Old Lady Rowton

Old Lady Rowton

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ol' laDy Rowton wuz a skoolteechr what teeched adn lernd me how to reed n rit reele gud!  (grin . . .)

This teacher had to be the worlds meanest teacher.  I had her for three years running.  Every time I'd pass and go to the next grade, so would she!  My guess is she was graduating to higher classes of mean!

I mulled over going through another school year with her, and I had decided to quit school.  I wasn't about to take another year of abuse from that hateful woman.

Mom talked me into at least going to school and seeing who my teacher was this time.  But I wanted nothing to do with school.  I despised the very thought of anything to do with education.  Momma assured me that school gets to be much more fun as you progress through to the higher grades.

There were times I know and understand that I needed a paddling.  But, she never had the right to treat me like I was her dog to kick around and mistreat.  A teachers job is to teach, not raise the children.  A teacher does this by leading, not beating, loving not shoving, kindness not blindness . . .

Board of Education

When I look back and consider that she was one of the teachers that touched me the most, (literally), and had a huge impact on my life, (I nearly quit school), I am very fortunate that early on I had started living for God.  No, I wasn't at the time the typical Christian, but I was living my life cleaner than most; and living like I thought He would want.

Of course I was still a child and still did childish things, but Mrs Rowton did change my life.  I learned to pray while under her tutelage.  I learned to bite my tongue.  I learned to hold my tail up off the seat until it quit hurting too bad to sit on.  I learned to just shut her out and study.  Yep, learned a lot under her . . .

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here's the whole original story:

I had the privilege of attending school in Rector, AR. as well as in Corcoran, CA.  Dad worked anywhere he could find something to do with which to make a living for the family.  We were quite poor, but, we were contented.  And we did have some pride as well.

We were honest, hard working, church going people of integrity.  I never knew Dad to drink or go gallavatin' around.  He raised us kids in church, and was faithful to this day.

Between his work for different entities and Mom chopping and picking cotton, pulling boles and whatever else she could find, they kept us in home, clothes and food, however sparse.

For the last few years before we moved to California for good, Dad would drive a tractor most of the spring and summer.  Come fall he would take us all out to Corcoran, CA., work through the 'gin season,' then with a small stash (that's money . . . not grass), would drive back to Arkansas to finish out the winter and get an early start in spring.

Similar to my school room in Rector, AR.

Well, on these forays back and forth between California and Arkansas, we were placed in school in those two locales.  You wouldn't think there was much difference in the school curriculums.  But there was!  A huge difference!

Coming from the Arkansas schools into the California schools was a breeze.  I was always quite a ways ahead of the students there, and so I could coast and generally, just have fun and still make perfect grades.

But, when we would return to Rector, ohhhh man . . . that was rough!  Then, I had to make up all that time I'd lost sluffing off in California!

I would be behind in all my studies, and every time I was re-enrolled in the Rector Elementary School system, it fell my lot to be in Mrs. Rowtons' room . . . and we only had one thing in common: our mutual dislike for each other.  In fact when I study about it a little, I feel it bordered on genuine hate!

The first time I met Mrs. Rowton was in third grade.  Whatever it was I did to gain her dislike stuck, because I seem to remember getting paddled every day.

Yep . . . It hurts

In her class, I felt as if she thought it was her god given authority to bring me up to par with the rest of the class within a couple of days.  It didn't matter how hard I tried, how much I did, what all I had been through, it was never enough!

Usually I was informed of the matter with the flat side of her paddle on the broadside of my backside.  I felt like she rather enjoyed beating (notice the verbiage), the crap out of me every day.

Likeness of the old bag

Of course this isn't the real Mrs. Rowton, but it sure looks like her . . . sarcastic scowl and all!

I also felt like she took exception with me because of who I was, what my name was, where I went to church, my gender, my hair color, the color of my eyes . . .

I would have loved the idea of asking her just what I was doing wrong and what could I do to fix things, but it's hard to talk to a paddle.  It wasn't just a paddle, it was a tool, more . . . no, it was more; it was a weapon!  It could shoot down the toughest kid and render him a mere sniveling cry baby.

