E.K. Powe School

Old West Durham:
Glimpses of the Past - Local Schools

Neighbors share their photographs of OWD life in days gone by.

Erwin Mills was shut down in 1986. All the people in Old West Durham lost their jobs and they didn't have any money. On 9th Street the stores were shut down. There was no blue jeans. All of the streets of Old West Durham were number streets but 9th Street is still here. E.K. Powe is in the middle of Old West Durham.

-- David Morales & Jonathan Santander (second graders quoted in 'Document' a publication of the Center for Documentary Studies)

Old E.K. Powe school on Ninth Street (where 1966 cafeteria building stands today). West Durham Graded School was built in 1912-13. Note that Ninth Street is a dirt road with a drainage ditch. 1913 article in the Herald expressed dismay about all the drainage ditches and mosquitoes in West Durham.

E.K. Powe football team. In 1946, '47 and '48, the E.K. Powe Green Dragons won three national age-group football championships. Front line (left to right): Fred Anders, Jimmy Pulley, Charles Dukes, Commie Rigsbee, Sumter Brawley, Craig Moon and Bill Simpson. Backfield (left to right): Bobbie Burns, Paul Reeves, Ralph Dennis and Charles Andrews (1948). In the old days, girls only played in the upper field (by West Knox) and boys only played in the lower field (by Green Street). In 1958, the students demanded to play together and the boy-girl separation was removed.


Young students sit on the steps near Green Street -- back in 1920 (photo courtesy of Jim Eubanks).

"Go Green Dragons!" E.K. Powe cheerleaders stand on what is now the lower playground. Group includes Barbara Wagstaff, Pat Ball, Lois Jane Riley, Faye Weaver, and Barbara Sutton Andrews (1949).

E.K. Powe Jr. High School Glee Club (1952). Photo credit: Betty Wayne Waller Blalock

West Durham Graded School No. 1 was built around 1898 at the corner of Swift and Caswell (new apartment building today). Two schools were combined here: Piney Grove School on Swift Avenue (where First Baptist Church of Durham started) and Northside (where, according to old mill workers, Vin Rouge stands today).

West Durham High School (with old school building on right), 1928. You can see the old cafeteria basement (see doors and windows at downhill end of building). Students ate in the basement under what are now the administrative offices.

Causeway connecting the old junior high school (shown on left) and "newer" elementary school (unseen on right). Photo was taken from Edith Street in 1951. Ann Moore and Carolyn Meachem stand in front of the old school building near West Knox (which served as a hospital during World War I).

West Durham High School (E.K. Powe Elementary today), 1928.

West Durham HS woman's basketball team in bloomers and middy blouses (1924).

The four photographs above are courtesy of the N.C. Collection, Durham County Library.

Safety patrol, sixth grade, E.K. Powe Elementary School, 1951 (boys patrolled outside, girls could only patrol inside).

E.K. Powe's vacation song

It there's anything you want to know
Just ask us we can tell
We've studied hard for nine long months
And we know our lessons well.

Why oceans are deep and mountains steep
And rivers run down hill
And now we're going to join the brook
Down by the mill.

So it's hip hip hurrah!
For the good old summertime
An old straw hat, no shoes at all
And a fishing pole and line.

The brook is calling to us
and the Woods repeat the tune
The very air, without a care