G.M.C. Massey, my grandfather and our “guest blogger,” continues the story of his early school days in late 19th Century rural East Texas.
I was not expected to read till I had learned everything that was in the old blue speller. When I had learned my alphabet forwards and backwards and could read all the stories in the bluebacked speller, then I was allowed to have a first reader. You see, there were no primers at that time (1886). But soon thereafter, the primer came into use and every teacher that came along had his own way of starting the children off, and each teacher had his favorite text books.
One day, I got peeved about something and played sick. I knew my mother was at my aunt’s spending the day so that is where I went. Of course, mother knew me so well, she told me that when I was out of school that way, that that mean boy over there was getting my scholastic money and of course, I couldn’t stand that so I picked up my book and went back. I slipped in without any ado about it and from that time on through the rest of my school days, I never ratted on the job. I never missed a lesson in school when I was able to go.
Mrs. Fitzgerald did not teach us the second year. I loathed a change when I found out that she was not going to get our next school. But that year, we still had the loan of the old house with the lean-to with a front porch for the children to eat dinner on and we had an old man that was very grouchy, and sick, too, for a teacher. He was so very much different from the teacher the year before that there was no one that cared for him. Grouchiness will never win anywhere, and especially with children.
My third year in school, we had a new school house built as the men came together and all donated their time and built it. (In after years, I taught that same school in that same house and the children that came to school to me there were the children of the boys and girls that I went to school with.) We were able to get a real good teacher and one that was able to teach the young men of the country that wanted to go on to school and were not able to go out of the community to go to school. This teacher had the very highest morals, and he stayed there as long as he wanted to stay and could afford to stay on the account of the salary that we could pay when it was compared to what he could get elsewhere.
Excerpted from “Pappa’s Childhood,” opening segment of G.M.C. Massey memoirs, edited by my mother, Dell Buller