In 1912 the original Stevensville High School graduated its first senior class: Katie Cray, Angie Legg, Anna Porter, and Etta Thomas. This picture was taken after a 1913 second story was added.
This year, Teachers Day falls on Tuesday, May 7th.
Teacher’s Day, plus the fact that school will soon be ending for the year, got me thinking about the stories some Kent Island old timers have shared with me about their, oh, let’s call it education.
Retired Stevensville businessman Billy Denny once told me, “When I first went to school, I was sitting in Miss Bessie Bright’s class, who later on became Miss Bessie Benton, and she was teaching the sounds of different letters and words. She was pronouncing the C-H sound. She and the rest of the class moved on, but I must have liked that ch-ch-ch sound (so I kept making the it.) I was breaking up the whole class, getting laughs from all the little girls. I thought it was the funniest thing in the world, ‘ch-ch-ch’. After telling me about three times to stop, she got up and slapped me right across the mouth. Scared the heck out of me, but I didn’t ch-ch-ch anymore!”
Real estate trailblazer Reggie Jones once told me, “After we moved from Grasonville, I went to Chester School. There was a coal stove and outhouses. When I first walked in I was the new kid from somewhere else (maybe 5 Miles). Bobby Timms, Teddy Lee, Tucker Lee, they were all my cousins but none of us knew it. Nobody would let me sit down. Billy Baxter was the one who slid over and gave me a seat. We ended up great life long friends. “I got my only two lickings there’ says Reggie. “Once we were all out on the playground fooling around and made out we were going to throw one of the Austin girls down the hole in the boy’s outhouse.” He pauses. “I took a licking for that one.”
My dad’s cousin Wes Thompson once told me, “I remember the first day I went to Chester School. My mother took me up in a Model T Ford. My cousins Cliff and Dick Coleman came up and carried me in. Made sure I got there. It was a two room school. Miss Covey had one of the rooms and she was the principal. Miss Evelyn Jones was the other teacher. When we went to 6h grade we went up to Stevensville with Miss Larrimore. Now she’d beat your butt, boy. I never made it through 7th grade, didn’t stay the whole year. Went out and got on a boat. I did that until Uncle Sam needed my services.”
Eva White Thompson, a fondly remembered Islander who charmed with her glowing personality and musicality, once told me, “First I went to Chester School. Miss Catherine Jones was one of my teachers. So was Miss Evelyn Jones. Then Mary Larrimore after I started going to school in Stevensville. I remember her so much.
“I graduated in 1937. Our class had 19 or 20 students – all girls except for Harry Dadds, Jimmy Marks, and John Palmer. A lot of young men didn’t graduate. By 8th grade many went to work on the water or a farm. Back in those days, passing 8th grade was a high water mark. When we graduated 8th grade, Charlotte Spry and I, our parents bought us permanents. We had to go to Annapolis to get them. We came back on the ferry and got on the wrong one! We found out too late we were headed to Claiborne. We were scared to death. You can’t imagine two little 8th grade girls – we weren’t big as biscuits – realizing they were on the wrong ship. We had our permanents and we were pretty but we were going the wrong way. The captain let us have supper with him. There was a minister and his wife onboard. They took us to Easton and called our parents. Daddy drove down to Easton and brought us home. That was some adventure, let me tell you.”
Native born Kent Islander Elizabeth Reamy Haddaway, who recently passed away at age 104, loved school, and liked her teachers; except for one, who, nine decades later, she still she thought wasn’t very good at his job. She even won the county spelling bee at a competition in Centreville.
But Elizabeth gleams a bit when she remembers her classmate, a little Stevensville schoolgirl, saying off hand, out of nowhere, “You know, we don’t have to go to school today.” Elizabeth gives a sly sideways grin, “And then she took her foot and kicked the top right off that old flat (coal) stove…” big smile, “and we had the whole day off!” she laughs.
Roger Lewis, my dad’s brother, once told me, “I entered first grade at Chester School – two rooms, seven grades – when I was six. First day, Momma dressed me up in short pants and stockings and a short sleeved shirt. Here I was, this little guy, scared anyway, and these big guys come up and are going to “initiate” me. One would get a hold of your shoulders, one gets a hold of your feet and they’d throw in you in this great big rose bush. Some of those guys in seventh grade, they were 16 years old!”
In third grade, Roger was one of four boys who got whipped by teacher Evelyn Jones for starting a fire in the boy’s outhouse. “When I went home, I didn’t tell my mother because Momma would want to go up there and fight her. I was outside with Daddy, following him around, in his way. I said, “Daddy I got to tell you something. I got a whipping today in school.” He turned and looked down at me and said, “You got a whipping?” I said, “Yes, sir.” He said “Well, if you hadn’t needed it you wouldn’t have gotten it.” And he walked on. Roger is tickled still by the gentle nature of my grandfather.
That’s what those Islanders once told me.
My 3rd grade class with one of my all-time favorite teachers, Mrs. Henrietta Grollman.