Rev. Frank Hughes, Jr.
 
Jim and Joe in Elementary School
Pictured above is Building 1 of the three buildings which were part of the Rena B. Wright Elementary School.  Buildings 1 and 2 originally served as South Norfolk High School, until the new one was built on Holly Street in 1930.
An August 1954 photo of Building 3 (below), first used as the Rena B. Wright Elementary School;buildings 1 and 2 were the high school, until the new one built in 1930.
Building 1, South Norfolk High School:
Building 1 (on right) and Building 2 (on left in next photo); Building 1 served as the first South Norfolk High School.
Newly completed South Norfolk High School, 1930, with Trolley Tracks in street:
When the new Oscar F. Smith High School was built on Rodgers Street, the old high school on Holly Street became the Truitt Junior High School, named for Miss Dorothy Truitt, seen in two early photos, below:
Miss Rena B. Wright:

In June 1921, a group of South Norfolk residents believed Rena Belle Wright's time had come.

They went to the School Board to back Wright's appointment as principal of the high school. Another group wanted a man to fill the job.


Wright had been educating children in Portlock and South Norfolk since the late 1800s and had led the school. Her supporters thought she had the experience to do the job.


"Even though Miss Wright was more experienced, in those days, it was strictly a man's world and the board voted to hire Mr. Grover Cleveland Outland," local author and historian Raymond L. Harper wrote in his book, "History of South Norfolk, 1661-1963."


Wright was appointed assistant principal.

She didn't get the job, but her name lives on at Rena B. Wright Primary School at 600 Park Ave.


From what Harper remembers, Wright often filled in as principal and taught Latin and other subjects decades before Chesapeake became a city.


"She was a thin, short little lady and she always wore a dress that came down to her ankles," Harper said recently.


Wright wore a wig and commanded respect, Harper said.


"Today, being a grown person, I say she was strict, but back in those days, all of us said she was meaner than 'H,' " Harper said.


A self-described good student, Harper said he never personally learned about Wright's no-nonsense style when he attended the South Norfolk Grammar School in the 1930s.


"She was in charge, and you didn't want to face her at all," Harper said. "That little lady, she could handle the biggest guy there was."


Not much else is known about Wright. At age 16, she came to Hampton Roads from Bowling Green to serve as a governess to the children of a family in the Brambleton area and served as a tutor for a doctor's children, Harper wrote.


She taught in the Portlock School and spent more than 45 years educating children in South Norfolk.

She retired, according to Harper, in 1942 and moved into her sister's home on Rhode Island Avenue in Norfolk's Colonial Place neighborhood.  The sister, Annie Wright Moore, was a widow, and she died at age 86, in 1959.


Wright died in March 1946 at age 78, according to her obituary published in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. It summed up her career this way: "In the course of these years, she taught most of the leading citizens of the Southside, as well as the children of many of them."


The first school building named for Wright was built in 1900 and stood at 20th and B streets, according to a newspaper account from the late 1960s.   It consisted of three brick buildings.  A new school was built and the school that now carries her name was dedicated on Oct. 24, 1971.

Some of our Teachers at
Rena B. Wright,
Truitt Junior High,
and Oscar F. Smith High School:
Mrs. Louise Kelley, Rena B. Wright
Elementary School Art Teacher, which met in the basement of Building 3.
Mills Arnold March,
7th Grade History
(Joe had 7th and 8th Grades at Truitt Junior High School).
Mrs. Louise Garrison,
7th Grade Science
Mrs. Sallie Bunch,
Elementary and Junior High School Substitute Teacher
Mrs. Flora B. Howell,
8th Grade Home Room and English
Miss Margaret West,
Senior English
Mrs. Lottie Waters,
9th Grade History
Mr. Joseph Wisniewski,
Senior Humanities
Mrs. Grimstead,
History
Mrs. Emma Holloman, Jim's High School Biology Teacher
Joe's first grade class on steps of Building 3. Miss Jane Harris was the teacher. Joe is standing on top row, right.
Joe Hughes and Rita Elliott's 5th Grade Class, with Mrs. Lucy Holland, teacher:
On the third floor of Building 1, was an auditorium with seats and a stage with a projection screen.  One of the annual events the boys (especially) looked forward to was the "Snake Show" wherein a anthropologist came and showed several live snakes as a teaching lesson.  Other times, the auditorium was used for intelligence testing, instruction on how to use the dial telephone, and to watch educational films.
Here are some of the instructional films, now in public domain, that we saw.  They instilled character and development in the students.  The values they taught are still applicable.  One that was especially remembered by many students was the one "Duck and Cover."  Several classmates still talk about that one.
The new Rena B. Wright Elementary School and dedication program.
Rev. Frank Hughes, Jr. gave the Benediction at the Dedication.