Remembering Mr. Gant

In sorting through some old photographs, I came across this one of Mr. Gant, the principal at Dora High from 1951, to 1973. I’ve heard a lot of stories about him and I have a few myself, but I’d like to hear from any of you who might have a story to share.

Have you ever met anyone from Pineapple, AL? Any time that the band would board the buses for a trip to a game or band contest, Mr. Gant would come to each bus to give us the usual lecture about how to behave, how not to embarrass the school, etc. He never raised his voice, but everyone (well, almost everyone) would listen. He ended every
speech with “see if you can find someone from Pineapple, AL.” For years, I thought he was joking. It really does exist, though, and I think of him when we pass the Pineapple exit on 65 South when we head to the beach. I wonder if he had known someone from Pineapple, or if this was just his way
of telling us to get out there and meet people.
— Johnnie Farris

The school year of 1952 was fast coming to a close. Mr. Gant was playing “employer” and we seniors were practicing our skills of being interviewed for employment. During my conversation, Mr. Gant asked me if I were going to college. I replied that I would like to but didn’t see it in my future. He asked me what kind of kind of career did I want to pursue.
I told him I wasn’t too sure, but would probably join the military. Then he made the most profound statement I believe I have ever heard. He said “Charles, even if you decide to be a ditch digger, be a ditch digger with a college education.” I have never forgotten those words. — Charles Beersdorf

A Short Note about Mr. Gant: One hot summer day when I was about sixteen, I was about to go in Allbritton’s store in my usual hot-weather attire — Bermuda shorts, sleeveless shirt, and, of course, I was barefoot. (I was almost always barefoot.) Sitting on “The Bench” right beside the door was Mr. Gant. He said, “Asa Faith, ladies don’t go out in public without their shoes on.” I went home tearfully and when I told Mother that he hurt my feelings, she replied in her typical “Fay” manner, “So, your feelings are hurt. Get over it! Mr. Gant was teaching you a lesson in respectability.” As I sit here now at my computer, I am, of course, barefoot. But, Mr. Gant, if you can hear me in that section of Heaven named Respectability, I want you to know that I wear shoes when I go out in public. And — I hope that God has an Allbritton bench for you to sit on. — Asa Randolph, DHS class of ’61

Seeing the picture of Mr. Gant started me to thinking about some of the talks we had sitting in the hallway next to the office. We had quite a few discussions about life in general but one day out of the blue he said something that struck me as funny and true at the same time. He said, “Kenneth, if you want a good night’s sleep, just eat a bowl of rice and read the Mountain Eagle and you can got to bed with nothing on your stomach and nothing on your mind.” For some reason, those words stuck with me all these years and I admit to having a little guilt because I love reading the Mt Buzzard on the internet.
One other thing he said to me impacted my entire time at DHS. It was at one of the first basketball practices after a fine group of athletes arrived at Dora from Sumiton including Ray Jenkins, Ronnie James, Sammy Black and myself to lead DHS to great victories during the next three years. Oh well, we could dream. Anyway, I was running up and down the the court as Mr Gant watched intently from a chair at the end of the court (which, by the way had to be the longest sucker anywhere!) Finally, I got close enough for him to speak and he said, “Son, that hair has got to go.” Spent the rest of my time at DHS with some variation of a flattop! The man remains right next to my dad as the most respected men in my life.

Rick, I hope you put this where Asa Faith can see it because she has been bugging me to contribute some memories. Your new friend Hugh was a ’61 classmate of mine and maybe I’ll get up enough nerve to tell about breaking his glasses with a pebble I threw during a class on the front lawn.
By Ken Morrow

NO GREATER PERSON by Dan Nix Class of 61
When I was in the eighth grade, Mr. Gant stopped me in the hall by his office. He said, “Nix, I want to talk to you about your grades. You know you can do better than what you’re doing.” I was making passing grades but that’s about it. I replied, “I do a lot better than some of the others.” He said, “I know, but you can do much better, and I expect to see you do it.”
There were about 100 students in the eighth grade, besides all the other students in school. How did he know about my grades? I didn’t even know he knew my name. He knew these facts because he was a real educator. He cared about all the students and did his best to see that we received an education.

That was the turning point in my life. Instead of making C’s, I began to make A’s. I never will forget the day in the tenth grade when Jackie Campbell (now Jackie Campbell Parker) came to “tap” me for the Beta Club.
I credit Mr. Gant for my successful career. Often, I think of Mr. Gant and how he has impacted so many lives. I have known no greater person.

Jerry Grammer Remembers Mr. Gant

In 1958 I had aspirations of becoming a famous musician. I had groups I performed with
At school, “The Dixie Travelers, Ralph Raines, Larry Stewart, Dempsey Easter, Curtis Ellison, Don Early and Gene Hayes. I also used some other musicians to do jobs at night” Mostly Musgrove Country Club. I would play these dances and come to school half asleep the following day. Mr. Gant, being the knowing all wise person would catch me in the hall and tell me,”you are burning the candle at both ends. I had never heard this phrase until he said it, however, I will never forget it. He also was always telling me to get a haircut. Trying to be a Musician was not easy around Mr. Gant. Another memory was the time I walked into class and saw a hammer lying on the teacher’s desk, I picked it up and looked at it at the same time the teacher walked in.
I placed the hammer back on his desk and sat down. As he tried to pull his chair out from the desk it would not move. Someone had toe nailed it to the floor. I was sent to Mr. Gants office where I was offered the choice of 2 days suspension or 3 licks with his infamous paddle. I knew I was innocent but explaining that to Dad would be more difficult. I took the licks… Wheeew!
I never told him who really did that, but B.M you know!!

I later fulfilled part of my Musical dreams, I am now in the European Rockabilly Hall of Fame and an achiever in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. I loved Mr. Gant then and the love continues today.

Jerry Grammer, Class of ’59

Leave a Reply