Wednesday, July 17, 2019

1969 and the Two Apollos

"Buzz" Aldrin salutes the American Flag on the lunar surface. Credits: NASA
The summer of 1969 was an exciting time for the United States. On July 21, 1969, mankind “took one giant leap” as Neil Armstrong took “one small step” on the moon making history of man walking on the moon for the first time marking the success of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission. This year not only marks the fiftieth anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, but it also marks the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo Elementary School.

It was also during this summer that the Bossier Parish School Board was nearing completion of a new and innovative elementary school. Inspired by the recent accomplishment of Apollo 11 the Bossier Parish School Board voted, on August 7, 1969, to name this new elementary school Apollo. “In making the motion to name the school Apollo, J. Murray Durham pointed out that ‘the school was being completed at the same time the astronauts landed on the moon’ and is a ‘progressive form of school.’”

What made Apollo different was its open-space concept making the classroom areas free of interior walls and its unique non-graded continuous progress curriculum. Emmett Cope collaborated with the University of Tennessee and Dr. John Gilliland to design and implement this new curriculum at Apollo Elementary, which was considered an educational innovation.

According to Mary Liberto, a former principal of Apollo (1976-1981), “the non-graded program mandated that each student be placed in a group, which would best fit his/her needs for instruction. Therefore, maximum and substantial progress would be evident as a student progressed.” Mary Liberto was also one of five Bossier Parish teachers chosen to study the non-graded programs throughout the nation and assisted in planning and writing the primary curriculum for Bossier Parish.
There were only two bells to ring - one in the morning to signal the start of school and one in the afternoon to dismiss the students for the day.

Apollo Elementary was designed by local architect Thomas R. Merideth and was 56,000 square feet, air-conditioned, and carpeted (to reduce the level of noise) with the capacity to accommodate 720 students and was constructed at the cost of $756,000. It was 2-stories with the first-floor featuring two major open teaching areas and special interest rooms separated by a resource center ten times the size of a conventional classroom. At the end of each teaching-research section was an outdoor learning patio. Also, on the first floor are the cafeteria and administration offices. The cafeteria doubled as an auditorium by closing off the serving area and having a platform at one end. On the second floor was a little theater-assembly room that was carpeted and had risers on three sides for seating.

A strike of construction workers slowed down the completion of the building delaying its opening until November 1, 1969. Until then, students attended class at Airline High School. None-the-less there were 567 students registered to attend Apollo in its opening year.

Finally, on January 27, 1970, Apollo was dedicated to progress, innovation, and achievement during its dedication ceremony. While the administration had hoped to have the Apollo 11 crew in attendance for the dedication, they were pleased to have NASA Astronaut, Dr. Donald Lee Holmquest give the dedication speech. Dr. Holmquest brought a laugh when describing his difficulties in getting a plane from Houston to Shreveport stating, “I started trying to get here at 6 am, but because of the weather, the plane just took off just a little while ago. We are lucky to be here at all. Actually, it is more difficult to get to Shreveport than to get to the moon. It’s amazing that we can launch rockets in weather when we can’t get the airplane off the ground.” Other speakers were J. Murray Durham, Jr. and Board President and Superintendent Emmett Cope.
Artist's rendering of Apollo Elementary's Observatorium
Bossier Parish Schools Resource Center Collection: 2005.039.001

In 1971, Apollo was named the “School of the month” by Nations Schools magazine, selected by a committee representing the Council of Educational Facility Planners, receiving particular praise for the observatorium, a raised platform at the rear of the teaching area which permits close observation of individuals or groups of students through one-way glass. It is equipped with a television system, including close-up lenses, with the capability of monitoring all instructional stations in addition to the work of individual students. The school’s TV system is primarily used to train instructors in updated team-teaching techniques and to create in-service teaching tapes for use throughout the district. The observatorium was also used by counselors and specialists to observe behavioral disorders in specific students and then follow-up with a study on the effectiveness of remedial techniques applied.

On October 26, 1973, The Shreveport Times published, Bossier Parish received national recognition for its continuous progress program through several publications. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare also developed a film entitled ‘The School Without Failure,’ on the pilot program at Apollo Elementary School in Bossier City for nationwide distribution.”

