School officials, alumni disagree about historic cannon’s future
By Matthew Stewart | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Blount County Schools and Everett High School alumni have reached an impasse concerning an antique cannon that the former school won 45 years ago. Nine Everett High School graduates have formed a group, the Cannonball Run Committee, to coordinate alumni efforts to obtain, restore and ultimately donate the cannon to another group.
Blount County Schools publicly supports the Cannonball Run Committee’s restoration efforts and wants to partner with them. However, school officials aren’t willing to relinquish their property rights.
The cannon, which is the property of Blount County Schools, is currently located at Heritage High Schools and is displayed on a concrete pad near the football field at home games. Heritage high-school students built the pad for the artillery piece.
In 1967, WNOX-FM and Lay’s Meats held a contest for all local schools. Students vied for a cannon, which alumni think was assembled in 1883 and possibly saw service in the Spanish–American War.
Competing schools were required to turn in handwritten notes, and Everett High School produced nearly 8 million “Lay’s Meats Sloppy Joes” notes to win the prize. Everett High School maintained the cannon until its closure in 1977. Shortly thereafter, the artillery piece was transferred to Heritage High School. Everett High, Porter High, Townsend High and Walland High schools were consolidated into Heritage High School. Everett High School alumni recently located the cannon at Heritage High School, said Judy Mincey.
They were disappointed by the artillery piece’s condition. “Our cannon was in horrible, horrible condition,” she said. “We found it under the bleachers with a grocery cart and trash can shoved into it.”Committee members later contacted representatives with Food City, PBS documentary series “History Detectives” and WNOX-FM asking for financial and research assistance, Mincey said. They have also talked with cannon restoration professionals. The Cannonball Run Committee has compiled a three-page proposal and submitted it to Blount County Director of Schools Rob Britt, she said. The group wants to acquire the cannon, store it in a secure location, establish a nonprofit to fund restoration efforts and donate it to another group after restoring it.
Committee members have discussed potential venues, such as the Blount County Courthouse and Blount County Historical Museum, Mincey said. “We want the cannon to be placed in a public place where everybody can view it. We believe any school will provide a limited audience.”
They are opposed to any alternative that would allow the cannon to stay on school property, because the school district allowed it to fall into a state of disrepair, she said.
Plan gets support
School officials are generally pleased with the Cannonball Run Committee’s proposal. “We had very positive reactions to most of the proposal,” Britt said.
“Our main concern is their desire to take the cannon into their possession and relocate it. The cannon belonged to Everett High School, and it belongs to Blount County Schools.” Britt would like to invite Everett High School alumni to partner with Blount County Schools.
“We think this project has great potential if they’d like to follow through with it,” he said. “We’re very interested in pursuing this project as a community and school partnership. Our students could benefit from this unique opportunity to learn about Everett High School’s history and traditions. A retelling of its history and tradition could preserve part of the school’s rich spirit that lives on in their alumni, committee members and the community.”