• The story of the simultaneous creation of
    RJ Reynolds High School
    RJ Reynolds Memorial Auditorium 
    Hanes Park
    Information in this historical document is continually being updated as new information becomes known. A lot of this information comes from Wikipedia and Wikipedia-like sources. And some of it is copied directly from books. Since this document will never be published (because it is presented as a free public service to all who read it): royalties will not come into play, because absolutely no income will EVER be received from this. Hopefully everything in it is 100% correct.  If you find any errors, please send an email to RJRhighschool@aol.com with them.
    Note:  when the term "as mentioned earlier" appears below, it refers to the fact that is document is merely the second half of the historical document entitled "The early history of
    Winston-Salem...and Wachovia Bank, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, the Hanes companies, Hanes Park, and RJ Reynoplds High School & Richard J. Reynolds Memorial Auditorium."  
    That document can be viewed by clicking here ( * ) 

    Because we today (in the first month of 2022) are still experiencing a worldwide pandemic due to the coronavirus, it has to be remembered that the first pandemic to "hit" the United States started in 1918 (and it was referred to as the Spanish Flu).  The earliest cases were detected among military personnel serving at Camp Funston in Ft. Riley, Kansas.  The movement of troops probably helped spread the virus throughout the U.S. and Europe during the late spring.  This first wave was comparatively mild and had begun to die down in some areas. However, a second, more lethal wave began about August or September in 1918. During this wave:  pneumonia often developed quickly, with patients usually dying just two days after experiencing the first symptoms of the flu. As social distancing measures were enforced, the second wave began to die down toward the end of November. Once those measures were relaxed, however, a third wave began in the winter and early spring of 1919. Though not as deadly as the second wave, the third wave still claimed a large number of lives.  By summer of 1919, the virus had run its course.  In the United States, about 28% of the population of 105 million people became infected, and 500,000 to 850,000 died...meaning 0.48 to 0.81 of one percent of the population (which then totaled 106,500,000) died. Native American tribes were particularly hard hit.

    As stated earlier, Katharine Reynolds created a school on the Reynolda estate. The pupils included her own children, their friends, white and black children from Reynolda village, and the rural children from the neighborhood. She hired Charles Barton Keen to design and build the school building. Via an arrangement she had made with the Superintendent of the Forsyth County School System in the spring of 1918, this school was considered a part of the Forsyth County School System. The School System paid her an allowance for each student. (It must be noted that the school never broke even financially). She searched for a professional educator to be hired as the school principal, and found J. Edward Johnston (pictured below), who was considered very handsome.

    J. Edward Johnston

    J. Edward Johnston

    She quickly was smitten with Mr. Johnston, and they got married in 1921.  The Reynolda School opened in October of 1918, with three grades and three teachers. Within days, however, the city was stricken with the Spanish Flu epidemic. The disease hit close to home for Katharine.  When Katharine's daughter Nancy became ill, she sent for Jessie Hill. R.J.  Reynolds' nurse while he was being treated for his failing health in Philadelphia. Miss Hill arrived by train, but fell fatally ill almost immediately, a victim of the Spanish flu. Katharine had to quarantine her entire househood, as well as Jessie's family, in hopes that no one else would suffer from the disease.  The school closed 3 days after it opened because of the spread of the flu in Forsyth County.

    In 1919, the City of Winston-Salem was looking to build a new high school.  The existing schools were wooden, and were not large enough to adequately handle all of the students.  The City wanted to construct more modern and fire-proof school buildings.  As stated earlier, the towns of Winston and Salem had merged in 1913, and the population in this municipality had essentially doubled since 1910…which meant that the number of children attending schools had also incredibly increased.  Also that year, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company had introduced Camel cigarettes.  In addition to that, the various Hanes companies (P.H. Hanes Knitting, Hanes Dye and Finishing, and Hanes Hosiery), as well as Indera Mills and Chatham Mills, were all doing very well (and all of these were labor intensive firms).  Folks were moving from all over to Winston-Salem for the jobs offered at these (and other) local businesses.  Below is a picture of Winston High School (which was located on Cherry Street).

    Winston High School

    In 1910, the town of Winston, NC was very fortunate to have Mr. R.H. Latham become the Superintendent of city schools (a position that he held for twenty-five years).  Among other things while in office, he instituted school libraries, added an eleventh grade, and improved the curriculum. 

     RH Latham

    R.H. Latham

    Being the Superintendent, he oversaw the search for property for new schools. The first proposed site considered for a new high school in 1919 was a parcel of land owned by Mr. P.H. Hanes (who happened to be one of those initially elected as a school commissioner).  This tract of land was on the western side of town, essentially adjacent to the West Highlands residential subdivision (which was also owned by Mr. Hanes).  Even though Mrs. Katharine Smith Reynolds (the widow of Richard J. Reynolds) had made a pledge to the Mayor of $50,000 to go towards the purchase of land for a new high school, a price could not be agreed upon. Thus, the search continued for another site. 

