May Greene School

The cornerstone at May Greene School, at 1000 Ranney, near Fort D,  reads South Grade School and says it was erected in 1920. The land was purchased in 1917 for $3,200. It was supposed to cost $55,000, but a special election had to be called in 1920 to vote another $35,000 in bonds to complete the building. It was dedicated in 1927, and eight rooms were added in 1927.

Named for May Greene

The school was named for May Greene, who taught in Cape Girardeau schools for 53 years.

I wrote about Jefferson School earlier. There’s an interesting link between Jefferson and May Greene.

In 1953, when schools in Cape were still segregated, black students attended John S. Cobb School. When it was destroyed by fire, the city fathers saw that integration was coming, so they moved the white students who had been at Jefferson down to May Greene. The black students attended Jefferson until the schools were integrated.

May Greene School is now a Mission Church

May Greene and Washington Schools were closed in 1999 when Blanchard School was opened. Washington School was bought by Southeast Missouri State University and torn down. Here are two stories I’ve done about Washington School:

May Greene is now a mission church for the Cape First Assembly of God Church.

Teacher Margaret Sharon Manning Meyr

You never know what you’re going to find when you start searching for info. I started with Google, looking for May Greene School Cape Girardeau. One of the links took me to an obituary for a woman from Jonesboro, Ark. It turned out Margaret Sharon Manning Meyr had taught at May Greene and Franklin Schools. On closer read, I discovered she was married to CHS Coach Dutch Meyr. The link has some interesting photos in it.

May Greene mentioned in former slave account

Ima Bird, who participated in the Federal Writers’ Project, recorded this interview with Mrs. Margaret Davis,  209 S. Lorimier Street, as part of the Slave Narratives. The report was written May 27, 1936. It has very little to do with May Greene School, but it’s too interesting not to include.

She was hired out as nurse maid before she was ten years old–she stood on a chair to wash. She had done a washing the day I interviewed her. Her granddaughter teaches at Cobb School.

Her father was offered $1000 by Gen. Scott and tried to buy his family from slavery but their master would not sell them–so he bought a farm.

She remembers wading in the branch on William Street from Lorimier’s Spring with Doctor Maple’s wife. (Doctor Maple was a pioneer pastor of First Baptist Church at Cape Girardeau). There were fish in this branch.

A soldier was hanged on a big gate near St. Francis Hospital. He is buried in Lorimier Cemetery. They put his hat on a stick on his grave. Before his death the priest went and talked to him. He just whistled and danced and sang. His father came to see him, and told him, “I have bought you out from under the gallows three times and I won’t do it any more.”

She went up to the courthouse and looked through the iron bars at him. He was a Yankee soldier with Colonel Ross’s Regiment. She was always afraid to go toward the cemetery for fear of seeing his hat waving at night.

Fortifications in Cape

“Right across” from Hirsch’s store there was a fort for light artillery tor emergencies. There was a company for every street as a guard. There was a camp near May Greene School.

Punishment of soldiers

To punish soldiers who didn’t obey orders they bucked and gagged them. This was done if they didn’t get back to town on time. They were stretched out in the sun for hours.

Treasure found.

When Mr. Jack Painter died he had a chest out in the shed where he threw scrap iron. But after his death, money was found in the chest. His home was on the levee next to Dempsey’s Store on about where Albert’s Store is at 101 Water Street.

(This negro uses unusually good language. She has pictures of many of her “white babies”.)


73 Replies to “May Greene School”

  1. May Green was my grade school. It was in 1968 when i was on the fire dept. doing building inspections the first time i went back in the school since the 6th grade. It was like all the steps inside the building got shorter. they were tall back in grade school. The inside of the building was not as big as it seems 10 years later. After school was out we used to shimey up a drain pipe on the east side of the building to retreave balls that was hit upon the roof.

    1. When did you go to school at May Green? Did you go to school with Vernon and Mildred Adams? Do you know how I can get the names of the children went to school there?

      1. I went to May Greene school starting in 1961. My children also went there as well as several of my other family members.

