The wrecking ball will soon be upon Hatton Elementary School, and as a new chapter for the Bridge City Independent School District begins, former students, faculty and residents will pay tribute from 10:30-11 a.m. Wednesday on the Hatton Playground, 1035 W. Roundbunch Road. 

The school, which opened in 1959, suffered extensive damage in 2008 from Hurricane Ike, and Bridge City ISD Assistant Superintendent Joe Chenella said demolition could begin as early as next week. 

The district has received $8.6 million funded by the state to build a new elementary campus. It will also demolish the irreparable Sims.

The new school will be built on the former Hatton site. The remainder of the $20 million project will be taken from FEMA/insurance reimbursements.

Wednesday’s tribute will include remarks by district Superintendent Jamey Harrison and school board President Jerry McInnis.

Refreshments will be served.

According to Bridge City ISD Administrative Assistant Donna Riley, many school records were completely damaged. Others are still in a freeze-dried state and in storage since the storm’s aftermath.

It is hoped the pages can eventually be rescued.

Riley said six principals have served at Hatton, ending with Norman Gaspard (2005-present). The others are Clarence Bell (1959-84), Larry Buchman (1984-96), Larry Myers (1996-03), Gina Mannino (2003-04) and Tara Fountain (2004-05).

Research uncovered by former chamber vice president Charlotte Chiasson showed the Hatton campus was built on the site of one of the former Prairie View schools, of which there were several versions from the 1870s through the 1940s.

Like Chiasson’s “History of Bridge City,” kept as a reference at the Bridge City Historical Museum, a biography of Roy Moses Hatton survived Ike, and (like Chiasson’s history) is kept in the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce offices. It was written as a school project in 1966 by Mark C. Hatton, son of Roy Melvin Hatton and grandson of school namesake Roy Moses Hatton. 

Before Hatton opened, Bridge City kids took elementary classes where the junior high used to be on Texas Avenue (today, the high school is there). 

Chenella remembers that Hatton started with grades 1-5. Later, kindergarten was added, then Pre-K and finally took on an early learning program.

In 1967, E.E. Sims Elementary was built because of overcrowding at Hatton, Chenella said.

According to Mark Hatton’s study, Nick’s Pharmacy hosted a contest to name the new school in 1959. The school board selected the entry of Bill Townes, who wrote, “I feel that we have no choice but Roy M. Hatton. [This] pioneer of Bridge City has done more for the school than any other person. Not only has he spent considerable time on the school board, but also countless hours on the school grounds with his tractor.”

The prize for the contest was $500, and when it came time to vote for a name – the board was unanimous in its decision. Townes’ entry was No. 190.

Hatton served on the local school board starting around 1923, and on the Orange County school board from 1936-60. He was replaced by son Roy Melvin after an election.

Roy Moses Hatton began life in the 1890s, with his mother dying when he was about 4. At that time, the young Roy had four siblings. His father remarried several times. 

Roy grew up on his father’s farm, which provided food for the family, who drank water from a nearby well. 

Roy attended the Prairie View School, overseen by teacher Alice Bland. Around 1906, a new school was built. At some point Roy took a liking to Lois Faulk, whose family had recently moved to the community. In the eighth grade he quit school to help around the house, and later left home to work for Jesse T. Turner, helping to harvest rice and paid by room and board. 

He married Lois in 1913 in Rev. Fred Burton’s house in the Winfree Community. The couple’s children included Abbie Don, Roy Melvin and Frank Swinford Hatton (Frank Hatton died this year on Sept. 8). 

To win money for his family Roy worked for a soft drink company in Orange that produced “Tak-A-Pop.” As his family grew, he also did work for Texaco. Now a member of the community school board, he helped bring electricity and other improvements to the schoolhouse. 

In 1941, the Prairie View and Winfree school districts merged to become the Bridge City ISD. In 1963, Roy and Lois had just moved to a new home on West Roundbunch Road when they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Mark Hatton’s research concludes with, “They have been a part of everything good in the Bridge City Community for these 50 years.”
“The Life of Roy Moses Hatton” was based on an interview with Mark Hatton’s grandfather, according to Bridge City Chamber records.