    PH Hanes 

    Pleasant Henderson (PH) Hanes


     Katharine Smith Reynolds

    Katharine Smith Reynolds

    There was a parcel of land (held in Mr. Reynolds’ estate) between 3rd Street and 5th Street…just east of the City Hospital, that Mrs. Reynolds believed would make a very good site for this school.  On June 6th, she made another offer to Mayor R.W. Gorrell.  The front-page headlines of the Winston-Salem Journal the following day is shown below:

    headlines in local newspaper

    In this offer...which can be seen by clicking here ( * ), she stated this parcel could be purchased at a very reasonable price, that her offer of giving $50,000 towards the purchase of this land still stood, and if this parcel was selected:  she would also “erect a beautiful auditorium with a seating capacity of several thousand to form a central building of the group as a personal memorial” (to her deceased husband).

    Also in June, Mr. P.H. Hanes made an offer to the City of 47 acres of land (from his West End Dairy cow pasture) for a public park.  The original plans for this contained allocation of space for a vocational high school and a gymnasium…as well as recreational facilities.  This would also have also served the purpose of being an enticement for folks to purchase lots in his West Highlands residential subdivision...which was located next to this.  (To read more about this subdivision, click here ( * ) to view an article written by Margaret Supplee Smith {“Historic Buena Vista”} in the April, 2017 edition of the Buena Vista Life Magazine).

    West End Dairy

    P.H. Hanes West End Dairy - established in 1906

    On July 3rd, Mrs. Reynolds made yet another offer to Mayor Gorrell…which can be seen by clicking here ( * ):  that she would purchase 25 acres located on a knoll (referred to as Silver Hill) directly above the proposed Hanes Park.  Her offer to spend $50,000 towards the purchase of that land still stood, and her offer to build an auditorium seating several thousand folks also still stood, as long as the high school buildings (which included her offer to build an auditorium) were built on that site, and were named for her deceased husband.

    Also on July 3rd, Mr. P.H. Hanes made another offer to the city…which can be seen by clicking here ( * ).  It stated he would donate a 47-acre tract (that used to be part of his West End Dairy) to be used forever as only a park and place where school buildings could be built. This park would have to be named the “P.H. Hanes Park,” would have to be developed per plans submitted by Mr. Louis J. Miller, would have to be kept up by the City, and could only be used as a public park with school buildings (and thus no roads nor rail lines nor homes nor businesses could ever be built in it).

    Below are the front-page headlines of the July 4, 1919 Winston-Salem Journal:

    headlines of local newspaper

    In the afternoon of July 3rd, a very important meeting was staged by Superintendent Latham.  As stated in the above mentioned July 4, 1919 edition of the Winston-Salem Journal:

    “Mr. Latham stated that a conference was held yesterday afternoon (July 3rd) when Mr. George W. Orr, representing Mrs. Reynolds, and Mr. P.H. Hanes each read the proposal of the other to be made to the city.  They looked over the proposals and found them satisfactory in all things concerned.  The offer of Mr. Hanes is for a park and playground, and it was agreed between the parties concerned that the high school plant may be located on the Reynolds’ property.  Mr. Hanes included in his offer permission to use his site for school purposes in case the city wished to do so.  Mr. Latham brought out very clearly that the letters do not unfold two separate propositions as one may be lead to believe, but that both are offers to the city and that an agreement has been reached between Mr. Hanes and Mrs. Reynolds on that point.  Schools do not necessarily have to be erected on both sites, all of that having been cleared up in the conference held yesterday afternoon (July 3rd).  ‘I want to say that the fine spirit of co-operation of all has been a wonderful revelation to me,’ said Mr. Latham.  ‘It is an index to the spirit that has built this city and made Winston-Salem what it is and is going to make Winston-Salem one of the greatest cities in the South.'"

    Then later that evening (on July 3, 1919), at an 8:00 PM called meeting of the Winston-Salem Board of Aldermen, the proposals of Mr. Hanes and Mrs. Reynolds were made public.  Also made public was a proposal made by James Gordon Hanes, Sr., who was a son of John Wesley Hanes (who was the deceased brother of P.H. Hanes).  His proposal stated that a small part of the plot of land contemplated to be P.H. Hanes Park was actually owned by the estate of his deceased father: John Wesley Hanes.  James Gordon Hanes agreed to donate this to the City if (and only if) the City accepted the offer of Mr. P.H. Hanes.