  2. I attended May Greene School for five years and was looking forward to my sixth year because only sixth graders could particpate in the May Pole Ceremony. However, due to extenuating circumstances I was not able to partipcate but I will always have fond memories of May Green School and my classmate, Ann Ellis.

  3. Attended May Greene 1st & 2nd grades (1937/38). remember Kite flying contests where everyone cheered for Mr Wilkinson (janaitor) in highest kite contest. Had other categories; biggest, smallest, prettiest, etc.

    Also remember sliding down big concrete slam outside Fort D coming home from school.

    1. I also remember that concrete slab, was told often by parents NOT to go down it.. but we always did.. I went to MayGreene my 1st and second grade.. then went to Marquette school till High School..

  4. That is a picture of Fort D where we used to have our Ham Radio meetings. We built a powerful transmitter and had a very nice Amateur Radio station there for years. i was about 13-16 years old then and what a great group of Hams. Some were from the spark gap days of early radio and I sit spellbound for hours listening to their stories of the beginning of radio

  5. I too went to May Greene School all thru to 6th grade. My first grade teacher was Miss O’Hara. My Mom was always homeroom mother and she would bake for every school event for the class. I remember Miss Alma was our principle. This is the first I had heard that the school had closed down.

    1. I went to May Greene Kindergarten through 6th grade starting in the early 80’s.I lived right across the street and it was an after school and summer playground that I jave so many fond memories of. Unfortunately, I was one of a few white kids that attended there and was a constant victim of violent racism. I was afraid to go to school most of the time because I knew it would be violent for me. Teachers had very little to no power to do anything about it. Unfortunately, I witnessed countless times where fellow black students would just run around the corner to their house, tell their parents and the parents would come and assault teachers. Teachers were afraid of black students and their parents. Therefore, being a white student there was very hard! It was a tough place to be during school hours. After school and summer vacation was the best time to be there.

      1. Chris,
        I attended there 60-66. It was the beginning of integration. I had several black friends that were not racists but there was a large group of blacks that were. Unfortunately most of the black families that were not racists moved. Although the school was integrated the neighborhoods were clearly segregated. One of my good friends named Calvin and I had a no man’s land where we could play together because neither parents allowed the opposite color to play in their yard. As far as the racist blacks, I fought at least once a week just because they hated any white kid and I refused to give up lunch money or permit bullying of other white kids. Don’t think that was my noble spirit, my Dad threatened me with a belt if I allowed a bully (black or white) to threaten or assault a smaller kid. I wasn’t a big kid but did become an accomplished fighter. I can’t say May Greene always was bad times because there were many friends there too. Calvin, Vincent, and Tony were 3 of my black friends and I’ll never forget Larry, Ricky, and David my white friends. Of course the smile always comes back when I think of Robin, Cindy, Patty, Cheryl, and Linda my first loves ❤

        1. Rick,
          My name is Joe Burton and I believe you were in my first grade class. Miss Joy Haney was our teacher and I think Miss Alcorn was her assistant teacher. I remember James Curry, Tony Williams and Cheryl Koelzer. I graduated from Central in 72 and retired out of the Navy 2004. I hope you had a good life.

          1. Joe my name is Charles Lynn nicked named ” Tiny”. We were in frist grade with Ms Haney and I remember each name you mentioned. We lived on 807 S Ellis. I had Miss Dickey for Kindergarten. I left the school when we moved but came back for 4rth grade.
            I remember many school days in first grade.

  6. I was one of the students who had to leave Jefferson School and go to May Greene when the John Cobb School burned. I attended May Greene all the way through sixth grade. My teacher that year was Mr. Charles Clippard, and we girls thought he was a wonderful (and handsome) man. We were so sorry to find out that he had a WIFE.

    I will always have fond thoughts of May Greene School and Miss Alma. No child could have better memories of their early school years.

