Pioneer life in the Benton Co. WA area
Teacher Was a Mystery/Played Soccer, Was Artist
By BURTON 0. LUM
Sunday, 30 July 1961, page 20
Mr. Welsh was the schoolmaster who taught the Kennewick school following Miss Ferrel. A new school board member had been elected. It was his belief that some of the larger boys of the school could be better disciplined by a man teacher.
Mr. Welsh was a man of mystery. I do not know from where he came. He was a very athletic man, six feet tall, 185 pounds and I should judge in his early forties. His dark brown eyes were kind. The crow tracks at their outer corners denoted much reading and study. He dressed neatly, black suit, white shirt, and black tie. According to the wagging tongues of the community he was woman shy. He did not room and board at a private home. He leased the best stateroom aboard the steam ferry “J.M. Nixon.” He had his meals on the boat and brought a lunch to school.
The first morning he studied the school records until morning recess. He then brought out his soccer ball and proceeded to instruct all the boys and girls how to kick the ball and play the game. The school bullies soon realized that there were no match for him in strength and agility. He threw them around like a bunch of babies.
The second morning of school, we were all surprised to see the black board had been cleaned. Near its top, beginning at the left were perfectly formed digits 1 to 9 followed by a beautifully written Spencerian alphabet and that followed by the multiplication tables. Near the left end of the blackboard was a horizontal section of a human eye. He depicted, by adapt use of crayon colors, all coatings, lenses, nerves and fluids of the eye and gave each their proper names. A few days later another crayon masterpiece appeared on the blackboard to the right of the first. A sectional drawing of the human ear. This showed the outer, middle and internal ear, naming the components of each.
The second Monday morning of school marked the appearance of a third drawing. It showed the circulation of the blood, the capillaries, arteries, veins, and valves. Also, a cross section of the heart.
Mr. Welsh, having completed these projects, then turned his talents to historical events. His theory seemed to be, after one knew himself, he should know his country. He prepared his data on several sheets of foolscap paper. He called upon one of the older boys who wrote a beautiful Spencerian hand to mount a ladder and with white chalk write down the data on the walls as he dictated it.
The first was Columbus discovered America in 1492. This was written over the front door. Virginia was settled at Jamestown in 1607. Similar data of each of the thirteen original colonies was written on the walls, and a resume of all the land grants and purchases of the United States. When the pupils recited on the wall data, they turned their back toward the information.
He was an artist. He made everything visual. Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division were illustrated by his clever crayon. The mystery of fractions, and oh! that horrible decimal point, he graphically taught and made easy the theory of each. He spoke fluent Latin, Greek, Spanish and French, and quite correct English with a touch of Irish brogue. He said that of all languages Latin was the simplest, most expressive and scientific.
Welsh never chastised a student. He never scolded or embarrassed any of his pupils. He respected everyone of us and we in return respected him. We followed his desires without hesitation because he was always just.
This three month school term passed all too soon. We students had never learned so much in such a short time.
The last day of school the visitors section was packed. He had every pupils deportment card properly made out. His other records for the clerk of the school board were all in proper form. He took the records to the clerk, grasped his hand and said, “It has been a pleasure to work here. May God bless you.” He took each pupil by the hand, delivered his deportment card and said, “It has been a pleasure to work here. May God bless you.” His duties having been completed he took his soccer ball and placed it in his large carpet bag together with volumes of his own books and all his crayons. He put on his felt hat and walked to the river where a waiting skiff took him to the “J.M. Nixon” which berthed at Pasco.
At his sudden departure, a noise like a swarm of bees arose. They all seemed to appreciate at once what their sons and daughters had learned under his teaching. One of the pioneers waxed oratorical, saying he, Welsh, had turned the old school house into a fact factory which he had installed into the craniums of the students without fuss or fanfare. Even the wagging tongue ladies of the community said that he had always been a perfect gentleman.Return to Index of Burton Lum Articles