Among the grades on Weldon Hightower’s 1940 sixth grade permanent school record from Choska Elementary in Wagoner County were four “A’s” and three “A-”s.
Hightower, who would be around 91-years-old today, did well and had no grade below a “B” in such subjects as drawing, penmanship and music.
Now, why is it important to know what Hightower accomplished the year before World War II began for the United States?
It’s relevant because it is now available. Permanent school records for 81 school districts in Wagoner County going back as far as 1915 through 1964 can now be viewed or studied.
There are school grades from places that no longer exist like Choska Elementary or Pipeline High School, for instance.
The joke, for adults of a certain age from 1950-1970, was that you better be on your best behavior in school or it will “go on your permanent record!” This is just an example of the truth to that longtime threat.
Wagoner County Clerk Lori Hendricks knew there were school paper records still around and being stored in a county facility. Deciding what to do with them was the next step.
“We didn’t have to keep them,” Hendricks said.
However, the idea was hatched to put them in a sortable and digitized database. No one knows exactly how many individual records went into the Excel software and scanned by Sally Boyne, who is senior preservation deputy/administrative assistant for the County Clerk’s office.
However, the project took 3½ years to complete and now relatives can not only search past grades, but a bit of family ancestry, too.
Back then, not only were grades filled out, but it was recorded where you were born. Not all births in the early years of the 20th Century were in a hospital.
“We’re really excited about it,” Hendricks said. “Our main goal was to have every record digitized. Sally has spearheaded the vast majority (of it).”
The records have been available for a little while now, and already had some interesting responses.
Frank Hollingshed of the Excise Board found his old school record. Another woman learned she had a half-brother due to a search that she never knew existed.
Boyne is becoming used to large detailed projects like this one. She just completed a compilation of all the cemeteries in Wagoner County. That was a bit more daunting since she had to go record every head stone in person.
The school records were in individual cabinets where the only travel time was to and from the county storage facility just east of the Courthouse.
Information on how the school records can be researched may be obtained by calling the clerk’s office at 918-485-7700.