    The Board of Aldermen then voted unanimously to accept all three offers (with each Alderman showing their approval by standing).  To read the minutes of that Board of Aldermen meeting, click here ( * ).  FYI:  the total cost of the Auditorium donated by Mrs. Reynolds ended up being $394,000, with an additional $100,000 (for interior decoration and equipment) coming from the estate of her husband (R.J. Reynolds).  Also, the value of the land donated by the Hanes brothers was estimated to be $250,000.  When combined, these two gifts (from Mrs. Reynolds and the Hanes brothers) were the 3rd largest gift from private individuals to a public school system in the history of our nation!  Mrs. Reynolds deeded the land to the city for $1.00 in 1919.

    On August 14, 1919 the preliminary plans for the development of what would become known as Hanes Park were shown on the font-page of the Winston-Salem Journal (pictured below). 

    proposed layout of Hanes Park

    The park was designed by Mr. Louis L. Miller (who had previously developed the site plan for the Reynolds family “Reynolda Estate” and landscaping for the Methodist Childrens Home…and had worked with Mr. Hanes in laying out the West Highlands residential subdivision).  Mr. Miller stated this park would be “the finest public park south of Washington.”  This park would be accessible by all types of existing modern transportation at that time (i.e., railroad, streetcars and automobiles).  The street next to the park would be the widest public paved road in the state at that time (so that folks could park to watch high school athletic events).  Among other things, the park would have a football field, a baseball field, tennis courts and a race track.  And to show how much global warming has taken place since then:  the plans called for a 6-acre lake (to be fed by three existing streams) that could be used for boating, swimming, and ice skating).

    As stated in Heather Fearnbach's book "Winston-Salem Architectural Heritage":  Although the city did not develop the entire site via (Mr.) Miller's plan, the recreational facility, named Hanes Park by the Board of aldermen, was in use by 1920."

    Later in 1919, the City overwhelmingly passed a bond referendum for $800,000 (half of which went to construct R.J. Reynolds High School). The original plans called for two school buildings…one on either side of the Auditorium. The Household Arts and Industrial Arts Building would be built at the completion of the construction of the Auditorium and the first school building (referred to as the Academic Art Building).

    proposed RJ Reynolds High School layout

    Above is an October 12, 1919 Winston-Salem Journal front-page picture of the original plans for Richard J. Reynolds High School and Richard J. Reynolds Memorial Auditorium.  The caption under the picture reads:  "This is the first picture of Winston-Salem's splendid new high school plant which will be located in West End, the cut having been taken from a photo made from a water color drawing of the buildings by the architect. The central building of the group is the Memorial Auditorium which will be erected by Mrs. R.J. Reynolds as a personal memorial to the late Mr. R.J.  Reynolds.  The building is 80 feet wide and about 150 feet long.  It will seat 2,000 on the main floor and 1,000 in the galleries.  On one side of the building is the Household Arts and Industrial Arts building.  On the other side is the Academic Building.  Each of these buildings has a frontage of 300 feet and extends back 160 feet.  The buildings are of Georgian or Colonial style of architecture, and are connected with the Memorial Auditorium by porticos supported by Colonial columns similar to the style followed out at the University of Virginia.  The buildings are fire-proof, built of reinforced concrete.  The plans are by Mr. Charles Keeton, architect, of Philadelphia.  Photo by Matthews, Winston-Salem, N.C.”

    A little bit of history about N.C. in 1919.  That year there were only about 100,000 automobiles registered in the entire state. For reference, today there are about 8 million cars, pickups and SUV's registered in North Carolina. People had been traveling by train for decades. During the 1920’s, Southern Railway operated one hundred daily trains throughout the state. More than fifteen hundred towns and cities in the state had railway stations! Also during that decade, railroads developed new programs for vacation travelers (that are now referred to as "vacation packages"). Comfortable Pullman cars for spending the night in sleeping cars and eating quality food in dining cars made long-distance travel via railroads a pleasure. Florida was a popular destination.  Below is a picture of a Pullman parlor car.

    Pullman railway car

    People riding on Pullman cars were treated like royalty. 

    Mrs. Reynolds was a very forward-thinking individual. First:  it must be remembered how small geographically Winston-Salem was in 1919.  The location of the high school and auditorium was at the very western boundary of the city.  Earlier in this document it was mentioned that Mr. P.H. Hanes wanted "his" park to be an enticement for folks to buy some of the lots in his fairly vast West Highlands area. To see a map of what all West Highlands and Buena Vista includes, click here ( * ). To see a map of what all Waughtown includes, click here ( * ).  These areas had a lot of homes owned by wealthy citizens.  However, in 1919:  they were all outside the City limits.  They were (as earlier mentioned) annexed by Winston-Salem while James Gordon Hanes, Sr. was Mayor (and the years he was Mayor was 1921 - 1925).  Thus, when conceived and planned, Reynolds High did not serve students living in Buena Vista and the West Highlands area and in the Waughtown area...because they were not within the city limits (and thus the Winston-Salem School System would not have served them).