  7. I have very fond memories of May Greene School. I went there all 8 grades and lived a half block from there. It was our school during school hours and our playground after. I have skated a thousand miles around that place as well as riding my bike. It took only a few minutes to get up a neighborhood softball game on the schoolyard. My sister and brother and I had a wonderful childhood growing up in such a safe and happy place. We were taught manners, character and a respect for others by the dedicated teachers and principal. In later years while working at P&G I was a volunteer in the Adopt a School Program at May Greene. Even though it had been many years since I was a student there I was still looking for Miss Alma. She was a person I loved, feared and had great respect for.

    1. Janet, just read your memories of May Greene school and this reminded me of one of my best friends, your sister Carol. She and I played softball together for years. Thanks for the memories from May Greene, they were wonderful times. Cleo Ticer Slagle, CHS 1956.

  8. I attended all eight grades there. They were the best years of my life. I remember while playing siftball one day I saw my first jet plane and asked a buddy what it was, when he told me I immediately stated that I would work on them which I did.The things I most remember about Miss Alma was her teachings of courtesy and respect. In our house her words might of as well been from the bible. May God always bless her.

    1. still have not found the photo of you,jerry clubb and i with the boats made from roofing tin.we carried them from elm st to blue bell island to use them.what times!!

  9. I attended May Greene throughout my elementary years and had some great teachers there. Mrs. Sewings, who just recently passed away and Mr. Clippard, who still works everyday at Wal-mart. We lived accross the street for several years and later moved a few blocks away. We played a lot of baseball and football there and made lots of friends for life. Some of those friends are Gary Wren, Bob Keller, Roy McFall,Steve Hurst, and Bill Cracraft. When we were about 11 years old, we began to be able to hit the baseball far enough to break the windows of the school. We were so proud of this ability we began to see it as a goal to achieve each day of the summer. That summer we broke over 30 windows with our outstanding line drives and were amazed that the school system didn’t acknowledge our achievements with some sort of award—but they didn’t. We later began to hit the balls on top of the school and we really thought that was something. Even though this activity was very expensive for the school system, we all developed a tremendous love for the game that lasts til today. Fortunately, as we matured we began to realize that breaking so much glass was not beneficial to the finances of the school so we began to make great efforts to keep it to a minimum. To this day I have great memories of May Greene School.

  10. what can i say about may greene elementary except that my three years there were some of the worst years of my life due to the nonstop bullying, the school being corrupt-the teachers favored the black kids only because they were scared of them the children tormented me, a little white girl, who didnt fit in and being harrassed every day of attendance. we werent allowed to talk in the lunch room i learned later on it was due to gangs being formed, i mean, REALLY?! those rules didnt stop a little black girl from chasing me all over the playground only to catch up with me and hand me my ass while the teachers looked the other way. the funny thing is every single morning like clockwork the morning announcements would come on and at the end the principal would always recite “…and this is may greene, the school with a heart where you are filled with love and kindness, lets have a wonderful day..” kids would make up clever songs about me using words like “dookie” it was pretty catchy. in closing, i took in nothing about that school except the character that i built and the smile on my face as i found out that i didnt have to go there anymore because of the hell hole closing its doors and ironically being turned into a church

    1. I could have written this myself! I had the exact same experience. I remember standing with my back against a tree on the playground to protect myself (partially) from the attacks. The hair pulling, pinching, biting, hitting and kicking were my “recess”. I was a white girl with blonde hair. This was the worst experience of my life and I will never forget it.

      1. Wow! I’m sorry to hear of your experiences at May Greene. That was nothing like the May Greene I attended.

    2. I have learned to forgive and put all bitterness behind me. Thank you Lord for making me brand new.

  11. My Mother taught at The May Greene School in 1929! I’m delighted to see these pictures and hear the comments…..and saddened at the concluding years of the school.

  12. I went to May Greene in the late 1940s. My English teacher was Mrs Short, Shop was Mr Miller, Music was Mrs Kinder, etc.


