ANDERSON, S.C. (AP) - Frank Clark thought he was at the end of a brief pre-engineering road in 1955. Having taken the only two mechanical drawing classes offered at Boys High, Clark scheduled a French class in his senior year.
Principal Carroll “Frog” Reames intervened. He assigned Clark to draw plans for a screened-porch addition to Reames’ home. When mechanical drawing instructor Marion Miller assigned another major project, Clark gained a third year in the subject.
“That summer I worked for an architectural firm and decided to major in architecture at Clemson,” said Clark, who later became one of the area’s most prominent architects.
Reames, a man remembered well for direct methods of behavioral adjustment, had a way of pushing young men in the right direction. When more than 300 joined in Reames’ 90th birthday celebration in July 1994, St. John’s United Methodist pastor John Younginer called the group “longtime victims of this principal’s wrath, the beneficiaries of his love, and the products of his encouragement.”
More than 50 years after Reames patrolled the halls of Boys High, those truths seem more apparent. For 42 years as an educator - including 22 as Boys High principal - Reames pushed often-reluctant students toward fulfilling their potential.
Clark, whose father Frank Jr. played quarterback on a 1928 football team coached by Reames, said Reames “put the ‘board of education’ (a paddle) on my behind numerous times to influence me to the right behavior.”
Clark wasn’t alone. Reames maintained order and molded character at Boys High from January 1941 through May 1962, when he had the full attention of about 18,000 city, mill-hill and country boys.
Among them was the Rev. Talmage Skinner, Class of ‘52. From his North Carolina home last week, Skinner called Reames as “a bigger-than-life character who used down-to-earth tactics to motivate.”
He sometimes used fear - effectively.
“Growing up, most of us lived in fear that we’d one day attend Boys High and Mr. Reames would be there waiting,” Skinner said. “We were all scared to death of him.
“He ruled the roost, but no one ever thought he wasn’t fair.”
Most were afraid to reject Reames’ directives, even when they were supposedly voluntary.
“He’d come walking down the hall and students would try to hide, as if he was going to hand out a summons,” Skinner said. “One day he handed me information about an oratorical contest and told me I was going to enter it,” Skinner said, recalling what seemed a daunting task at the time.
“When Mr. Reames told you that you were going to do something,” Skinner said, “you did it.”
Skinner did it well. He won the event as a Boys High sophomore.
It was a victory over his greatest fear, and one that gave Skinner newfound confidence. He entered Wofford College three years later and enjoyed a long career in ministry.
“It gave me something I could do well. Public speaking became my life,” said Skinner, who also knew Reames as a Sunday school teacher at St. John’s UMC.
“He was an encourager,” Skinner said. “And he was always pushing everybody to be the best they could at something.”
Twenty years after his death, many of the 18,000 who attended Boys High under Reames consider themselves “Frog’s Boys.” An informal group by that name - roughly ages 71 through 90 - continues to meet monthly at Carlee’s Restaurant on North Main.
“Everybody had respect for him - and everybody loved him,” said Bill Land, a member of the 1962 graduating class who wrote two books on the subject of Boys High during Reames’ tenure.
The affection seems a paradox, given Reames’ reputation as a disciplinarian.
“I think it’s because we knew he really cared about us as people,” Land said. “Even if he didn’t know your name and he saw us in public, he’d walk up and say, ‘You’re one of my boys.’ “
The connection was sometimes painful. The paddle in Reames’ office wasn’t there for cosmetic purposes, and it often provided an uplifting experience.
“I think he figured that if the student didn’t feel it, he wouldn’t remember it,” Land said.
The mere threat was a sufficient deterrent for Land, who was once given a stern warning of three licks if his shirt was worn outside his trousers.
“From that time on, I kept my shirttail tucked in,” said Land, a quiet student who retired after 39 years at Sears & Roebuck.
Reames, who acquired his nickname while playing football at Wofford College in the mid-1920s, became an educator when he took a coaching and teaching job at Liberty High in 1926.
His team beat Boys High in both football and baseball that year, prompting Anderson officials to hire him as coach in four sports in 1927. After 13 seasons, Reames was recruited into the principal’s role in January 1941.
By that time he had married Anderson native Kathryn Allen, an English teacher at the school when he arrived.
Reames planned to retire when Boys High closed in May 1962. But District 5 officials persuaded him to work for six more years, as the first principal at the new Lakeside Middle School.
He last day there was May 31, 1969. Reames died Feb. 10, 1995.
In between, he received dozens of awards, including the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian honor for a South Carolinian. A scholarship at Wofford College is named in his honor.
Reames’ leadership was marked by distinct points of emphasis - a Christian faith, patriotism and public speaking.
“He pushed history and civics. He considered it his job to show how civics was important in the real world,” his daughter, Caroline Tolbert, recalled last week. “And I’ve been told by many of the boys, especially those who were angry young men, that he was quick to let them know how God had impacted his life.”
That included at least one major crisis. In 1949, Reames’ 11-year-old son lost his battle with leukemia.
“He never talked much about losing his son,” said Tolbert, 17 at the time, “but I think the experience made him think of all those boys as his sons.”
Information from: Anderson Independent-Mail, https://www.andersonsc.com
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