    Concerning the auditorium:  Katharine knew a lot of wealthy people were taking the train from up north to enjoy a vacation in Florida. She envisioned folks living in the New York area taking the train to Winston-Salem.  While here, she dreamed they would have a good meal at a fine restaurant, book a room in a good hotel, and then enjoy a great performance at Richard J. Reynolds Memorial Auditorium.  Then, the next day, they would get back on the train and continue their trip to Florida. Obviously, these folks would hopefully do the same thing when going back home.

    Thus, one of the main reasons for her building an auditorium was that it would become what we would today call an economic engine for this area.  It would not only provide entertainment for the local citizens...it would also provide a LOT of jobs for them in what we call today the entertainment business (such as working in fine restaurants, or in fine hotels, and also in the construction trades...since these restaurants and hotels would have to be built).

    Did you ever wonder why the steps (on the other side of road that circles the auditorium) were put in that location, and that they lead down the hill?  There is a simple explanation.  It was assumed by Mrs. Reynolds that most folks would arrive at the auditorium via electric railway streetcars (which ran on what are now the abandoned railroad tracks).  The patrons coming to the auditorium would merely walk up the hill to the steps, and then enter the auditorium. FYI:  some residential development surrounded the factories in Winston-Salem, but the majority of dwellings were west of downtown. Winston became the second city in the state with electric streetcars in 1890, which encouraged more suburban development.

    One of the regrettable things about Katharine unexpectedly dying was that a walkway that would have undoubtedly featured a lot of fantastic landscaping was never built between the railroad tracks and the auditorium.  If you look at how amazing Reynolda Gardens was, you can only imagine the landscaping plans she had for this walkway (that obviously never got built).

    Did you ever wonder why the school building does not face Hawthorne Road?  The building was placed so that its back was to the auditorium and its side to Hawthorne Road…because a street had been proposed to cut through between Hawthorne Road to Northwest Boulevard…approximately where today the tunnel goes under Northwest Boulevard from the gymnasiums to the school building.  Thus, the school building would have faced that proposed street.

    The significance of that:  the school building would thus have been essentially right at the curb of that proposed street.  That shows that no one was expected to be driving a car to the school!  Later on in this article, it will be detailed how students did arrive at school (and how folks did arrive at the auditorium).

    For reference, below is a picture of Main Street in downtown Winston-Salem taken sometime in the 1920's...which is obviously years after Katharine bought the land for the high school and auditorium.

    Main Street in the 1920's

    In 1919, when Katharine Reynolds agreed to build the auditorium and purchase the 25 acres it and the high school now sit on, the modes of transportation for the average working folks going somewhere more than 1/4 mile away from town were to walk, ride a horse or mule, or travel in a horse-driven or mule-driven wagon or buggy/carriage.

    Another bit of context of the world in which Mrs. Reynolds lived:  electric power, at the start of the twentieth century, was a novelty and a luxury in North Carolina. 

    Yet RJ Reynolds High and the Richard J. Reynolds Memorial Auditorium did have electrical power and electric lights....and the two buildings had lights in all the rooms (even in the restrooms), and the auditorium had spot lights shining towards the stage.  These two buildings (and especially the auditorium) were truly almost magical places (because for the average man:  how did this new thing called a light bulb even work?)  And unlike candles (that could be seen getting smaller as they continued to burn):  these new light bulbs did not diminish in brightness...and amazingly seemingly NEVER stop producing light.

    Arc lamps ran off a generator, a device consisting of a rotor inside a magnetic field. Arc lights arrived in Winston (which later became Winston-Salem) in 1887.  In 1905, James B. Duke, Walker Gill Wylie, and William States Lee organized the Southern Power Company (which later became Duke Power Company), building a string of textile mills and hydroelectric plants along the Catawba River. As the North Carolina textile industry expanded, many mill owners, before signing on with the power company, bargained for electricity for their employees' homes. Lee went on to design and build 32 hydroelectric stations and 7 steam-electric stations, and he also became a pioneer in wire-transmission systems.

    To give a specific example (and when looking back at this from today's perspective: a startling example) of how scarce electricity was in North Carolina in 1919:  "Moody's Analysis of Investments" (published in 1920) states that the Catawba Power Company (which was controlled by Southern Power Company) proposed building a "water power [plant] on the Catawba River near Rock Hill, SC, delivering almost 850 hp [horse power] to Southern Power Co."  

    Obviously, this was the year AFTER Mrs. Reynolds agreed to build what is now known as the Richard J. Reynolds Memorial Auditorium!! 

