Home Opinion Mine Creek Revelations by Louie Graves: School Songs

Mine Creek Revelations by Louie Graves: School Songs


With an assist from our John Balch this article was researched and written several years ago when we were just “The Leader.” All of the people mentioned or quoted are now deceased, but their contributions to ‘our’ schools and communities live on.

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The school song, or the alma mater, of four area high schools were all written by students. That’s unique.

Two of the schools use original music, and two use common tunes to go with the words which were written by the students. The words, according to several of the authors, generally came together surprisingly fast and were easily matched with the music.

“Alma mater” means nourishing mother in Latin, and the songwriters all chose to give that title to their songs.

We will cherish

every mem’ry

The Nashville High School alma mater was written by Amy Holcombe Ball Johnston, who was a 16-year-old junior class cheerleader in 1937. She talked to the “Leader” about writing the song which is still sung or played at school and town events.

“I didn’t know what I was doing,” she laughs. She said that Nashville students were jealous of rival Hope which had a school song using the tune from “Sweetheart of Sigma Chi.”

“Why can’t we have one of our own?” she says Nashville students asked.

She decided to work on a song, and the words and music came together quickly. She “sang” the music for piano teacher Cleone Goss who transcribed it. “It definitely has an Irish flavor.”

Because she had written some poetry, the words seemed to come easy.

Years later she took the words and music to a Little Rock calligrapher who penned a decorative print. Johnston then donated the calligraphy and rights to the music to Nashville’s Chapter AM PEO for the club to use as a fund-raiser.

The last time she heard her alma mater was in 1993 when her granddaughter, Allison Ball, graduated. Today, Johnston lives in Hot Springs.

Sometime over the years, the band and students began putting extra emphasis on the final five words: “We’ll be faithful and true.” And 21 years ago, Nashville had a new band director, Larry Cross, who added a seven-note “introduction line” to the music. The introduction serves to alert the crowd that the song is coming, and also sets the key for the vocals.

The seniors of the NHS class of 1989 started a tradition of the “Senior Circle” after the final home football game of the year. Whether the game has been lost or won, seniors form a large circle on the field, join hands and sing the song Johnston wrote nearly 70 years ago:

‘Til the stars shall shine no longer,

‘Til the flowers all fade and die,

We’ll be true to Alma Mater,

To our dear old Nashville High.

We will cherish every mem’ry,

We will sing her praises, too.

And to dear old Alma Mater

We’ll be faithful and true.

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Our colors green

and gold mean

loyalty to you

Mary Jo Gentry Green wrote the Mineral Springs alma mater. She thinks it was in the summer of 1947. She and her friend, the late Glenette Sanders had been elected to represent the school’s Future Homemakers of America chapter at the state convention in Hot Springs.

“While we were there, all of the delegates stood and sang an FHA song which was to the tune of Brahm’s Lullaby” (Johannes Brahms, 1868). That’s why the MS school alma mater uses that very familiar music.

The girls returned home determined to write a school song. Together they wrote the words to fit the lullaby. “They kinda tumbled out,” in several sessions with her friend, Green recalls.

After that, the two coeds presented the verse and idea to their teacher, Marjorie Copeland, who helped introduce the song and promote it among the students.

Green says that her fellow students were anxious to sing the song and were enthusiastic about MSHS getting its own school song.

The familiarity of the music helped. “It’s so easy for people to hum or sing, and it just fit right in.”

Copeland said that as the school’s music and choral teacher for 45 years, she taught many generations of Mineral Springs students to sing:

Dear Ole Mineral

How we love you

We will always be true

Our colors, green and gold

Mean loyalty to you

Dear Ole Mineral

How we love you

As in days of our youth

As we live, as we work

You will guide us in truth

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NEXT WEEK, Part 2, the songs for Dierks High and ‘Murphy High’,

also written by students, and sung with feeling to this very day.

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