I started working at Lee-Jackson (in 1930; then a school that went through high school) to teach “business classes” – book keeping, typing, shorthand, business, english, etc. However there weren’t students enough interested in these to set up but three classes. Since there were shortages of teacher in other areas I was assigned 8th grade english and government for the senior class which was then the eleventh grade. I was employed at a salary of $100.00 per month which was the highest salary paid any member of the faculty except the principal.
At the opening of the 1931-1932 session the far reaching effects of the historic depression were beginning to be felt. Consequently, salaries were reduced and I received $80.00 per month for that session. The next session economic conditions having worsened our salaries were again reduced. For the 1932-1933 session all classroom teachers salaries were reduced to $60.00 per month. Conditions economically continued to worsen and there weren’t sufficient funds to pay us for the last two weeks of the session. (As a matter of fact we haven’t yet been paid for those two weeks.)
That marked the end of my teaching until 1945 when I went as principal of Lee-Jackson which had then become our Elementary School. Mathews High School had been built several years earlier. I could help but reminisce about something of the situation and it was during my twenty-odd years there. I suppose the first thing or one of the first things to attract my attention as I read the recent article in the Gazette-Journal was the comment about the over-crowded conditions with one enrollment of 275 children. I wonder what the present faculty and county administrations would have done when I went there with one enrollment of approximately 375 in seven grades and not even a mobile classroom on the place. One session we had 54 seventh graders in one classroom with a teacher who had come back into teaching after having been out for 27 years. On another occasion we had 51 children in a first grade classroom with a teacher 74 years of age. I have often commented that among other achievements she could almost have taught a gatepost to read.
I wish that over the years I had kept in touch with each of the boys and girls who attended Lee-Jackson while I was there. I wouldn’t be surprised if the percentage of those going on through high school and many through college wouldn’t be as high as it is today despite our emphasis on finer buildings, higher salaries, more personnel, etc. Of course we all know that these times make higher salaries a must. I’m not sure that some of the increase in personnel and progress has been much value to the children.
There are a good many problems the system is faced with today which seem to me to loom much larger than in my active years. I think one of them involves parents more than in years gone by. Today, in a great any cases both parents are employed and are away from home much of the time. As a result the school has had to assume more and more responsibility and often children are left to more or less “shift for themselves” until Mama or Papa gets home from work. Even then they are often too tired to give children the attention and supervision needed. Sometime ago I was talking with a working mother. She spoke about being weary when she got home from work and added, “Thank God for television.”