Mrs. Landrus

Mrs. Landrus

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Well, I had passed.  The last three years were a living torment to me although I'd passed each grade.  But the teacher kept going to the next grade as well.  I didn't know how that could even happen until it was explained over fifty years later!

They'd had a run on third graders.  Lots of em.  Too many of em.  And as they progressed through school, of course, teachers were needed to educate em.  I had been through the roughest three years of my life because of that!  Well, and of course, the teacher was the one that made it so rough.  But, finally I passed the fifth grade, but was determined to quit school.

But, Momma, had a way of convincing me to do things I had made up my mind to not do, and one of em was going back to school.  But Momma or not, I was not going to spend another year with Old Lady Rowton!  I would quit school first.  I'd run off and join the Circus like uncle George Cochran had done.  Uncle George was a brother to my grandmother Cavaness.

But, Momma convinced me to go and at least try it.  So, here I was . . . in the sixth grade.  I remember on top of my objections about even going, how I happened to arrive a few minutes early.

And I, somehow, was smiled upon by God.  I was given Mrs. Landrus, the worlds purtiest, kindest, bestest, smartest, sweetest, most wonderfullest teacher I ever had.  (If she ever reads this she'll probably want to give me a paddling herself! . . . (smile))

It seems ironic to me now that the itty-bitty Rector school district could actually have the two most memorable teachers of my life, the worst, and the best.

~ ~ ~

I was only privelged to attend Mrs Landrus' class for a portion of that school year when we moved to Calfornia.  I never attended in Rector again.  I finished out my remaining years in Corcoran, CA, graduating in 1969.  But I never forgot Mrs. Landrus.

And now I feel I should take a moment and give honor where honor is due.

I had the privilege of meeting Mrs. Landrus again in '84.  I'd moved my own family back there for a short time ('84 - '85) and a problem arose with which I had to deal.  The principal of the High School was none other than the Greatest Teacher in the world, Mrs. Landrus.

Here was the very lady who'd turned me around from road of educational destruction thrust upon me by old Mrs. Rowton.  I found that I was still in awe of her.  And this time, I was no gangly little 12 year old.  This time I was an ordained licensed minister of the Gospel.  Quite educated, father of three, had owned several successful businesses.

But she was still the impressive lady I remembered.  Stoic, but instantly able to show passion or pain and still remain refined, classy, learned . . .  all these things that I could see, and all these rolled into one made one great educator.  In later years I would use this role model in my own High School teaching experiences.

When I parted, I thanked her for her time in helping me in my matter of small importance.  I wanted to tell her how she'd changed my life, how she'd singlehandedly changed my mind about quitting school, how she had in just a few moments, changed my whole way of looking at problems in my life.  I owed this great lady a lot.

The only problem is, I never thanked her.

The more I thought about that last sentence the more I realized I certainly should have taken the time.  Then the thought came to me, "I wonder if there is STILL a chance I could do just that?"

So I got busy and emailed a very special cousin of mine (Kathy Cavaness), who'd recently retired from Rector School district and inquired of her.  Sure enough, Mrs. Landrus was still around, but I was calling her by a name she hadn't gone under for years.  She married the father of one my old cohorts, Danny Stafford of whom I wrote in a previous story.

After a few emails and phone calls I had a plant sent to her with some red roses and the letter included here.  The only thing missing is a picture she promised.  I will post that when I get it.

Here's that letter:

- - - - - - - - -


George Cavaness Jr.
9427 Shellaberger Rd.
Bakersfield, CA 93312

Mrs. Ethel Stafford
116 S. Woodland Heights Rd
Rector, AR 72461

re: Letter of Thanks

Dear Mrs. Stafford

I remember you as Mrs.  Landrus, from the sixth grade there in Rector, AR., in 1963.  While I certainly won't feel offended if you have no recollection of me, I will certainly feel offended if you don't allow me to offer a sincere thank you, for you see, I owe you a debt of gratitude.

I came to your class a young lad who was intent on quitting school.  I was a few minutes early and you showed me pure kindness, something I'd never experienced under three years of another teacher there.

