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Growing up in Franklin County

A man points to a black and white school picture taken of a group of elementary school students.
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Former educator Benny Gibson points out a young Herman Harrison standing amongst his classmates for a school picture.

Herman Harrison is 95-years old and still lives in the same Franklin County home where his mom was born in 1889.

He shares his story of growing up and going to school in Franklin County.


HERMAN HARRISON: Oh, I guess they were the best days of my life.

ADRIENNE McGIBBON: And Herman Harrison has seen many days, 95 years of them. He grew up in the same house where his mother was born in 1889.

HERMAN HARRISON: It was an old log house with chickens in it and you could see out between the chickens and see the stars at night. Come a snow, you have snow laying on you, blowing in on your bed.

ADRIENNE McGIBBON: Even after all these years, Herman still remembers his first day of school.

HERMAN HARRISON: My mother had an old wood cook stove and she always put the door down, let it cool out after cooking, and I backed up against that door. I went to school with bandages around both knees.

ADRIENNE McGIBBON: And it was a long walk to school for a child.

HERMAN HARRISON: Yeah, I walked a half-a-mile. The old road didn't have no gravel on it then. It was mighty muddy in places. We had... The winters were worse than they are now.

ADRIENNE McGIBBON: Herman attended Pleasant Hill School, a one room schoolhouse in the Snow Creek District of Franklin County. He says he was a mischievous student but excelled in his lessons.

HERMAN HARRISON: My mother was a schoolteacher and she had taught me pretty well my ABCs and arithmetic when I went to school. I never had no trouble learning.

ADRIENNE McGIBBON: He did so well, his teachers encouraged him to continue on to high school and then to college.

HERMAN HARRISON: Back in those days, we didn't have no money to pay for college. I had two of my high school teachers wanted me to go to college, but I didn't make it.

ADRIENNE McGIBBON: Herman made it further than most in Franklin County back then. Benny Gibson, a former Franklin County educator who regularly checks in on Herman says students often left school after seventh grade.

BENNY GIBSON: Well over 50%, closer to 75% of students would drop out of school at that time because they were 12, 13, 14 years old, whatever, and they were needed on the farm.

ADRIENNE McGIBBON: Benny has been researching the area's history of one room schools. He says some students who did well continued their schooling.

BENNY GIBSON: A few of the students wanted more and they would have to travel a little bit farther to one of the schools that offered high school courses.

ADRIENNE McGIBBON: Herman used his smarts to become a carpenter. He never married and still lives in the same house where his mother was born. But he's happy to call Franklin County home.

HERMAN HARRISON: I haven't seen anywhere else yet that I'd rather be than here.


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