When I reported
to the first grade in that one-story redbrick building near downtown
Richland, the elementary school teachers were the same ladies who had held
those positions for an untold amount of years. Over countless decades they
proudly instructed generation after generation of resident families in
reading, writing and arithmetic.
The year was
1954, and in our hometown, formal education began when you reached the age
of six; there was no pre-school or kindergarten, although later our system
modernized and offered programs for four and five year old students.
My first grade
teacher was Miss Pauline Norman; she resided in an apartment located in the
home of her nephew, Pat Cureton and family, that was located less than a
block from the schoolhouse. Miss Pauline never married and did not own an
My second grade
teacher was Miss Maggie Dillard; she and her sister Miss Carrie, lived in a
wooden duplex residence next door to the First Baptist Church, and a few
blocks from the school. Neither Miss Dillard nor her sister, a seamstress
by trade, ever married and they did not own an automobile.
My third grade
teacher was Miss Audley Elrod; she lived with her brother and sisters in the
two-story family home at the corner of Nicholson and Walker Streets. Miss
Elrod lived three blocks from the school, never married and did not own an
school teachers took great pride in being a parent away from home; although
they were allowed to paddle a student who misbehaved, it was a rare
occurrence that they actually punished a child. If a student forgot their
homework or misbehaved during class; the teacher simply telephoned the
parents and discussed the situation at length.
years there were only two grades for deportment; S for satisfactory and U
for Unsatisfactory. We heard stories that a child once received a U but we
were never told their name or the circumstances surrounding the shameful
seemed to be agreeable until that unforgettable night that Miss Elrod
telephoned our house. Our parents had dinner guests and my instructions
were to answer the telephone in a polite manner, and carefully write down
any messages. My heart nearly stopped when she properly identified herself,
and requested that mother return her call.
When the guests
departed, I handed the message to momma, and quickly retreated to my room.
When daddy left for work the next morning, I joined momma in the kitchen
while she preparing our breakfast; thankful that she did not seem upset.
When she began
inquiring about events during the past school week, I blurted out; Iím sorry
mamma; I am sorry that Miss Elrod called you last night.
She laughed and
then finally admitted that the phone call was to remind her about baking
cookies for the class the following week. To this day I still cannot
adequately describe that feeling of relief.