Sepia Saturday 442: First in a new series about my fourth grade teacher Miss Helen George — one of those friends, acquaintances and neighbors (FANs) who can make such a difference in a person’s life.
When I was in the fourth grade in 1959-60, I was amazed at how many tall, mature-looking teenagers would stop by our classroom at the end of the day to visit our bespectacled teacher Miss Helen George.
Young women in full-skirted dresses with books in their arms, muscled young men in bulky, athletic letter jackets, and tall, studious types who engaged Miss George in conversation — they all returned to visit a teacher they clearly remembered with fondness.
Often, Miss George would proudly introduce her former students to us and say how one day we, too, would be high school students just like them — an amazing thought for a fourth grader!
That memory stuck with me — and years later, walking home from the high school one afternoon I became one of those “big students” who stopped by to say hello to Miss George and be introduced to her class.
A quintessential teacher
Miss George was a quintessential teacher of her era and reminded me in some ways of my maternal grandmother. Her short reddish hair had a hint of grey (she would have been in her early forties at the time) — and I remember her in calf-length, button-front, small-print shirt dresses and sensible black lace-up pumps with square, career-height heels.
Rimless eyeglasses completed her look as a no-nonsense instructor bent on fulfilling her duty to impart knowledge to us youngsters. A stern taskmaster, Miss George nevertheless found creative ways to spark learning by sharing her community involvement in town history with our class — and she rewarded us when we did well.
One more visit
So is it any wonder that this month, as I prepared to return to my home town for my 50th high school reunion, Miss George was the teacher who sprang to mind?
My high school classmates planned a mixer, a tour of the school and a dinner — all fun stuff as we got reacquainted and reminisced about our teenage time together.
And before the festivities began , I decided that one more visit to Miss George was also in order — this time to her final resting place in Vestal Hills Memorial Park in Vestal, N.Y. — to pay my respects to a teacher who had made a great impact on me during my formative years.
“Nobody has been to see her for a long time,” said the park secretary, who arranged to have her plaque — along with those of her parents and brother — cleaned up for my visit.
Telling Miss George’s story
Miss George was single and childless — and I’m not sure who might be around to chronicle a bit of her personal history.
But there’s more than enough room for her in Molly’s Canopy!
So as her former student, I plan to write a few blog posts about how her life intersected with mine and what I have been able to learn about her through research.
Please stop back as this new series unfolds. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.
© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.