    1. Paul, growing up I lived at 811 S Benton in Cape Girardeau, did you by chance live to the east up on a hill? My brother’s name was Tom (tommy), we lived across the street from the Benton boys as well. Just wondered if this might be the Dorris boys that I am thinking of, if not sorry to bother you.

      1. Dear Jody: I believe that I remember you. Did you know Jimmy and Carl Dorris? They are my younger brothers. Yes, we lived on a hill not far from the house where the Benton brothers and sisters resided!!! Sorry about the delay to your question because I just saw it today!!!

      2. Hey Jodi –
        I ran across a picture a while back of a birthday party I had when I turned six. You were in that picture. I will have to see if I can find it again so I can post it.

    2. Paul,
      Evelyn Barker was my mother. When she left May Green she continued her teaching career and retired from Alma Schrader. She just passed away this past December. I run across past students of her now and then and love hearing stories they have about my mom.

      1. Debby: First, I wish to convey my condolences to you with the recent passing of your mother!!! Your mother was my first grade teacher during the 1960-61 school year. I can remember when your mother warn my class at the beginning of the school year about the potential “dangers of accepting gifts from strangers”. I sometimes wondered about whatever happened to Mrs. Barker. I appreciate your update on her status.

  14. I went to May Greene from Kindergarten through the first semester of 5th grade, which would have been 1966 through 1971. I loved the neighborhood, the school, and everything about growing up in the south end of town – but sometime around 1970 all hell broke loose and a little white girl with long blond hair didn’t stand a chance. It was a beating on a regular basis just for existing. My parents tried everything to get some help but everybody was scared so we finally had to just move. Brittany – it sounds like you must have been there when Kohlfeld was the principal. When she moved out to Blanchard she said that was the school with a heart! What a crock! Both of my teenage boys wound up hating everything about school because of her.

  15. I had Mrs.Barker for first grade and Mrs.Godfrey for 2nd grade went there in 66 and 67 love going to this school

  16. Attention: Donna Dogget Horner and Paul Kitchen. I went to May Green from 1933 til 41/42 and I had a Dogget {i think it was Victor} in my class and a paul Kitchen also. Was either of these guys related to you or Paul.
    Joe Whitright
    Graduated from Central High on Pacific in May of 1945

  17. This is in reply to Joe Whitright. In regards to Victor Doggett, he was my uncle. He moved to California, after joining the Army. He married and raised his family there. He had a son, Troy. Small world. Has been many years since I have been in Cape. I graduated from Cape Central in 1964. Did you know Victor’s brother, my dad, Lawton?

  18. I have happy memories of May Greene and Miss Alma, I attended Kindergarten and fist grade at Trinity Lutheran school and began elementary school at May Greene in 1948. Some of my memorable classmates were Bill Sisco, Dub Stovall, Bill Stovall, Charles Blackwell, Ruth Ann Rhein (my first dancing partner – LOL), and even Doug Kitchens. Those were fun years. We lived at 549 S Middle Street and walked to school every day. I only went one year to Central High then moved to California and now live in northern Colorado.

  19. I too went to May Greene walked to school everyday with Pam Ellis, Debbie Benton and Jerry Lomax. I loved Field Day in the summer and I must say, Pam and I were two pretty fancy square dancers. I attended 7th grade at Schultz and then on to Cape Junior High and on to Cape Central. I moved to California in 1972 with my sister, Donna Doggett Horner. I graduated and went on to college, became a dental assistant. I am now living in Idaho where I plan to retire.

      1. Hey Paula…. I so remember you!!! I LOVED the May Pole Dance and it was an “honor” to actually hold the streamer and dance around the pole to the ds ds da da da dadada da… in an english country garden!!!…..

        How much fun… and play day…. i do have fond memories….

          1. Paula…. any of our other friends still around? Wasn’t there a girl named Becky Slaughter? That was a looong time ago… I want to thank you for being my friend in a time where the blacks and whites were NOT suppose to socialize. You were a mean tether ball player too!! 🙂

          2. Cynthia, hey it took while, her name was a Beverly and ya I just enjoyed being around people and that hasn’t changed very much over my life.. Yeah those were some great fun years !!!