I still remember your squeaky shoe.  You made a joke about it and we shared a laugh.  I was extremely nervous, but you showed me that you cared for me, and cared whether or not I stayed in school.  You also showed me patience as well as kindness.

You were stern when I needed it, set me outside the door when I didn't have my homework done and lied about it.  But, you touched me most when you didn't punish me physically, but showed a sense of being hurt that I'd failed to honor the trust you'd placed in me.

I've considered that one event ever since, and have studied about it numerous times.  And I can say of a surety, it was the one act that changed my life.  It has made a better citizen out of me.

I met you again in '84, only this time you were the Principal of Rector High School.  I had the privilege of working with you on a matter of import to me, and your wisdom and rock solid method of solving problems of this nature proved invaluable.

Whether or not you remember this incident, I was still impressed by you.  I still stood in awe of you.   I was a licensed, Ordained minister and I've stood before some great men and women in my time, but few touched me like you did.

One can only guess how many other students you impressed along the way.  On life's highway of broken hearts put there by many an unkind word, the only ones there connected to you will be those who did not heed your wisdom, your caring and your love.

One can only speculate as to the number of students you helped, lifted up and sent on their way a better person because they met you.  One can only speculate as to the number of students who, like me, went on with their lives without stopping and saying, "Thank You, Mrs.  Stafford."

I myself have experienced the thankless hours a teacher knows on a daily basis.  But, I also have known the joy of seeing someone my influence has lifted to a higher plane, all because I was lifted once.

So, why the thanks now?  While I certainly do not claim to be a writer, for years my wife has urged me to write my memoirs.  I prefer to call them my "Little Boy In Arkansas Stories." All very short stories of my life as a child.

While writing of another teacher who was, let's just say, not on your level of kindness nor expertise, my mind went to you, and so I wrote a little piece in there in your honor.

I finished the little story with these words: "The only problem is, I never thanked her."

So, I'm writing this letter of thanks, albeit late.  I was only fortunate enough to have you for a portion of one year, but I loved you, and to this day, still hold you in highest esteem because you changed my whole outlook on life.

One thing I ask is permission to post this on my website, and request a small photo of you to include in that article along with this letter.  While I'm not in the habit of requesting photos of beautiful ladies other than my wife, I would consider it an honor to have one of you on my site.

So, please accept this letter of thanks and recognition, and this little token of my appreciation.

Even so, I feel I owe you a debt of gratitude.

Sincerely, Respectfully,

George Cavaness Jr.

(Note: the letter here is shown in its entirity with the exception of deletion of phone numbers and a change in the office of Principal; Mrs. Landrus was Principal of Rector High School instead of Rector Elementary).

Mrs. Stafford, (Landrus), phoned me the Sunday after receiving the flowers on May 29, 2010.  We spoke for a few minutes and attempted to catch up.  It is so very hard to say all the things you want to say, and stay on top of the current subject matter.  It was a pleasure to hear her voice and learn she was appreciative for the token of my appreciation.

Perhaps you could take a moment and send your favorite teacher a thank you . . .

- - - - - - - - -

Jan. 17, 2011

A friend with whom I became acquainted a short time after writing this letter emailed to inform me of my mis-spelling of the word 'principal.'  In the letter I'd used the 'ple' ending instead of the correct one, 'pal.'

You can't believe how many times I'd spellchecked the letter before sending it.  Neither can you believe how bad I felt after learning I'd allowed such a breach of spelling go to one of my teachers.

I've relived that moment over and over again.  The part that bothers me the most is that I knew that Pricipal (like Grade School Principal), was spelled different than principle (the principle of the matter)!  And yet I'd failed to catch the error!

But I've lived through it.  No, it hasn't been life changing or nothin' like that . . . (are you readin' this Mrs. Rowton?  Heck, I don't care whether or not she reads it, but I do care if Mrs. Landrus reads it!)

I swiped a picture off the Rector Website of the 2007 Board Members of The Rector Museum because Mrs. Landrus was in it.  I display that picture here with the individuals name displayed above the picture as you "mouseover" each face.

I still see the same lovely lady (that I met that day), who changed my life some nearly 50 years ago.  God bless Mrs. Landrus . . .

Rector Museum Board

Rector Museum Member Names

George Cavaness

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