To learn more about Apollo or other Bossier Parish Schools, visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center at 2206 Beckett Street, Bossier City.

By: Amy Robertson

Sunday, July 14, 2019

August Second Saturday Screening Selection

Every Second Saturday of each month is Movie Time at the Bossier Parish Libraries 
History Center.


FREE  movie & popcorn
August 10, 2019 at 1:30 pm

2206 Beckett St.
Bossier City, La.
318.746.7717

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Panic of 1873 and the Palmetto Plantation Lottery

John C. Vance with sisters Mary E. "Mollie" (red dress)  and Laura Elizabeth "Nina" (white dress).
Dale Jennings Collection: 1999.127.082
Industrial capitalism brought about the Panic of 1873, the first global depression which reached the United States in the fall of that year. The tipping point in the United States came when Jay Cooke and Company went bankrupt. They were the federal agent for the government financing of railroad construction. Railroad construction was the nation’s largest non-agricultural employer during that time. When Jay Cooke and Company closed their doors on September 18, 1873, it created a domino effect where many other banking firms and industries also became bankrupt. The New York Stock Exchange closed for ten days, credit dried up, and foreclosures were common. Railroads went bankrupt, factories closed, and countless other businesses failed, causing the unemployment rate to rise to an alarming 14 percent.


During the first year of this crippling economic depression, John C. Vance held the ownership of the Palmetto Plantation in north Bossier Parish, which had been in the Vance family since 1850. It was first owned by John Vance’s Father Allen Vance, a wealthy planter from Abbeville District, South Carolina. When Allen died in 1865, he left his estate to his wife and children with instructions not to sell the plantation until after his youngest daughter, Laura Elizabeth a.k.a. Nina reached the age of eighteen.

John Vance renamed the plantation “Palmetto,” after the official nickname of his home state South Carolina, “Palmetto State.” However, the name was not changed legally and remained as “Allen Vance Plantation” in legal documents. The plantation was divided into river land and hill land by the Flat River Bayou, which traversed the plantation.

Starting on April 15, 1873, a long-running notice could be found in The Shreveport Times that John Vance was looking to change the business he was in and wanted to sell the plantation. Seeing how the nation’s economics were in dire straits and citizens had lost their trust in the banking system, and with credit not being a feasible option John opted to conduct a lottery in hopes to sell the plantation for cash during this financially depressed period.

John described the plantation in the following way: “...The place is situated in the Red River bottom, 2-1/2 miles from Benton, 11 miles above Shreveport, one mile from the river, and the survey of the Camden and Shreveport railroad just made, runs through these lands one-half mile from the ginhouse and dwelling, where a depot will probably be located. The place is also on the line of the contemplated Oklahoma railroad, and adjoining and surrounded by lands of J. B. Pickett, W. C. Vance, Dr. S. W. Vance, Mrs. M. G. O’Neill, John M. Arnold, and W. R. Prather. All the lands offered are first-class Red River bottom, entirely free from overflow, and the plantation has upon it plenty of labor. The ginhouse is a large and fine one, with an excellent set of running gear in perfect order. Every other house on the place has been built since 1866. There are 19 cabins, with brick chimneys, built in different places on the plantation to suit the new system of labor. A three acre garden and orchard paled in, and a considerable amount of ditching done last year. The dwelling is a fine, large two-story house, with six rooms, exclusive of the kitchen, store rooms, bath rooms, etc., just completed at a cost of $6000. This is one of the best improved places in this country. I have spent $10,000, improyements [sic] alone, since 1866...”

Included in the notice were testimonies of John’s honesty and integrity from his neighbors, the Bossier Parish Clerk of Court, and the Recorder. He listed the names of individuals that would assume responsibility for all funds received through the lottery to guarantee that if all 300 tickets are not sold, the money will be refunded to those that did by a ticket. Other individuals agreed to act as
commissioners to superintend the drawing of the tickets and prizes to ensure the public that it would be “honestly and impartially done.” B. M. Johnson banking house in Shreveport acted as treasurer of the lottery funds holding them in an account to be redistributed in the event all tickets were not sold.

