the Class B piano competition…


Soccer,  for both boys and girls, was the most popular intramural sport at RJRHS. In the fall of 1925, RJRHS formed the first varsity soccer team in North Carolina. In order to have someone to play, they had to persuade High Point Central High to form a team. The RJR “Golden Tornado” won the first ever NC high school soccer match before a large and enthusiastic crowd at Hanes Park, 2-0 over High Point. Two weeks later, on a muddy field in High Point, they took another 2-0 win to capture the unofficial state championship. See “First kicks…” for details:


The field hockey team was off to a late start, and lost their last regular season game to Greensboro, but got revenge in the first round of the state playoffs before drawing with Southern Pines to become state co-champions. If the dog had been allowed to play, who knows what might have happened? The Crim sisters are in the pic…Joanna, sitting next to assistant coach Sinclair in the second row, and her older sister Louise right behind her next to head coach Summerell. Louise was named “Best All-round Girl” by her senior classmates.


The boys’ basketball team had an up and down season, losing their first three games, but then got it together just in time to beat North Wilkesboro, Elkin and Bethany to win the prestigious Northwest Basketball Tournament. Then, in the state tournament, they avenged their opening loss to Guilford before falling to Asheville 15-27. The Northwest Tournament was eventually renamed for Journal sportswriter Frank Spencer, but at some point Reynolds was banned to give the smaller schools a chance.


The girls’ basketball team went undefeated, blowing out their early opponents. But the most ballyhooed match came against Old Town High, which had just started a team. They had beaten all the county teams and were craving a shot at Reynolds. After a few scheduling mishaps, they finally got their chance on February 22 at the RJRHS gym. Reynolds made short work of that. When the going got tough in the late season, they kept on winning, finally downing Burlington 32-30 in a buzzer beater for the Fifth District title. Talk about March Madness! Unfortunately, there was no state tournament in those days. The picture was taken at the new RJRHS gymnasium which opened in 1926.


The boys’ baseball team lost their opener to Salisbury, then got their bats popping to score 51 runs in their next three games. They finished the regular season 8-1, then beat Madison, Yadkinville and Mebane to get to the Western District final. The first championship game against Gastonia was called at 8-8 because of darkness. In the replay four days later, Gastonia came out on top, 3-10. Told you that those mill boys were tough.


This is NOT a misprint. The girls played baseball too. See the ball held next to the bat? They battled their way through a tough season to reach the District 5 championship game.




Now we get down to the really important stuff. The Dramatic Team went down to Chapel Hill and came away with the state championship. There was a strong feeling that they should get a serious reward, so local citizens, led by the Monarch Club, raised a good bit of money to send them to New York, where they enjoyed several Broadway plays.


And now, the biggie. The Aycock Cup was far and away the most important high school competition in North Carolina. The Winston-Salem High School had dominated, setting a record by taking the cup for three years running, from 1920 through 1922. Could RJRHS measure up? Yes, they could. Please note that Melly Efird, the class VP, was a member of the team. But the real superstar was Loretto Carroll, whose picture you just saw above as a member of the state championship dramatic team as well.


But we have to wonder what was going on in the minds of the RJRHS boys. In 1926, poetry was red hot. T.S. Eliot had just published “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and “The Wastelend”. And for the first time, American poets were leading the way…Robert Frost, Sarah Teasdale, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Carl Sandburg, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, e e cummings and Hart Crane, to mention a few…but that is not the reason why I would have joined this club. I would have been the only guy…and look who is right in the middle of the picture…Loretto Carroll, the superstar…who was also the chief editor of the Black & Gold…I would have sat next to her at every meeting until she noticed me.