    Winston-Salem's Mayor Mr. Wayne Corpening (who served from 1977 - 1989) told his son Harry (who wrote this article) that he hated that "new fangled thing" called an electric light bulb, when electricity was first hooked up to the home he grew up in (which was located in what is now Mills River, NC, but what was called Horse Shoe, NC back in the early 1900's).  And for reference:  Wayne Corpening was born in 1914.  Why did he hate it?  It showed all of the dirt and dust that had accumulated in ALL the corners of each room (that before the light bulb, could hardly be seen)!  Because he was the youngest of 9 children: he was given the daily job of having to sweep clean all of the rooms that had these new fangled light bulbs!

    Also, the amenities at the auditorium were very much "ahead of its time."  There were water fountains in the lobby where water continually flowed.  These have been shut off...since moisture quickly ruins plaster...which was (and is) very prevalent in the lobby.  Probably more than half the houses in the greater Winston-Salem area at that time did not even have indoor plumbing!  Also, the restrooms (obviously with working toilets and sinks) were (when it opened) MUCH larger than they are now.  These restrooms were so large that couches were there for folks to actually sit and rest on. 

    There were two rooms in the lobby where folks could "check" their winter coats. And back then, because medical science knew no better and Camel cigarettes were being mass produced uptown at the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company:  pretty much everyone smoked....everywhere.

    The regrettable part of Katharine Reynolds' dreams and visions:  she died unexpectedly before endowing the school and auditorium with the funds needed to make sure her dreams came to reality.

    Bottom-line:  not only did the majority of houses in the greater Winston-Salem area in July of 1919 (when Mrs. Reynolds agreed to build the Auditorium and buy the land it and the high school sit on) not have indoor plumbing:  they did not yet have electrical power!!

    RJ Reynolds High School and the Richard J. Reynolds Memorial Auditorium I feel confident were considered (back when they opened, by a lot of the working-class people living in Forsyth County) the same as Disney World is today:  they were a "wonder world."

    The bottom-line to Katharine Reynolds' dreams and visions for Reynolds High School and Richard J. Reynolds Memorial Auditorium: they were two different sets of visions. The City's wanting to build a new high school, and her wanting to "permanently" honor her deceased husband, gave her the idea of tying these two things together.  However, they were two separate entities that just happened to sit adjacent to each other:  one being a public high school, and the other being a public theater. The high school had one set of dreams (and they essentially were that this high school would be one of the VERY BEST public high schools in the nation)! 

    Concerning the Auditorium, her vision was that it would hopefully be an economic engine for this area, thus providing lots of jobs for the citizens living in the greater Winston-Salem area...since fine restaurants and hotels would need to be built, and then staffed. And needless to say:  it would be great entertainment to the community.

    The only similarities in the two buildings were:

    * they were named for the same individual

    * they were geographically adjacent to each other. 

    She also had visions of the high school being the cultural center of the School System, since she planned to have the largest art gallery in the State at the school. And I feel sure she assumed the school would have some of the very best teachers found anywhere.  The planned art gallery and cultural center visions died when she did...since she did not endow the necessary funds for these ideas to take place.

    The school had one of the first air conditioning systems of its type in the state. Large blocks of ice were kept in the basements of the school building and the auditorium.  Huge fans blew air across these ice blocks and into vents which opened in most of the rooms of the school and auditorium.  (This was called "pyramid cooling"). Where the patrons sit in the lower level of the auditorium, you can still see the small metal "grates" in the floor (which is where this cold air would have come up).  

    Below are two pictures found in Heather Fearnbach's book "Winston-Salem's Architectural Heritage."  They were taken around 1925.

     Reynolds High School

    Richard J. Reynolds High SchoolReynolds AuditoriumRichard J. Reynolds Memorial Auditorium

    To quote directly from the book “Richard J. Reynolds Memorial Auditorium:  Vision and Triumph” by Ellen Kutcher: “To locate the new high school away from center city on the large open tract Mrs. Reynolds had acquired from W.L. Ferrell, C.M. Thomas and the Standard Improvement Company followed (then) current ideas of building public schools along the lines of college campuses.  One newspaper, in fact, actually referred to the new high school as a college for children of Winston-Salem – appropriate, perhaps, because only 5 percent of local students went on to institutions of higher education in 1919.”

    At the beginning of 1923, Winston-Salem had two high schools:  Winston High School on Cherry Street (for what were considered “white” students) and East Winston High School (for what were considered “colored” students). Below are the front-page headlines of the January 10, 1923 Winston-Salem Journal:

     front page of Winston-Salem Journal

    On January 9th, 1923, fire destroyed Winston High School. As noted in the box titled “High School Will Open Monday in New Building: “The Winston-Salem High School will be opened again next Monday morning, January 15, in the new High School building now nearing completion.  The second floor of the new building will be ready and twenty rooms will be available for pupils.  This announcement is made on authority of representatives of the school board, of the board of aldermen, the superintendent of the city public schools and the officials of the DuPont Construction Co., which is building the new High School plant.  Board walks will be laid at once so that the children may reach the new school building without wading through mud.  The Elks offered their home and several churches, among them the First Presbyterian, for which authorities expressed deep appreciation last night.” 