So, what would it do to a soft hearted kid?  One who could not concentrate because of what would happen at the slightest provocation the next day.  A kid that could not sleep for the amount of marital problems at home.  A kid that couldn't concentrate because of the same problems.  A kid that wanted with all his heart to be accepted . . .

Finally the day came when I would pass to the next grade.  As the year grew to a close and summer loomed on the horizon, I felt life was worth living again!  I wanted to be out where I could run, and play, and pretend, and most of all . . . work on Grandpa Sheltons farm.

Free . . .  Finally free!  I couldn't believe that I was finally free from that horrid jailhouse of a classroom.  I was finally free from that hateful woman who called herself an educator.

Aw shucks . . .

Oh, she was an educator all right.  What she taught was if you didn't follow her rules, you would hear from the other rule; the one that would blister you mister!  (awww shucks, yeah . . .  I do.  I do write poetry . . .).

Finally school let out and I was going in the fourth grade!  When school let out that last day of my third year of school, I was so excited!

As I walked eastward down the ancient sidewalk toward home, I considered the situation.  I could have, and would have, loved her, but she refused to show anything other than outright and raw disdain for me.

The whole horrible incident of being her student was a dark cloud in my life (and would stay with me to this day).  I reminisced about it the whole of the time it took me to get home . . .  Heck, even the huge puddle of water in the loading dock filled with polywogs didn't interest me today.  I had something to think out.

I remembered the hurt feelings when she, while conversing with other kids, laughing and enjoying herself, would instantly change when I walked into the room.  Her facial features, her demeanor, even her complexion!  The scowl that would come over her face would scatter the kids like a busted bag of pennies.

I really did wish I could please her.  I really did wish I could just live in peace.  She kept me torn up inside the entire time I was enrolled in her class, whether I was present or not.

I saw Ricky, my little dog, (he was a Feist, but Grandpa said he was a full blood soup hound.  I didn't have the slightest idea of what that meant at the time).  Instantly my dark times were over.  Fun was coming up the road to meet me, and I couldn't wait to get started on my summer!

I was free now!  I had the whole summer!  Summer to me always seemed like a hundred years.  I could do anything I wanted!  But summer had passed a whole lot faster than it did last year!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Then suddenly something was quite wrong.  There was only two weeks left until school started after summer break.  I couldn't believe it when Momma told me.  I couldn't believe it when I realized that summer was nearly gone and school would start again soon!  What had happened to the time?

Mom took us kids up to the school and registered us.  I was now in the fourth grade.  I couldn't believe what it was like to be growing up.  Responsibilities were ever increasingly handed over to me, and I was wanting to do grownup things.

Not only that, but I was being ever increasingly held to those responsibilities as well.  Not my idea of the fun of growing up!

But my idea of grownup things and mammas idea of grownup things were two completely different matters!  I was eleven years old and I had places to explore with my BB gun.

She informed me that it was now my job to work in the garden, slop the pigs, AND wash or dry dishes . . .  I couldn't believe what I was hearing!

I didn't want to do chores . . .  I was still a kid.  I didn't realize just how much growing up I was 'afixin to do!'

In anticipation of my new year at school and without you-know-who, I happily made my way to school.  Full of joy that I'd have a chance to do good in school this year without any hindrance.

When I walked into the classroom for my first day of fourth grade, fear gripped me and I stood frozen at what I saw.  There was the monster teacher!  What was she doing here?  This was MY room, and she was invading it!

Soon, I learned she had been raised up to a higher year of teaching.  That was all well and good, but, why did she have be MY teacher?

Now, here I sat in the little desk right behind Cathy Malin.  What a beautiful lady she was!  I fell in love with her the very first time I ever saw her.  Well there goes that daydream because here comes HER . . .

It just seemed like she hated me!  It wasn't 15 minutes into class and it was already starting.  That incessant picking at me.  It was as if she felt proud of herself and enjoyed taking all her frustrations out on my rear end with that deadly paddle of hers.

