Mildred McCrary-touched many lives
Mildred Orr McCrary was raised in Waterman’s Front, a logging community wast of the Sabine River where her father ran the commissary. When she was three, her mother died and Mildred nurtured her younger sister Marie. Her grandmother Mammy made all their clothes and gifted Mildred with beautiful hand-sewn goods when she married.
Mildred moved to Carthage schools from Midyett for the 7th grade. Mrs. Valle Baker introduced her to her best friend Mary Margaret Grimes and to her 16-year-old teacher Nettie Shaw. Mildred worked on Saturdays at Yarbrough’s store on the downtown square. Her daily salary for working sun-up to sundown was $1.00 from which she had to pay 2 cents for social security.
Mildred graduated Carthage High School in 1939 at the age of 15. Because of her age, her father would not allow her to leave for college until the following year. Finally at 16 years of age, Mildred traveled by train to Dallas and then rode a bus to Denton to attend Texas State College for Women, sister school to Texas A & M. She fondly recalls football games at Fair Park with Aggie cadets from Panola County, K. C. Kyle and Ben Hart.
Mildred began teaching at 18 while still wearing bobby socks. In 1965 she was named Teacher of the Year and took her first airplane ride to New York City to attend a teacher convention. Her husband Lawrence, a carpenter who helped construct the building that is Carthage Junior High School today, accompanied her, and they took in the sights.
McCrary retired at 54 years of age after teaching 32 years to spend time with her family. Later, she moved into town where she enjoys her collection of over 200 nativity scenes, her neighbors, her memories, and her diet Mt. Dew.
(Author’s Note: After my interview at her home, Mrs. Mildred McCrary handed pages of handwritten notes to me for additional information. The following was what I found in those notes.)
The Good Times
Most of my life has been filled with good times. Of course, I’ve had some bad times but I have crowded them out with the good times. The good times have been enhanced with my experiences with children.
In 1942 during World War II there was a shortage of teachers so I began my teaching career at the “old” age of eighteen. I got a temporary teaching certificate and started my career in the same rural school I attended when I was five years old. Would you believe that!
The Midyett School building was pretty much the same as it was in 1929 with one exception. It had electric lighting. The heating system was still using wood stoves. Did I know how to build a fire? Heck no! So I got eighth grade boys to do that chore for me since I was my own janitor. I swept floors, took out the trash, and such.
There was no inside plumbing. You guessed it! We had boys and girls’ restrooms outside. Think I am pulling your leg? Nope, I am just stating the facts.
At recess time the pupils enjoyed games such as “Crack the Whip,” “Mama, May I,” marbles, and surprise…we had baseball games if some of the pupils brought their bats and balls from home. Some of the older boys enjoyed the branches near the school by seeing who could jump the furtherest. This reminds me of warning my little first graders that he would be in “ trouble” if they came back to the classroom with wet feet. And you know my little Huey came back with wet feet. “Huey, what are doing with wet feet?” His reply in a stutter “Miss Orr, I went to hump and I didn’t hump far enough.” I bit my lip and hugged him. That was his punishment and replacing those wet shoes and socks before he went home.
We made field trips in the woods surrounding the school. We had Easter egg hunts and Halloween parties, and Christmas celebrations with the typical tree, gift exchanging, and a play.
Speaking of a play, I spent days dyeing fabrics for the characters in the Christmas play. The mothers made the costumes from the fabric such as blue for Joseph, pink for Mary,white for the Angels and Baby Jesus, brown for the shepherds, and even red for the Santa Claus suit I made.
Thomas, one of my pupils, got a cap pistol, and I burst his bubble quick-like. I said, “ Oh, you shot Santa Claus.” He wanted to cry and so did I.
My first four years of teaching I thought I was rich. I made $83.00 a month. They only paid for nine months. I had to save so I could go back to school in the summers and work on my degree.
By the time I started teaching in the Carthage Independent School System I made $169.00 for all twelve months. How about that! I was rich then. However, money was of greater value then.
In the meantime, I had married and had a son. When Rod turned three years old, I went back to college and got my degree. By the I lacked one semester to finish.
My major was Kindergarten/Primary. Mr. Q. M. Martin asked me if I would start the first kindergarten in the school system. That was in 1950. A lot of water had run under the bridge by that time. I had eleven first grade parents whose children’s birthdays had come too late in the year for the state to pay their tuition so the parents wanted to pay. My kindergarten pupils came a half day. Or course, the parents paid their tuition. My lesson plans consisted of Social a Studies, music, and art in the mornings with reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic in the afternoons so my first graders could learn the basics. What I taught first graders back in the dark ages is taught to kindergarten students now, so I’ve been told.
Through the years I’ve had pupils who made lawyers, doctors, and yes even teachers, too. We had so much fun back in those days. I could put a child on my knee and “ pat away all the troubles of the day.” Not so nowadays! It’s different…so different. I couldn’t teach today. They would have me under the “jail.”
I’m proud of the technical teaching materials students have today, but they teach children to pass tests this day and time. Where did the fun go?
I’m like Bob Hope. “Thanks for the memories.” My life has been so blessed to have taught. Just think how many lives I touched.