    For several weeks after Winston High burned, students attended some classes in St. Paul's Church and some classes at the new school. Throughout the spring of 1923, while students attended classes, construction continued.  Transportation for students going to school included walking, bicycling, and riding electric railway streetcars. Students walked from as far away as Salem and Southside.  Ardmore was considered close to the school. Enough students rode bikes to school to necessitate large bicycle racks with locks.  Before and after school, special electric railway streetcars brought students from town without them having to transfer.  Below is a picture of one:

    electric railway streetcar

    A published report in 1914 stated that there were 45 such electric streetcars operating in Winston-Salem on 7.5 miles of track inside the city limits, and 5 miles of tracks outside the city limits. This report states that these electric streetcars served 2,953,805 passengers for the year ending on June 30, 1914 (and for reference: Winston-Salem only had 48,400 citizens in 1920).  If only residents of Winston-Salem rode them, then on average each citizen rode one of these streetcars 60 times in a year.  For several years more streetcars and tracks were annually put into operation.

    In the first years of full-time instruction at Reynolds High, school was never closed for snow.  Everyone left home early to walk in order to get to school on time.

    The high school building, when completed, was designed to accommodate 1,200 students in 60 rooms for classes and administration. Students began a full-time schedule in February, when the cafeteria was completed.  The Buena Vista bus line revised its schedule so that it could transport children who lived downtown to and from the new school...for a fare of five cents.

    The senior students who went to this school and graduated in 1923 were said to have graduated from Richard J. Reynolds High School...a fact that is verified by viewing the first page of the 1923 yearbook....which can be seen by clicking here ( * ).  As mentioned earlier, it was planned to be not only a high school, but also a cultural center for the Winston-Salem School System.  It was going to contain the largest art gallery in North Carolina. As also mentioned earlier, there was supposed to be a twin building to the existing school building, which was supposed to be located on the other side of the auditorium.  That building was supposed to house a center for vocational training for the School System.  

    The first day of school for the 1923-1924 school-year was Tuesday, September 18, 1923.  (This was verified by an ad titled "School Days" on page seven of Section B in the September 2, 1923 Sunday edition of the Winston-Salem Journal....which can be seen by clicking here ( * ). Reynolds High School had a football team that first year.  Regrettably that season was cut short because a member of the RJR team (Leo Caldwell)  died during a game with Charlotte (which was played at Hanes Park).  To read an article about that game (which gives details and insight concerning how folks traveled in 1923), click here ( * ). To see a picture of Leo, and read a dedication to him from the November 1923 Black and Gold: click here ( * ).

    In 1924, the American Legion of Winston-Salem presented Reynolds High with two flagpoles, that still stand today.

    The school newspaper, "Pine Whispers," was begun in 1925.  During its early years, Reynolds had its own print shop. At one time this print shop printed all of the educational materials for the School System. This print shop (in the school's early years) also printed the school's annual yearbook and the school newspaper.  It gained the reputation of being one of the best print shops in the state.

    For several years, in the late 1920's and early 1930's, double school sessions were held (because of the large number of students).  Each group of students came for half a day.  When it first opened, Reynolds included the eighth through the eleventh grade. When the State added a twelfth year requirement, the eighth grade was shifted to Wiley Elementary School. At a much later time, the eighth grade was again shifted back to Reynolds. They occupied the third floor and continued under an elementary school program, while the ninth through twelfth grade students used the first and second floors.

    During these times, the world was male dominated. The work-for-pay options for female students were essentially only teaching-related, nursing, or being secretaries. Female students were not allowed to wear pants to school until 1971! Each student selected a four-year course in Latin, foreign language, science, or in commercial subjects. The students then took a specialty course each of the four years along with their required course. Homerooms were organized according to the courses taken by the students.

    For years public opinion frowned on the school's sponsoring dances. Therefore, the Junior-Senior was not a prom. The juniors would entertain the seniors in the auditorium with dramatic performances. Later, after the performance, the seniors were taken to the highly decorated gym for the Grand March of the school celebrities...followed by a reception.