I believe with all my heart she could strike the same exact millimeter of my rea rend with at least twenty swats per day.  She never missed!  Ohhhh Gawd, I dreaded that first lickin' and walked lightly so as not to enrage her.

And when you got a paddling from her, it was NOT a private matter played out in some private room out of sight of mocking and loathe some eyes.  NO WAY!

You were bent over your desk, enduring the sound licks that popped like firecrackers in a staccato explosion of that paddle across your backside!  The sudden stop of that paddle meeting the part of you that you were going to have sit on in a few seconds after the beating you got would somehow cause you to lose count somewhere around 1,000 . . .

Then, when you did try to sit down, you were convinced that the 'crack' in your backside was all the way through!  It hurt so bad that you'd think you were going to break clean in two!

I remember once I held my caboose off the seat by placing my weight on my elbows.  I sat, (actually hung), there for several minutes while my caboose grew back together enough to support my weight without breaking me in two.

I've thought back and wondered if the reason she did whip me so hard and mean was to make me cry.  Several boys did.  But I never did.  It hurt bad enough to scream, but I never allowed myself the comfort of a whimper, much less a few tears.

What hurt even worse than the paddling was the insults.  I didn't know half the time when I was being insulted, and some of the time, if I didn't respond to an insult and act fearful, she would paddle me.

That is probably one of the reasons I'm so protective of my family now, is because I needed protection, and it never came.  I always knew in my mind that no one was going to pick on my kids like that.

I always suffered disparaging remarks from her no matter when it was.  Plus, some of the kids would make fun and laugh because I lived on Sikes Rd.  It would be years before I would know what it meant to live on 'the wrong side of the tracks . . .'

I was really putting an effort into my studies but it didn't seem to make any difference whatsoever.  Momma was working with me in my school work, but it was all she could do to help me as she had a minimal education herself.  Eventually, together, we got through it, and that's how I passed the fourth grade.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

That September, I was ready for school early!  I looked forward to school with a renewed interest and hope.  I was so happy I think I ran all the way to school.  If you check out how far it is to where the school was located in relation to our house on Sikes Rd., it was quite a ways, but not for a fifth grader!

Before, when I was in 'The Old Ladys' room, I dragged to school.  I hated school.  I loathed even the thought of being in close proximity to that hateful old woman!

I walked into the school a happy guy!  I was going to be going to a class at school which was not dominated by THE DOMINATRIX!  I made my way down the hall to the new room which had been assigned me, turned the corner, saw some of my old school mates and waved with a hearty hello.  And there, at the blackboard was the teacher.

She was writing her name, just as I had seen it done the last two years.  OH MY GAWD!  I nearly had a heart attack!  I couldn't breathe.  I felt dizzy, and sick, and . . . and . . . and . . .

OH MY GAWD!  OH MY GAWD!    MY GAWD!  MY GAWD!  I started walking backwards, not looking where I was going and backed into someone.  I willed myself to not look at her for fear she would use her radar eyes in the back of her head to see me, and stop my one chance of getting away.

I was nearly at the door when the bell rang and she turned around!  She looked me right full in the eye and smiled.  Then in that hated raspy demon voice of hers, in the sweetest and most sickening way, "OK class.  Take your seats and let's get started on a brand new year . . . "

Somehow I made it through the day, and the week, and the month . . .

One day I got a pair of Levis given to me. Read the story, then come back here . . .

own pair of Levis

The days, weeks and months seemed to fly by.  Soon we'd leave for California and Dad was talking about staying.  But none of the family wanted to live in California.  I remembered our days out there and while I didn't hate it so much, my druthers were in Arkansas.

When we returned right before Christmas, it seemed as if I was just starting again.  All the headache of trying to catch up.  All the recesses staying in with the monster teacher and her glaring at me the whole time.  There was no doubt about it, she hated me!

When I got out of school for the summer, I made a promise to myself that if I were ever to be placed in her class again, I would quit school.  If it meant running away from home to do that, then so be it.  I would never, ever attend a class where she would be present again.

