Tidbits of Shelby County History
Personal Remembrance of Paxton School

This week’s article was given to me by Fannie Watson and is a personal remembrance of going to school at Paxton by Arney Strickland. It was written in 2010.  I will break this article into 2 weeks. I have been asked by many to share photos of the new exhibit, “PictorialHistory of Shelby County”, at the museum so I will post some of the photos each week until all the photos are viewed.  Enjoy!

Floyd A. (Dock) Watson & Arney L. Strickland at Edgefield School from 1st through 8th Grade
By Arney Strickland.

Dock and I became friends in the fall of 1935, when my family moved from Panola County to Shelby County. Miss Blanche Green was the teacher of first graders at Edgefield School, which everybody called Paxton School. Dock Watson was a pupil along with a number of other that I still remember:Stanton Townsend, Dorothy Grace Hill, Imogene Hickman, L.B. Caldwell, Bobbie Ruth Barton, Earlene Hutto, Verno Hutto, my brother Rudy, and other whose faces I remember but whose names now wont come to me. Dock and I became friends there in first grade and remain friends today, 75 years later.

Doc and I were promoted to the second grad in the spring of 1936. The second-grade teacher was Miss Ruth Samford, who later married Dick Templin.  When school started, I was afflicted with impetigo, which manifested itself with many sores all over my body I begged Mama to let me go to school the first day to get my book at least. She relented, much to Miss Ruth’s astonishment, I’m sure, because my face was covered with sores. After a few days my sores were healed, and I went back to school.

Miss Ruth taught us many things that were not in the books. I well remember that she taught us to say, “You are mistaken,” rather than “You are a liar.” She was a fine teacher and I, at least, loved her very much. Once during that school year, she had to be absent for several days. Her substitute was Miss Love, who was so strict that school was not fun with her as our teacher. When Miss Ruth returned, we all were overjoyed.

Once during that year, the little girl who sat in front of me was too shy to ask to be excused so she wet her panties and some of the “wet” fell on my feet. I won’t say who the girl was, but I remember her well. This reminds me of a polite expression that Miss Ruth taught us to say when we wanted to go to the toilet:  “May I be excused?” But I understood “to be excused” to mean to do what one does in a toilet, so I would ask “May I go to be excused?” Finally, I learned what it all meant.

We were promoted to the third grad at the end of school in 1937. Dock and I didn’t see each other often during the summer months because his family lived next door to Paxton School and my family lived way out in the countryside on Dr. Jake Spivey’s farm and T.A. Carlton’s Farm, where Papa was a foreman and a sharecropper Just as Dock did, we Strickland children worked in the fields, even when we were six and seven years old.

If we were lucky, we went to Tenaha on Saturday with Papa. He would put us in the picture show house, the Queen theatre, here we would stay until he came to take us home. We would see a western, a B picture, a serial, an animated cartoon, and the coming features. Sometimes we’d get to see everything at least twice before it was time to leave. I believe the tickets for children were 11 cents. We always had a nickel for popcorn, too. After the picture show, Papa would buy us a cold drink. My favorite was a 12-ounce size like RC Cola, or a Big Orange.

When the fall of 1937 came, we began the third grade with a young woman named Miss Black. I don’t remember much of this year except a conscious decision that I made to start speaking English as we were taught in our class. The incident that caused my decision occurred when Miss Black asked me whether I had don something or the other. My response was, “Nome, I ain’t never went and done that.” Miss Black rolled her eyes and said something like, “Arney, how could you utter such a sentence.” And she wrote what I’d said on the blackboard and showed how it failed to be the English she wanted us to learn. I was a bit embarrassed by the incident, but my self confidence was not destroyed. After that I started avoiding “ain’t”, seen for say, give for gave, and other such dialectal uses that nearly everybody spoke in that area of Texas. I remember by brother Rudy teased me saying, ‘Arney is trying to talk like the teacher.” That incident may have been the reason I became an English teacher.

Another experience we had, especially in Miss Black’s class, was the use of the school record player. The school had a collection of songs on the old breakable disks. From time to time, our class would check out from the book room the record player and listen to the songs, although we had heard them many times. I remember “The Eyes of Texas,” “America”, “Frankie and Johnny,” and many others that we all particularly loved.

In the fall of 1938, we began the fourth grade in Miss Vandenberg’s class. I’m hesitant to report this, but Miss Vandenberg was not a good teacher. I say this because on two occasions I showed her something I had done and she commented, “Arney, that is as good as kindergarten.” I had never heard the word “kindergarten” so I assumed that it meant something favorable. On telling my sister Frances what Miss Vandenberg had said about my work, Frances told me that this experience with her colored my opinion of her and I still have the same opinion. That experience has stayed with me and made me determine that I’d never say such an unkind word to any pupil even if her or her work was every bad. During that year I deserved being punished for destroying school property I had cut a string from the window shade to use as a top string, not something I’m proud of. At least, Miss Vandenberg’s contract was not renewed.

Note: I will continue the rest of the story shared by Arney next week.