    Below is a picture of a bronze plaque in the front "lobby" of the school (on the first floor).

     plaque in lobby on 1st floor

    In May of 1924, an $800,000 bond referendum was overwhelmingly passed, to pay for the construction of four new schools, as well as a gymnasium for Reynolds High School on the Hanes Park property.
    Reynolds Gymnasium and Reynolds Auditorium

    Once the gymnasium construction was completed, the physical plant of R.J. Reynolds High School was the third largest public high school campus in the nation!  The Richard J. Reynolds Memorial Auditorium was dedicated in May of 1924 (in a 4-day celebration, between May 8 – May 11).  A copy of the program given to attendees can be seen by clicking here ( * ).

    Reynolds Gymnasium

    The Richard J. Reynolds High School Gymnasium in 1927

     Picture from Heather Fearnbach's Book "Winston-Salem's Architectural Heritage" 

    Katharine never saw the completed Auditorium.  It would not be unrealistic to think that Katharine, since she was 44, may have had the inner thought (like millions of folks do in their 40's) that she was essentially invincible.  After all, she was probably the wealthiest woman in North Carolina, she had access to the finest doctor's money could buy, and she knew that women were successfully giving birth to babies every minute of every day. Regrettably because of that, she did not think there was a need to (at that time) endow the school and the auditorium with the funds needed to ensure her dreams and vision for them came to reality.

    Katharine’s dreams for future usage of the Auditorium were:

    1. To showcase accomplishments of public school students
    2. For civic or memorial occasions
    3. For religious programs
    4. For musical and cultural programs featuring renowned artists.

    This public auditorium/theater was intended to have a sweeping cultural impact on the region by hosting national figures from the performing arts.

    RJ Reynolds High School and Reynolds Memorial Auditorium

    RJ Reynolds High School and Reynolds Memorial Auditorium

    and the surrounding neighborhood in the 1940's

    Picture from Heather Fearnbach's book "Winston-Salem's Architectural Heritage"

    A little bit about Winston-Salem at that time:  because the towns of Winston and Salem had merged as one city in 1913, and because the various Hanes companies and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company and Indera Mills and Chatham Mills were all doing well (all being in labor intensive industries), the population of the city more than doubled between 1910 and 1920, and Winston-Salem was (via the census in 1920) the state’s largest and most prosperous city.  There was a big demand for new school buildings throughout the city for students of all ages. To meet that city-wide need, and to keep a control on the debt load of the taxpayers, the second (Household Arts and Industrial Arts) building at R.J. Reynolds High School was never constructed. 

    Another reason for second building not being built was the growing popularity of the automobile.  In 1919, when Mrs. Reynolds agreed to purchase the land the high school and auditorium sit on: there were only 109,000 automobiles in North Carolina. It was assumed that the vast majority of the students and Auditorium patrons would arrive by either walking, or riding a bicycle, or by electric railway streetcars bus. The second high school building was intended to be built where the two student parking lots are now located.  Had it been built:  there would be NO parking places available for students' cars.

    Hanes Park in 1935

    Above is an April 4, 1935 picture of Hanes Park after the gymnasium had been built.

    It shows N.C. Emergency Relief Administration workers.

    The pictures above and below, and the following, are found in Heather Fearnbach's book "Winston-Salem's Architectural Heritage":  "Between 1933 and 1935 the Civil Works and Emergency Administrations contributed just under $39,000 to fund improvements [to Hanes Park] including the curved stone wall with built-in benches that frames the main entrance on West End Boulevard, as well as stone steps and foot-bridges throughout the park.  Works Progress Administration employees continued landscaping initiatives in the late 1930's.  The city has since added athletic fields and courts, lighting, parking, seating, bridges, and a playground."

    Wiley Middle School A 1925 picture of Wiley Middle School 

    Two schools have been built on Hanes Park property.  In 1925, what was known at the time as Wiley Elementary School was built.  And then in 1959, Brunson Elementary School was built (and during its construction, this was referred to as the Hanes Park School).

    To read a June 16, 2021 article in the local newspaper about "positive" changes that have been made at Hanes Park that will affect future RJR students and athletic teams: click here ( * )

    To end this historical document, let's return to RJ Reynolds High School...and compare the students that attended school when it first opened to the students that attend now (in 2021).  Back when it opened, and up through the early 1950's: it was a high school that only had white students...of which many came from wealthy families.  

    In 1956, RJ Reynolds High School was still an all white school. One student, Kathryn Dalton, was a senior, and had never been to school with a non-white student. It was two years after the Supreme Court rejected the Jim Crow mantra of “separate but equal,” yet schools in North Carolina had not begun the process of desegregation.

    Kathryn Dalton

    When asked whether she thought that it was strange that her school was all white, Snavely said, “I didn’t, because that’s the way all the schools were. None of the schools were [integrated]. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to; it’s just that wasn’t the way it was.”   

    It did not stay that way for long. Just one year later, in 1957, select students across the state were chosen to be the first students to integrate high schools in North Carolina. Gwendolyn Bailey became the first African American student to ever attend Reynolds High School.

