Retired teacher reflects on decades of school changes

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, August 8, 2013

August was once the last of the lazy, hazy days of summer but no more.

Hardly a week into the last month of summer and the school bells are tolling and students are rushing to buy their back-to-school outfits and a bushel basket of school supplies.

Myra Wilson remembers school days 80 years ago at Enon.

Myra Wilson remembers school days 80 years ago at Enon.

Myra Wilson smiled as she remembered how far different it was when she went off to the little country school at Enon nearly 80 years ago.

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“My mother had made me a school dress and I was so excited to have colors and a penny pencil and a tablet to write on,” Wilson said. “Not many children had yellow pencils. If you had one, you were really up town. Penny pencils were just dull, wooden pencils with an eraser that would pop out when you tried to use it. Yellow pencils had big erasers that you could take off and put back on. Daddy sharpened my penny pencil with his pocket knife for me but the lead was grainy so your writing was not sharp.’

Wilson said the writing tablets had rough paper but “we had what we had.”

“Back then, the first and second grades were in the same room and with the same teacher,” she said. “My first grade teacher was Vernie May Botts, the wife of B.C. Botts who was later superintendent of education.

“When we got our school books, we dared not write in them because they had to be in good condition so they could be sold to someone else at the end of the school year.”

Wilson remembered the most popular character in the story readers was Chicken Little.

“‘Chicken Little found a seed and it was a wheat seed,’” Wilson quoted the story. “We memorized most of the stories in our readers.”

When Wilson was eight year old, her family moved to Brundidge and she was homesteaded.

Wilson said there were no “frills” to school back then. It was mainly the three Rs, reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic but, for Wilson, not taught to the tune of a hickory stick.

“We had plays and assembly programs,” she said. “And, we had daily devotionals and they were important because all children needed to learn right from wrong. School devotionals would be valuable today.”

At home, there were chores to do and among hers was cleaning the well bucket.

“The bucket had a copper band around the top. It would get tarnished and I cleaned it by rubbing sand on it,” she said.

Wilson graduated from high school in Brundidge at age 17 and rode to college in Troy every day on the Greyhound bus.

“I bought a book of tickets and every day I’d tear off a ticket and ride the bus to school,” she said.

Wilson’s first teaching position was at Ramer and teaching came natural to her, so natural that she taught for 40 years. She retired as the senior history teacher at Pike County High School in 1987. She is legendary among those she taught.

“I have never regretted going into teaching,” Wilson said.

“I made sure, way back then, that I did not want elementary school on my certificate. I knew that I could not teach the little ones. I wanted to teach students who would listen to me and remember what I said.”

In all probability, the hope of every teacher is to be remembered positively by the students he or she taught.

That is a teacher’s reward, Wilson said.

“I still have students who invite me to their class reunions and that means a lot to me,” she said. “And, I have students from that first class that I taught at Ramer 40 years ago, who will load up in the car and come see me. It’s rewarding to know they have not forgotten me. I enjoyed teaching and learned more from teaching than I could have ever learned from a book.”

For all the teachers who answer the school bell, Wilson’s hope is that they will also have 40 of the best years of their lives and that their rewards will fill well buckets, with copper bands around the top, to overflowing.