  20. My memories of May Greene are much like Paul Dorris’. Miss Clara May was my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Sander was my first grade teacher, Mrs. Todd (she had the best candy if you won the spelling bee!) was my third grade teacher, Mrs. Sewing was my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Harrelson was my fifth grade teacher (she was such a sweet person who inspired me) and Mr. McKee was my sixth grade teacher. I have absolutely no memory of who my second grade teacher was! Must have slept through that year. Getting to dance around the Maypole was a big goal when you got into 6th grade, as well as getting to be a patrol girl on the playground or a patrol boy who got to help kids cross Sprigg Street. I had so much fun going to school there–had no idea that I grew up in an “underprivileged” area until I got to Schultz Middle School and the kids from Alma Schrader school enlightened those of us from May Greene! Mrs. Bohnsack was our music teacher and Mrs. Dickinson was our art teacher. Mrs. Gibson was our school nurse and Mr. Martin was our principal. I loved Coach Compas but my favorite person from there was probably Mr. Wise, our janitor. He was a sweetheart!

    1. We had the same teachers your second-grade teacher was probably Ms. Simmons I remember her cause my Grannie died during that school year They had the best cafeteria food EVER Lol
      Mr. Martin was big and tall and was our principal

  21. I think I was at May Greene with Paul Dorris. Loved that school. The way it looked the way it smelled. I remember how the slick shiny wooden stair rails felt under my hands. Always wanted to go back there.

  22. Lots of fun Playday was my all time favorite. I had Mr. Mcgonigal for my 3rd grade, using last names Jenkins, smith,and more

  23. My mom and uncles went to this school. In the early to mid 40’s. Her name was Delores Benfield, my uncle’s were Don (Bud) and Truman Benfield. Do any of you older ones remember them?

  24. My mom and uncles went to this school. My mom was Delores Benfield and my uncle’s were Don ( Bud ) and Truman Benfield. They would have gone here in the early to mid 40’s. Do any of you remember them?

  25. What great memories of May Greene School. The best years of my life. There I met life time friends, Paul, Terry and Larry Kitchen, Wayne Roeder, Bob Keller, Larry Wiseman and William (storky) Dorris. A lot of time on the baseball diamond as well as playing marbles under the big shade trees. Great Memories.

  26. I didn’t go to that school but I had drove by it many times in the late 1990’s just after it closed down. I asked my boss Johnny Jenkins about it and he told me that it was an old school and they closed it down for various reasons. The building was in pretty good shape back then, I walked around it once. It’s been almost 20 years since I have seen it though. Looks like it left a mostly positive impact on it’s students. What a legacy!

  27. May Greene School was the only good memories I have of my school days. Started the first grade in 1942 and had eight good years before graduating to Central. Mrs. Melton was 1st grade teacher, Miss Wilson 2nd grade, Miss Williams 3rd grade. Miss Alma was principal – very strict but fair lady and we all respected her. Later grades were Mrs. Short, Mrs. Kinder, Mrs. Krueger, Mrs. Huters (Librarian). And the school nurse was Miss Alma’s sister. Had the pleasure of meeting Miss May Greene several times and was chosen to present her the cake on a special occasion, which was her last time to visit the school. May Day was a big thing for all of us — was chosen to do the May Pole Dance several years. Our school colors were Purple and White and I remember our cheerleader uniforms — purple, corduroy jumpers with white blouses. Boy!! We thought we were something. I lived at 1040 S. Spring and walked one block behind our house to school. My best friend was Vivian Hobbs — she had a twin Verna and they lived on Ranney. My first boyfriend was Jack Boswell that lived on the North corner of us across from Womack’s Drug. Womack’s was a regular place for us kids to hang out — some really fun times drinking our chocolate, vanilla, cherry cokes. Use to drive Don Ziegler crazy. Also, a good friend was Jon Lucy, Billy Eifert, Tony Wyatt, Larry Akers, Carolyn Faust & many more. I had a younger brother, Joe and sister, Margaret that also attended May Greene after I was at Central. Our mother was room mother every year for all of us. My years at Central were not that pleasant — kids from May Greene were considered slum kids (mostly called Smelterville kids). We were snubbed, ignored and teased on a regular basis by the kids from other schools, especially those from Franklin School. Even the teachers made a difference. They were pretty miserable 4 years, but we had to endure. We did endure and I believe helped to make me a stronger, more tolerant and more caring person. The lessons we learned at May Greene School helped to make us the people we are today. God Bless the teachers and leaders we had there. May Greene School will forever be among my fondest memories of my younger years (1942-1950).

