Mildred McConnell's Scrapbook Articles
Times Were Hard But Good
By DAWN SCOTT
This week in Quest, I would like to introduce a lady who has dedicated her life to teaching. Mrs. Lelia Hilton Neal has a vivacious personality and a charming wit. She taught school at Maces Springs and Hiltons for 30 years.
Mrs. Neal realized the importance of her job, but she was never too supercilious to laugh with her students or find amusement in their antics.
She has written an account of some of the events that took place during her career as a teacher. I think you will enjoy this nostalgic look at Maces Springs School and some of the students that attended. I am sure some of you will remember Mrs. Neal as your teacher.
By LELIA HILTON NEAL
The years spent teaching at Maces Springs were the most endearing of all of my teaching career, because we, teacher and pupils seemed devoted to eachother and were really as one big family.
I began teaching at Maces Spring when times were hard, (1932), during thedepression. My home was two miles away from the school, thus I had the round trip of walking four miles a day carrying all supplies, as well as my "tin" lunch box-sometimes an umbrella and all-weather coat. Often times in winter when I arrived, there would be no fire in the pot-bellied stove. Those times I'd build the fire, then when the pupils came they were permitted to sit side-by-side on long benches, with their coats and hats remaining on, until the huge school room got warm. At this time, they would go to a cloak room just across the corridor and remove their coats and wraps to get seated in individual seats. By this time. the room was toasty warm. We were ready to have classes and the primer read. Also, we learned to count, (words), from a large chart which rested on a stand.
I repeat, the times were hard, but I had so many promising and talented pupils in this two-roomed school (which was once a Junior High School), Fulkerson High was the only high school in the county other than Shoemaker at Gate City-pupils came from far and near to enroll, that I soon forgot the hardships and became involved in training human minds.
I taught grades 1-4 for several years. During the latter two, I was made principal and taught the elementary grades.
The famous Carter children were among the pupils I taught at Maces Spring,having taught Janette and Joe (Joe enrolled at age 5) then came their cousins Helen and June (June also enrolled at age 5).
Now, for some comical things that happened at Maces Spring: June must have been in the second grade when one day I was seated at my desk and two little girls came running and said, "Miss Hilton" come quick. June Carter is losing her mind," consequently, I rushed to the big cloak room and saw June standing in a high window performing for her school mates. My appearing didníteven phase her, she went on entertaining until I asked her to "get down". I was concerned she might fall from the window.
These small children would often times walk the long distance of two miles to go home with me for the night. June sometimes took her doll. (Mother and Father were always happy to help entertain the children when they came) We all, Mother, Father and I, would get the doll and hide it for June to find often times, she'd find it under mother's long hip apron, or my father's over-all jacket. We'd all laugh and have such fun.
At Maces, I believe I learned most every profession: social worker, doctor, nurse, janitor, chauffeur, most everything excepting a dentist-don't believe I ever pulled a tooth.
One day a little boy began screaming in my school room. I said, "What is wrong?" He said, "My belly hurts"; Well, I had the remedy. We went down to the foot of the hill (an old well stood there from which we carried our drinking water in buckets) where Mrs. Elva Dennison lived and got some soda water for the boy. Don't believe his belly hurt any more.
After walking, for seven years I purchased an old Ford car and began driving. The car proved beneficial in many ways. At that time, free books and used clothing were stored in (or near) the school board office. Sometimes after school hours, mostly on Saturdays, I believe, I'd drive to Gate City to select clothing and books for the pupils.
Upon one occasion, we were playing "Antne Over" the tall school building. One team would often meet the other when the ball was caught. This time two boys ran together and split their heads open. One of the boy's mothers, who lived nearby, and I put them in my little black Chevrolet (purchased in 1940, and kept it for 16 years) and drove to Gate City to have stitches taken.
One of the now-grown men showed me his scar not too long ago. It hadgrown from above his eye, up to his hair line.
I had two pupils, Ruby Thomas and her friend Mary Ann Carter, who were little prophetesses. They declared that a romance with a certain local storekeeper would certainly flame. They would tease me when I would send lists of needed supplies by them to Neal's store. They insisted that these lists,were actually letters to Mr. Leonard Neal. Their prophecy came true in 1952. The merchant and I married and are still happily married!
While teaching at Maces, we were required to visit a number of homes during the school months. Once I walked home with Fern Carter Salyers and W. L. Carter (these were Junes' first cousins) for a short visit. Their mother Ora said, "Today is W. L's birthday. Let's black him and put him under the bed. It seems that we may have had a little struggle in getting him under the bed, but I actually believe W. L. had as much fun as Ora, Fern and I.
Those were the days when everyone had fun and enjoyed being with eachother. Today we sit alone except for the family stepping in occasionally. Every one seems too busy to visit. What goes with our time?
The days, I've spoken of are gone, but precious memories still linger in mymind.
After retiring from Hilton School in 1963. I often wondered. "What did I do for children other than teaching them subject matter?"
When Mrs. Neal asked, "What did I do for children other than teaching themsubject matter, "I felt she greatly underestimated her effect upon her students lives.
I know from my own experiences, I remembered those teachers who madelearning enjoyable and encouraged me to do my best because they wanted the best for me. I think Mrs. Neal is such a person-a person who cares, a teacher who wanted the best for, and expected the most from her pupils.