By Rick Warwick
Sadly, few are left who remember the Blue Ribbon Day Parades. A festive day at the close of school for those students who earned a Blue Ribbon.
Now in the 21st century, it is hard to imagine the profound effect the Williamson County Health Department had upon the county and, in particular, its program to improve the health of our school children. Dr. W.C. Williams, County Health Officer, stated in a 1932 interview the Blue Ribbon program’s objectives: (1) the teaching and putting into practice plain every-day common sense health habits that are essential to the development and maintenance of physical perfection; (2) the correction of defects that are a menace to the child’s health; (3) inoculations against typhoid and diphtheria and vaccination against smallpox are required; (4) and probably most important of all, children must make satisfactory progress in their studies and be amenable to school discipline; this is felt to be a basic fundamental that will lead to good citizenship.
Many phases of the work are left to the child’s personal honesty, subject to check by their teachers and the health unit personnel — rarely are we disappointed in the reports by the youngsters participating. Few people with children could disagree with Dr. Williams’ philosophy: “Health has been considered our greatest asset. The future depends almost entirely upon our health of today. Every child has the inherent right to be born well — it is of equal importance that they be given the opportunity to develop mental and physical perfection. Good health cannot be bought but it can in most instances be maintained — that is what Williamson County’s Blue Ribbon children are trying to do.”
On May 5, 1938, The Review-Appeal reported on the Blue Ribbon Day as follows;
Friday was a red-letter day in Franklin for it was “Blue Ribbon Day.” Before 7 o’clock the streets were beginning to show unmistakable sign that something unusual was about to take place and by 9 o’clock cars were parked everywhere and elbow-room on the sidewalks was at a premium.
For the first time in the history of Williamson County Blue Ribbon Day no rain fell. Although the sun was shining yet the day was pleasant and walking in the parade was a pleasure.
The elementary schools met at the Franklin Grammar School and marched in parade according to the percent of perfection headed by members of the American Legion, the Franklin High and elementary school bands. The line of march terminated at the square and here the 2,500 children on each of whose chest was a greatly prized blue ribbon pin, heard Dr. W.C. Williams, state health commissioner.
Volleyballs and nets were given to the blue ribbon schools composed of those making an average of from 90 to 100 percent and receiving them were Bethesda, Mallory, Ballow, Parham and Splitlog.
Red ribbon schools, 80 to 90 percent standing, received framed pictures for the school rooms, and in this group, were Harpeth, College Grove, Burwood, Forest Home, Pleasant Hill and Southall.
Certificates were presented to the white ribbon schools ranking from 70 to 80 percent embracing Choctaw, Douglas, Nolensville, Rudderville, Sycamore, Central, Grassland, Lankford and Thompson Station.
In the morning, the children wearing a blue ribbon and accompanied by their teachers were admitted free to the picture show, a compliment Franklin Theatre extends each year.
It should be noted that in 1938 there were sixty-three schools for white students and twenty-three schools for black students in Williamson County. Franklin Elementary School and Elementary students from the Training School on Natchez Street also took part in Blue Ribbon Day.