    1. Thank you for your description of growing up in South Cape and attending May Greene School. If you put “Smelterville” in the search box on the blog, you’ll find all kinds of stories about growing up down there.

    2. You are so right about being ignored and snubbed and some of the teachers made a big difference with the kids that came from May Greene. I went to May Greene from1940 to 1948 and graduated from Central in 1952 when it was on Pacific St. I will never forget the fond memories at May Greene.

  28. I attended May Greene my entire elementary school years. I have the best of memories and the best of friends. My teachers were so amazing especially at thinking out of the box and getting the lessons to stick in our minds. I remember lunches and play times across the street at Fort D. Witnessed my first solar eclipse in the schoolyard with a welders helmet on. Playdays were a community get together where the entire community came out and parked along the streets and participated in the games and amazing food and festivities. Every lesson was a life preparation. Everything good I am I learned from my experiences there! The traditions we practiced in that school brought us so close together. Not enough good to say about my 7 years at May Greene.

  29. My father Vernon Adams and his sister Mildred Adams went to school there. Had to be 20s through 30s. Does anyone remember them. Does any one know the names of the children went to school there in the 20s and 30s?

  30. I attended this school from 3rd grade to 6th grade. 1956 to 1958.
    Ms Barks was my 3rd grade teacher and I remember our class planting a tree out front. I remember Ms. Bohnsacks and Mr. Clifford.
    Two of my classmates were Rusty and Don.
    Brenda Kinder or Charlene Kinder
    We lived in Smelterville and my dad owned a grocery store.

  31. Is there anyone remembers Vernon Adams, Mildred or Milford Adams and any Benfields when to school there?

  32. I went all the way through May Greene. I was a poor white kid that was made fun of daily. Everyday I was hit on pushed, punched and humiliated. My family was extremely poor and I had used clothes and wild hair. It was nothing but negativity. I was so shy I wouldn’t fight back for a long time. When I defended myself I was the one to get into trouble and paddled. My self esteem was very low. No happy memories of that school. But I grew up and have no more experiences like that anymore. Thank goodness.

  33. My father Vernon Adams his brother Milford Adams and their sister Mildred Adams went to school their. It had to be in the forties..

  34. Joe my name is Charles Lynn nicked named ” Tiny”. We were in frist grade with Ms Haney and I remember each name you mentioned. We lived on 807 S Ellis. I had Miss Dickey for Kindergarten. I left the school when we moved but came back for 4rth grade.
    I remember many school days in first grade.

  35. I attended 6th grade there in 78/79…hated every second of it. My teacher was Pat McKee, and he was a great man, but he certainly had his hands full with that class. I believe the Principal was Raymond Penzel, and he seemed to have a kind heart, which likely was a detriment in that environment.

    It is unfortunate that a school with such a fantastic history and named for a fine person holds no fond memories for me. I hope the city razes the building one day.

    1. We had the same teachers your second-grade teacher was probably Ms. Simmons I remember her cause my Grannie died during that school year They had the best cafeteria food EVER Lol
      Mr. Martin was big and tall and was our principal

  36. I went to May Greene .Mr. McKee was a teacher that I had that I never forgot. My brother had leukemia and was not allowed to go to school, but Mr.Mckee wouldet him come into my class in the afternoons and sit with me. Also,Mr.Jackson was the principal. He and Ms.Hawn helped me when my brother passed away.

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