New book details the history of Knox Junior High

Published 12:05 am Friday, June 30, 2023

In 1969, Margaret Basinger was a recent University of North Carolina graduate staying in Charlotte with no job to put her recently acquired education degree to the test.

She saw an advertisement in the Charlotte Observer about an opening for a teacher position at Knox Junior High in Salisbury and asked the only person she knew with experience with the Salisbury School System if Knox was a good place to work.

Dr. Martha West, who taught Margaret’s brother at Huntersville Elementary and had since moved to Salisbury, sent Margaret and her mother an eight page handwritten letter detailing how important Knox was to the community of Salisbury and how great the community was.

This spurred Margaret to interview for and eventually take the job. What she did not realize was that the job was for something she had no experience in.

“I didn’t realize the job was for journalism classes, not English. My degree was in English education but my first year I was teaching five journalism classes,” said Margaret.

This did not deter Margaret, who would teach at Knox for eight more years until the birth of her son in 1978 led her to take a job as a guidance counselor at Wiley and Henderson high schools in 1979.

That is just a bit of the story Margaret has relayed in her new book “Memories of Knox Junior High/Middle School.” In it, Margaret and her husband Dale, a former teacher and coach at Knox, go in-depth about their experiences with Knox and the community that grew to surround the school since its opening in 1959.

The book also includes testimony and recollections from other former students and teachers at Knox. Margaret and Dale reached out to former colleagues and pupils through Facebook, asking them to include their thoughts, whether they were positive or negative. By the time the book was published it included 70 memories from different writers.

One of those writers is Bishop Tim Smith, who recounts stories about his father, former Salisbury City Schools superintendent Dr. Marcus C. Smith. Smith was the last superintendent of the Salisbury Schools before they merged with Rowan County Schools and he was brought in to implement complete desegregation of the city schools. Smith recounts how he remembers his dad talking about how good teachers at the Price High School were at educating, but also how few materials the teachers at the Black school had to work with.

Part of the reason the Basingers wrote the book was because of the teardown of Knox Middle School and the subsequent construction of the new K-8 school combining Knox and Overton Elementary School. Margaret said that she wants to let people who were not around to have experienced the Knox she taught at in the 1970s know how important the school was to the city and the families that surrounded it.

“When I heard Knox was going to be torn down, it reminded me of the T.S. Eliot poem where he talks about dying, and how he wants to go out with a bang and not a whimper. I want Knox to go out with a bang and not a whimper,” said Margaret.

Beyond educating newer generations about the history of Knox, Margaret also wanted to inspire those in Salisbury and Rowan County as a whole to expect the same greatness of the new K-8 building that she did from the original Knox.

“I have a fervor in my heart for the new Knox to be great,” Margaret said.

Margaret and Dale held a book signing at South Main Book Company in downtown Salisbury. Margaret said dozens of former students and others who were part of the Knox community came by the store to sit down and reminisce about the junior high or middle school that featured so prominently in all of their lives. Some were students themselves, some had children or grandchildren who were students, some were even teachers who worked at the school in the 40 years since Margaret left.

Although South Main Book Company sold out of their copies of the book Saturday, the Basingers estimate that the store should have more in by next Monday. Copies of the book are also available for sale online at Amazon.