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School memories of teachers, friends last a lifetime

by Minden Press-Herald

One of my most precious memories would be of our school days in the thirties. Perhaps time has a way of coloring those memories, but I like them anyway.

When the day started out wet and rainy and it was continuing to rain at about eleven o’clock, school officials would decide on a “Rainy Day Schedule.”

They would ring the bell on top of the old 1910 school building. This is the bell that is outside the current Minden High School building and is called “The Victory Bell” now.

The sound of that bell could be heard all over Minden. It let the mothers know that school would not let out for lunch but would have abbreviated classes and let out about l:00 for the day. Mothers knew not to come after their children at dinner time, but wait and come at l:00 when school let out. Remember?

Election Time

Recently Mary Louise Adkins Adams and I remembered the way we elected our Homecoming Queens back in the thirties and early forties. She was Homecoming Queen in the fall of 1942. She remembered that you could buy a ticket for a penny, and the most tickets sold (the most pennies raised) determined the Homecoming Queen. We think this practice ended about the middle forties, since later it was just by vote.

I told her that I remembered how pretty she looked that night in a beautiful black velvet dress trimmed in white Irish Linen lace. With her coloring she truly looked like a queen. I was working at Andress by that time and her father, Leon Adkins, was my boss.

Last Day

I remember how we longed for the last day of school, even longed for the holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. But at the end of summer we could hardly wait for school to begin again. We wondered what subjects we would study and who our teachers would be. It seemed that we rushed life along, wanting to be grown and out on our own.

But I can never forget the feeling of loneliness following graduation from high school. We had eagerly anticipated graduation and now it was past and we wondered what was next. There was no money for college for most of us. The boys used their GI Bill after they came back from World War II to further their education.

Some of the graduates’ families had money and they, of course, knew they would be going on to college. I received a scholarship to Northwestern, that was known as Normal back then. It was for $20.00 for a year.

That was no help if you had no money to go with that. I was disappointed but I knew that I could not go. I was fifteen when I finished high school. Later I was able to go to business college, take all the accounting courses offered in addition to the typing, shorthand. and Business English.

My Teachers

Most of the teachers were wonderful people. I remember Miss Mary Annie Wall. She was one of our English teachers who taught Grammar one semester and Literature the next semester. She had eye problems, and her eyes were crossed. You were not certain if she were looking at you when she called on someone to answer unless she used your name. I remember her teaching us the meter of poetry which is really the “beat” of poetry, and as she illustrated Iambic Pentameter she would beat out the words of the poem with a pencil on her desk. “The Stag’ – at eve’- had drunk’ – his fill’- where danced’ – the moon’ on Monan’s rill’ – and deep his midnight lair had made’ in lone Glenartney’s hazel shade.’ “- and on and on she went, beating out the meter of the poetry. This was from Sir Walter Scott’s “The Lady of the Lake.” She later left Minden High School to teach at Northeast in Monroe. She made such an impression on me that I still remember what she taught and listen for the “beat” or the “meter” of a poem.

Coach Brown

I have written about my love for both Mrs. R. A. Baker, and Mrs. E. L. Lyon. Coach “Cracker” Brown taught “Problems of Democracy” in addition to some other subjects. His main job was a coach.

He left Minden to go to Northwestern which was Normal back then as a football coach. The “Problems of Democracy” book was big and thick, almost like a big dictionary. A boy constantly made fun of my “hand-me-down” clothes and I got tired of that.

One day as Coach Brown stood at the door waiting for all the class to come in, I stood, raised that book high over my head and came down on that boy’s head, clobbering him.
He was holding his head and bawling and blubbering and told Coach Brown that I had hurt him, had about killed him.

I loved it when Coach Brown said “I have watched how you constantly made fun of Juanita and I think you got what you had coming. Thank you, Juanita.Now boy quit blubbering and shut up.” He did, and that was the last of his making fun of me. I was so skinny, and was not but about thirteen but I gave that lick all the strength I could manage.

I never did that before or after that, but I guess he just pushed me “over the edge.” The boy is dead now but I still remember the shame I felt when he continued to call attention to my clothes. At the time of his death he was an admitted homosexual with a live-in male lover, maybe he hated girls back then, too..

Miss Shealy

Miss Kuma Shealy was a wonderful teacher, and I loved her. There were others that I remember feeling the same about — Miss Ruby Craton, especially.

My Algebra teacher was Miss Bettie Nolen. She was a typical old maid, but with such a sweet, sweet personality.

Her hair was piled high on her head like Mrs. Tucker on the lard bucket. She held it in place with with hairpins that were tortoise shell pins.

During the day the pins would slip loose and drop down. Gradually the hair loosened and softened around her face. She had a way of saying things that has remained in my memories. One thing she said was when someone could not understand a principle that she tried to teach them.

She would turn away and say “well, you have to have something up there to hook it on to”, which, I think, meant if you did not have a brain you could not learn. And sometimes she would look at a problem we had solved on our paper and she would say “well, you have that ‘all piggledy wiggledy’.”

I had two years of Algebra under her teaching and I loved her. In later years she would see me on the street in Minden and she would walk up and put her arm around my waist and pull me close up for a hug.

Favorite Tales

One of her favorite stories was the fact that she had taught Huey P. Long when he was young. She was at least in her fifties when she taught me.

Mr. R. L. Laney was the director of the A Capella choir. He enabled us to go to rally, and to perform over a Shreveport radio station.

He did not stay in Minden very long, but he was a good music teacher. He taught me how to sing alto. Earle Cooke who was Music Director at Minden High School for many, many years was a soloist in that choir along with many others that I remember. George Calvit calls it The Acca Polka Choir” – close but not quite.

The faculty all wanted us to learn and they tried every way to encourage us. When I consider how little their salaries were I know that teaching was just a “calling” to them, since they could not be in it for the money. Those were the golden years and they were made possible by the wonderful teachers we had.

Hillary Clinton’s book is entitled “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child” and Minden did help raise all of us. There were so many good people to set examples of living for us. Oh yes!

I remember a few that were not so good. I could write a few stories on my experiences with one or more characters ( which you might find funny), but the good far outweighs the bad.

Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years until her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935. The Press-Herald is republishing select articles from Mrs. Agan’s Cameos column every Wednesday.

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