Sepia Saturday 450: Ninth in a 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.
Miss George taught fourth grade at Hooper School in Endwell, N.Y., for another fifteen years after I moved on to fifth grade. When she retired in 1975, I was 25 years old and living in New York City.
By then I was caught up in the tumultuous social upheaval of the 1960s — and Miss George’s world of running ovals, cursive handwriting, neat homework and good deportment seemed like a distant memory.
Only now, from the perspective of age, am I able to evaluate her impact on my life and consider her later years.
A Master’s degree
From her obituary, I learned that Miss George received a Maters’s degree from Albany State College.
She may have been encouraged in this by Hooper School Principal Don Pierce — at whose urging my mother also completed her Master’s in Music Education from Ithaca College.
A Pennsylvania move
Miss George left her Binghamton, N.Y., hometown after retiring at age 58 and moved south to Vandling, Penna. — near Forest City. This move is not surprising, since her parents predeceased her, and her younger brother Thomas — her only sibling — had relocated to New York City.
Miss George may have chosen the Vandling-Forest City area because her longtime friend, and later caregiver, Angeline Carer lived there. Or maybe they made a plan, as friends sometimes do, to move to the same place in retirement.
Either way, who wouldn’t want to retire there? Under the slogan “Welcome to the most beautiful place in Pennsylvania,” the Forest City Historical Society quotes lumberman William Pentecost’s 1864 description of the area:
Cut in the dark woods where never a shimmer of golden sun shines through the trees and the surface was covered with vegetation in wild luxuriance. There were monster hemlock trees, some of them of beautiful symmetry lifting their magnificent proportions to an altitude of nearly one hundred feet. Others were bent toward each other having their long limbs locked across the narrow road as if embracing each other and whispering secrets.
A lasting friendship
Wondering how they became friends, I discovered that Miss George and Miss Cerar both taught at Hooper School. They seem to have been kindred spirits — each directing their pupils in performances and volunteering after hours.
According to the Endicott Daily Bulletin, in 1955 Miss Cerar directed her first grade class in an operetta titled “The Lemonade Stand.” In 1956 she was awarded tenure and a few years later joined local parents on the PTA’s hospitality committee.
Miss Carer was eventually promoted to teaching third grade — which likely meant meetings with my fourth-grade-teacher Miss George about students who were moving up.
By 1960 — when I had Miss George for fourth grade — she and Miss Cerar had become friends.
And a March 1960 Endicott Daily Bulletin story listed them as guests at al bridal shower for the Endwell Junior High School nurse-teacher.
A cat person
The last item of interest in Miss George’s obituary is a request for memorial donations to go to Project PAW in Binghamton, N.Y. — a volunteer-run rescue and adoption group for cats. So it seems that Miss George was a cat person — which does not surprise me.
Many teachers in my Endwell hometown had cats as pets — and one teacher in my neighborhood even competed, showing her pedigree felines and winning awards.
Yes, I can totally see Miss George seated in a cozy chair with her cat on her lap — reading a good book or perusing the local paper to relax after a long day in the classroom.
Please stop back as this series wraps up with a fond farewell to Miss George next week. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.
© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.