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Teacher Names Bring Back Grammar School Memories

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, happy New Year.  As I said last week, Margie Baggett Landon from Irvine, Texas, wrote me a letter after  she tried to e-mail me when I was having trouble with my internet provider.  I think I have everything under control now, and welcome any emails from so many of you out there.  

Margie wrote about her years at Water Valley Grammar School and the teachers she recalls.  Although I recognized the names of most of these teachers, I actually never attended Water Valley Grammar –  those were my Camp Ground years when I lived with my grandparents in that school district.  Margie graduated in 1945, so I never got to know her.  She has written me before, so I feel that I know her now.  I do remember Henry Baggett and wonder if he was a brother?  

Margie’s first grade teacher was Mrs. Afton Smith, and I do remember her.  Her second grade teacher was Mrs. Leva Henry and I knew her, and in third grade was Miss Inda Davidson. I had heard her name but never knew her.  Mrs. Blanche Smith was fourth grade and I knew her, Miss Margaret Bennett, fifth grade, and I didn’t know her. Mrs. Fannie Tarver, taught sixth grade and, like everyone who ever lived in Water Valley, I knew her.  Her husband John Tarver was Chief Clerk at the IC Division office.  

In 1916 he provided passes for my uncle, Charles Badley and his close friend, Drew Bell to go Chicago to work in the freight office.  They went to work just before Christmas, but a bitter Chicago winter drove them home in early spring.  Mr. Tarver went to the IC Hospital  on Stoney Island in Chicago for a routine operation and died at the age of 40, leaving Miss Fannie to raise her daughters and teach school – but as I frequently do, I digress.

Margie, letters like yours are what has made writing this column such a pleasure over the last eight years. Let me hear from you any time you feel like it.   

On Christmas day Lupe, Terri, Elizabeth, and  Shelby spent the day with Virginia and Edward, Sandra, and Chris.  There I learned that my friend, Chester Joyner, was critically ill in Baptist Hospital in Oxford.  As most of you know, I only met Mr. Chester a few years ago, but I’ve grown to know and love him.  

He has given me so much material relative to World War II and even sent me a video he had produced.  He is truly a combat veteran and a real American hero, and I wish that I had been able to spend more time with him over the years.  I visited him in the hospital and saw Mrs. Joyner and Beverly, and got to meet Jerry for the first time.  Mr. Chester held my hand as I talked to him and although he couldn’t talk with the mask in place, he would blink from time to time and Beverly said that was how he let me know he understood what I was saying to him.  

They are all such fine people that I feel as if I’ve known them for years.  Beverly told me how much Mr. Chester appreciated the column and how much it meant to all of them.  I told her that I felt that I got more out of it than they did.  It’s been a humbling experience just to be in his presence and as I told him in leaving, if it’s God’s will, we’ll sit down again and talk again.  Our prayers are with all of you.  

I could never have foreseen in January, 2001, this column would still be going strong and as we start our ninth year –  again my thanks to all of you who have made it possible. My email is or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, TN 38101 and have a happy New Year.

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