Each ticket was sold for $100 with the first prize, obviously being, the plantation of 700 acres. The second through the seventh prizes were 20 and 40-acre tracts of land, and there were 93 cash prizes of $100 each. The odds of winning the plantation or one of the other prizes was one out of three.

According to public records, the Palmetto Plantation remained in the Vance family until 1890; leaving us to assume that John Vance’s lottery scheme failed and that those that bought a ticket were refunded their money.

To learn more about the Vance family or Palmetto Plantation, visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center at 2206 Beckett Street, Bossier City.

By: Amy Robertson

Thursday, July 4, 2019

August Book Club

Pages Past:
An American History
Book Club


At the Bossier Parish Libraries

History Center


2206 Beckett Street
Bossier City, LA
318.746.7717


6:00 - 7:30 pm


August 1, 2019


Stop by the History Center today to sign-up and to borrow a copy of the book chosen for July's discussion. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

July 4, 1895

In celebration of Independence Day, I wanted to share this sentiment that was published in The Bossier Banner on July 4, 1895. 

“I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they. — Dieutix, 14.”  

“Another Fourth of July at hand! The speeding years bring round this great anniversary of brave deeds and brave results so rapidly that the music of our celebration scarcely dies away in the distance before we begin it all over again.” 

“Not one of the founders of our government dreamed of the magnitude or political significance of their undertaking. They were noble souls who ministered to the aspirations of thirteen colonies, and in doing so builded far better than they knew. It is safe to say that when king George signed the document which cut us loose from his sovereignty he unconsciously put his name to the death warrant of tyranny and oppression everywhere. No stroke of pen in royal hand ever meant so much for the progress of mankind. No autograph was ever written with greater unwillingness, for the feeble folk whom he professed to despise had driven his trained legions from the field, and the raw troops which were without discipline and without food had wrung a historic victory from his most trusted generals.” 

“It will do no harm to recite these facts, not in the spirit of wanton boastfulness, but of grateful appreciation. They not only stir our pride but rouse us to a sense of personal obligation. We have inherited a noble territory, but better still, we are the fortunate heirs to certain immortal ideas which are to be defended against all comers, at all times and at all costs.” 

“It is a holiday, but the pleasures of the hour are simply the panoply which covers the love of freedom that has made the nation unique and powerful. We greet its annual appearance with music and processions and speeches; we fill the air at night with blazing rockets, which carry the news of our prosperity to midheaven and then burst in rainbow hues as though they could no longer contain themselves at the joyful tidings; but beneath the noise of celebration, far down below the laughter and merriment of the people, is the thought of our indebtedness to those providential men who risked their all and followed the bugle note to the grave.” 

“We have great privileges, but great duties also. Institutions have no inherent power of permanency. They begin to crumble when manhood and patriotism crumble. They rest on the shoulders and hearts of the multitude, and if the hearts fail or the shoulders grow weak the institutions totter to their fall. The America of to-day is dependent on the Americans of to-day; the America of to-morrow will be whatever the Americans of to-morrow may choose to make it. Nothing is so sensitive to public opinion as national institutions. Chamelion [sic] like, they take the color of the people who live under them. They do not make a people; the people make them.” 

“No truer or more impressive words were ever uttered than those of Curran, who said, ‘The conditions upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.’ The Fourth of July, therefore, means watchfulness. A generation of neglect would mean a crack in the wall of our temple. — Amid the hurry and bustle of business we must give a passing and a serious thought to our country. The flags which will wave from Atlantic to Pacific, from Gulf to lakes, will fill the air with the mute eloquence of duty, and the sunshine which will fall on the tombs of our never to be forgotten heroes of ‘76 will be an appeal to cherish the memories of the past while we enjoy the blessings of liberty to-day.” 

“Let fun and jolity [sic] prevail. No nation can as well afford to laugh and be glad as we. We envy no one, and have plenty within our borders. Peace and prosperity are guests in our household. But the still small voice whispers a word of timely warning, that as private honesty is the source of personal happiness, public integrity is the foundation of national permanency.” 

Have a safe and happy Independence Day celebration!  

Visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center, at 2206 Beckett Street, Bossier City, for your local history and genealogy research. 

By: Amy Robertson