‘No telling what people have in their attic’: Conway seeking old school memorabilia

A historic photo of Whittemore School from early in the 20th century. Conway is looking for memorabilia from the since integrated school.
A historic photo of Whittemore School from early in the 20th century. Conway is looking for memorabilia from the since integrated school. Horry County Museum

The old Whittemore Elementary School building was given to the City of Conway earlier in the year and is getting its ready for its new life.

The City of Conway is asking for donations to help preserve the school’s history as they determine what to do with the old building.

Conway Mayor Barbra Blain-Bellamy started attending the school in 1958, as did other community leaders of Horry County.

“We are seeking memorabilia from the school, from the community that might relate to the school,” Mayor said. “Once you put the word out, there is no telling what people have in their attic.”

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Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy holds a photo from a 1950s class at Whittemore Elementary School. City of Conway

The original Whittemore school opened in the mid-1800s. Its purpose was to educate the children of former slaves living in Horry County. The school was most likely started on 5th Avenue in Conway by a man named B.F. Whittemore from Boston, according to a history of the school written by an alum and kept by the Horry County Museum.

Early in its history, the school was a one-room building without a solid ceiling or running water. The teachers were people “who were thought to have possessed an unusual degree of intelligence,” according to an old record of the school history.

During this time all students attended the same classroom. There were no grade levels, but over the years the school grew and expanded its offerings. Notably, in 1910, Ella Cochran is believed to be one of the first black people from Conway to attend college. She attended the Whittemore schools.

It did no take long for the school to start to grow. At one point students from as far away as Bucksport and Murrells Inlet were being driven daily to the Whittemore School. The elementary school opened in 1953.

A photo of Whittemore High School, with an attached poem to the school. The school was originally founded by a man from Boston. Horry County Museum

Horry County Schools were integrated in 1970, with the last class graduating in May of that year. The Whittemore High School combined with Conway High School.

Blain-Bellamy said that it’s probably easier to find items from the high school, but she is hoping to find memorabilia specifically from the elementary school to include in the building.

Today, many alums of Whittemore remain active in Facebook groups remembering the schools legacy.

Taylor Newell, spokeswoman for Conway, said they have yet to receive any items. While City leaders are still figuring out what to do with the elementary school building, the items are going to be used to remember the history of the school.

Some potential uses for the building would be culinary classes, a science education center or even a yoga facility. A decision about what to do with the building is expected to come around October of this year.

If you have any items from the school they would like to be preserved, contact the City of Conway.