My week has been a very dull one. Was wondering this morning (Monday) just what I was going to write about. I’ve always come up with something, but it looked rather bleak earlier in the day. Then as the late Ludie Appleton was often heard to proclaim, “The Lord does provide.” Well, He did, and it was through Ludie that the windfall came.
Coming across my desk this morning was a letter written by Ludie to the late Elinor Nichols in 1978. It was written in answer to a request by Elinor to tell about her early years in the educational system of the Valley and I thoroughly enjoyed it, as I think many of you will, also.
“You asked for reflections on my past and the Lord provided a very rainy Sunday afternoon.
“In September of nineteen hundred twenty-two my father led me to the schoolhouse located on North Main Street. The building housed grades one through six and was known as the old college. In earlier days Water Valley had a teachers’ institution of higher learning located there, as well as a Boys’ Military School which was of short duration. Stark Young taught in the Academy one semester. The hallowed spot is now disgraced by a very unsightly fire station. Miss Lula Erickson was the reception committee of one that day and set my mind and my father’s at complete ease—and so began the book with so many chapters. Students haven’t changed a lot in half a century. My fist year I learned from Miss Lula who Santa Claus was and gained Alma Bell (Hart) for a life-time friend, as well as how to cross the railroad tracks safely—thus ended year one.
In those days we had low first and high first grades. Mrs. Marie Gooch was the most beautiful teacher of my entire educational life and she always smelled so good. Beauty and mild manners didn’t keep her from enforcing classroom law. She put the fear of higher authority in me when I just tapped her attention bell one time.
At our house punishment for school crimes was reinforced with no questions asked. Between the embarrassment of punishment at school and the severity of the second treatment at home, deportment was never a problem.
Year number three was a real clincher. Some misguided member of the educational hierarchy decided I was either too large, too old or too smart for the second grade and shuffled me into Miss Inder Davidson’s third grade and she introduced me to the multiplication tables. The tables, one through 12, permanently decorated the black board until several years ago when some genius staggered upon the idea that black boards should be replaced by green ones, more formally known as chalk boards, and those tables have weathered the storms of my mind until this day.
Mrs. Willie Rose Hill Blaker (later Tucker) who grew up in the house Coaches Lewis and Holt now occupy, reigned supreme on the fourth grade level and her long suit was English. Her will was bent toward proper use of our native form of communication. Edward Garrett, a rather slow, rusty red-haired, freckled faced lad kept “Miss Willie Rose” in a twit by asking if he might raise the window down.
The year number five was the love of my elementary school life. Miss Gladys Shaw (Mary Lib Carothers’ mother) was petite, soft spoken, kind and was courting Mr. Lloyd Brown.
Mr. Brown’s sister, Lucille, was teaching on the third floor and many notes were passed between the two girls by student carriers. I was often rewarded for completing assignments swiftly by being selected. It seems that Miss Lucille wasn’t so careful in her selection of messengers. All of a sudden one morning the intellectual silence was shattered and when Miss Shaw opened the door there on the floor lay George Birdsong (Sara Nell Trusty’s uncle) sprawled out all over the place with opened note in hand.
Upon being questioned as to what happened, he replied, “I fell down the stairs trying to read that damned note.” You can imagine how that went over.
When chapter six began I didn’t know it was possible to learn so much about so many things. Mrs. Fannie Tarver was one great human being. She encouraged us to do our best and found time to read a chapter or two from a good book when we succeeded. Memory doesn’t tabulate statistics, so I cannot begin to estimate the number of good books this dramatic reader shared with us that year.
The joy of departmentalizing came with the seventh grade. Noel Bell, Adaline Humphreys (Edwards) and Lucille Brown gave us better than average information and all the shuffling from class to class gave us a real feeling of importance. Eighth grade students, known as upper-classmen, accepted us with a mild endurance.
I remember humorously Ed Harris in his hurry to complete the spelling assignment looking up the wrong word and coming up with the following sentence: “We sang a scared song.”
Miss Myrtle McKnight kept him in after school for a week. In our modern day anxiety to promote change and improvement we tend to believe the idea is original. You know how we have in the years of Title Programs added public school music? Ha! We had Mrs. Doyle, and who paid her or how, is irrelevant as is how much we learned musically. The thing that stands out in my mind is the day Wade Cox put a pencil, sharp end up, in Buddy Hart’s chair and Miss Humphreys had to extract the lead from Buddy’s rear—much to his chagrin.
In my days teachers were a healthy and dedicated breed, with no professional leave days, so our substitute, Mrs. Fern Walfron, was almost as good as Christmas, as well as almost that rare.
Everyone should be privileged to graduate from the eighth grade. For me it was the most significant of educational milestones. The preparation and anxiety were only surpassed by that diploma in hand and then the deflation of being the freshman under-dog. My earlier days of high school were easier than most of my friends because I could play a fair piano and thus received a bit more respect from my upper-classmen.
(Continued Next Week)
Didn’t realize how lengthy this letter was, so space dictates that it be continued in next week’s edition.
Didn’t get to attend Coffeeville Days, but heard that it was great, with good attendance. Held in the Multi-purpose Building because of the threat of rain, it still went off without a problem. Report was that the entertainment was great, food was good, and the displays were educational.
Also missed the big car show in Batesville Saturday. Boys went and reported that it was a great one. I do like old vehicles, but someone has to stay with Mom and I was elected.
Was sorry that the Blue Devils suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of Charleston’s Tigers. WV has had a great season and I know it will continue.
By Betty Shearer