    Gwendolyn Bailey

    Bailey was the first African American student to attend Reynolds High School.

    Other African American students in Greensboro and Charlotte had already begun classes and had received lots of hate. Reynolds Principal Claude Joyner was determined to prevent such things from happening at Reynolds.

    The morning of Bailey’s first day things did not go as planned. Someone had painted racial slurs on the driveway by the auditorium and the assistant principal, John Tandy, could be seen running around campus trying to get it cleaned up.

    words written on pavement leading to RJR

    Racial slurs were not Joyner’s only problem, since crowds had gathered across the street on Hawthorne Road...hoping to catch a glimpse of Bailey. Fortunately, according to an article published in the Winston-Salem Journal in 1959, this had been planned for. Bailey was dropped off by her father on Northwest Boulevard, and walked to school via the tunnel. Compared to the students in Greensboro and Charlotte, Bailey had a relatively calm day.

    According to an article published in Winston-Salem Journal about Bailey’s graduation, she often said: “if only there had been another one" (i.e., another African American). Bailey attended Reynolds for 21 months, and she was the only African American student there, and spent much of her time feeling lonely. She had to miss her senior picnic because the location did not allow African American patrons. She was, however, able to attend the most important aspect of her senior year, her graduation. In 1959, Gwendolyn Bailey became the first African American student to graduate from Reynolds.

    For the most part, schools stayed segregated because it was not required for students to attend certain schools and most chose to stay at their home school.

    In 1966, Reynolds was still a predominately white school and across town, Atkins High School was a predominately black school. The two schools competed in separate athletic divisions because the North Carolina High School Athletic Association did not allow predominantly black schools to be members. That all changed in 1967 when the NCHSAA joined with the North Carolina High School Athletic Conference, the organization for primarily black schools. Two years later, Reynolds lost to Atkins in the semifinals of the state basketball championship.

    Something that I witnessed first-hand during the spring semester of my senior year (in 1968): my homeroom period was spent in a science lab.  There was a ledge around the classroom, with microscopes on it and stools under it (for the students to sit on).  One day when I arrived for homeroom, there were no microscopes in the room.  When I asked why, I was told they were sent to Atkins (because it was being accredited that week).  I was told they would shortly be returned....which they were.

    Ever since it had opened, the Buena Vista section of town was within RJR’s residential boundary.  Going into the early 1960’s, Reynolds High School had a fairly large residential zone (especially when looking at its western boundary).  Many families at that time had several generations of teenage children that had attended RJR.  However, by the mid-1960’s there were not a lot of empty lots in Buena Vista…so families wanting to build their own homes looked west in Forsyth County for lots to build on.  The residential western boundary for RJR was pretty much permanently established  when West Forsyth High School opened in 1964 and Mt. Tabor High School opened in 1966.  (And to show the continuing “western migration” of families in Forsyth County:  Reagan High School Located in Pfafftown) opened in 2005). 

    Another thing that changed some of the demographics of who attended Reynolds was the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 (which among other things prohibited discrimination in public places and provided for the integration of public schools).  Starting with the 1964-65 school-year, many families with wealth elected to start sending their teenage children to private schools.  To further make that point:  Forsyth Country Day School opened for the 1970-1971 school year.

    Thus, even though in the late 1960’s Reynolds High School was being called “Society Hill” by the supporters of the other Forsyth County high schools (because the residents living in Buena Vista often had a higher net worth than those folks living in other parts of the County), the number of families that were legacy supporters of RJR was being reduced each successive year (since more and more people were building and buying homes that were outside of Reynolds’ western residential boundary).

    Another event that changed the makeup of the RJR student-body occurred in 2007, when Reynolds became an arts magnet high school.  Because the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System allows students living in one high school's residential boundary to enter into a lottery to try to transfer to another high school:  a lot of students have entered the lottery to try to attend Reynolds (and each year there has been a fairly long waiting list for students trying to get to RJR).

    Today, per the official "RJ Reynolds High School Profile" that is posted as a separate webpage on the RJ Reynolds High School website (...and the following is quoted directly from the pdf document found on that webpage):

    "Reynolds serves a diverse population of close to 1,750 students from throughout the entire city and county. The students from our residential zone make up 67% of our student body. The remaining 33% attend through a magnet application and lottery process that typically generates a waiting list of more than 115 students.

    Representing more than 24 countries, our student body is comprised of 39% White, 34% Black, 16% Hispanic, 6% Multi-Racial and 5% Asian students. Additionally, approximately 50% of our students qualify for the free and reduced (price) lunch program. In the graduating class of 2020, 78% of our students went on to further their education after high school."

    Click here ( * ) to return to the Alumni homepage.