Not only that, but I would never again subject myself to that kind of treatment neither.  No matter WHO it was from.  And I haven't.  I've had run-ins with bullies to this day, and I'll take a little in an attempt to keep peace, then I'll quietly leave.  But approach a memeber of my family, and you won't be getting a spanking, you'll be gettin' a whoopin!

From what I've heard, Mrs. Rowton was probably a good teacher.  But I've also heard that I was not the only student treated in this manner.  She was an excellent teacher to those who were not on her bad side, but to them for whom she could care less, it was more or less curtains.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

During the course of a 15 month residency in Arkansas, I was working as an electrician for a day or so at the gin in Hargraves, a wide spot in the road a few miles east of Rector on Hwy 49 and met this good ol' boy raised in the Rector School.

We were just shootin' the breeze when he asked where I was from, and I explained to him we were out of CA, but I was born there.  He knew a few of my kinfolks, and we talked a little 'bout this and that when the subject turned to school.

He grew quiet for a few seconds, reminiscing about some private memoriy when suddenly he let out a big laugh and asked if I knew a teacher there by the name Rowton.

"Rowton!  Are you kidding me?  Man, I had that teacher for three solid years.  Every time I'd pass to the next grade, so would she!  I nearly quit school because of her!" I exclaimed.

He said "that old woman whipped me every day for a solid year.  Most of the time I never even knew why.  I'd given up on trying to please her.  Finally I made it through her class and the next year I had a different teacher.

He continued with a story he had to tell me.  "One day I was introduced to tobacco.  I'd learned how to spit purty good, but, in order to spit, I had to have a place to spit.  I sat near the corner of the room, there close to the windows.  There at that corner, the window was quite high off the ground, and you had to lean out over the window sill to see who was below you."  He paused and smiled to himself.

redman tobacco

"Well, one day it was in the afternoon 'bout two o'clock.  Half the kids were asleep, the others were nodding.  Me, I was a spittin out the window.  Suddenly the door of the class exploded open, and there stood Mrs. Rowton.  Talking about mad!  She was furious mad!  She was shaking she was so mad!"

He took a little time and giggled, then continued again.  "That woman had fire and vengeance in her face, smoke coming out her ears, blood in her eyes.  But that wasn't all!  Not by a long shot!  She also had tobacco spit running down the front of her head onto her face.  Man, you ain't never seen a mad woman until you can picture that!"

It just so happened she was the recipient of one of his streams of 'backy spit that went out the window.  Now, she was IN the room with him, and she was headed right for him.

"I swallowed my plug of Red Man, but she wasn't buying that!"  He had stains down his mouth, had a wad in his pocket, and within fifteen seconds of swallowing the 'backy, was turning green at the gills.  By the time she regained her composure, he'd lost his, and was leaning over the sill valiantly blowing chowder.

He was laughing his head off as he described the scene.  "I was afraid to quit hurling because I figured she was gonna beat the tar outa me.  At that time I didn't care!  But she was getting a little sick herself what with the 'backy spit on her head and face, and him throwing up everywhere."

He explained "I was so sick, she seemed contented with what had happened to me.  Finally, she sputtered a little, then spun around and marched through the class, out the door, and that was the last time I ever saw her!  And I'm so glad.  I sure thought she was gonna beat the tar out of me royal!  And she had me, dead to rights!  But she never touched me!"

Although I got a kick out of the story, I felt kind of saddened that this had to happen to her.  Did she deserve it?  Who can tell?  But it was funny!  It would have been funny no matter who it happened to, but it was hilarious because it happened to her!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I remember a happy incident there in Rector.  At President John F. Kennedys innaugaration, we took a field trip.  My very first field trip!  We walked west from the Rector School on 5th St, then north on Woodland Heights Rd.

One of the purtiest girls in the class lived up there in one of those real nice houses.  Seems like it was Cathy Malin.  And her family even had a TV!  They was rich!  But, she was a really nice girl who always treated me so nice when others were not just standoffish, but snotty and rude.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Another very nice girl was Rae Jean Davis.  Her Dad was the Jeweler in Rector at the time, and I remember seeing her in their store on Main St.  Of course I was always on the outside looking in . . .  But those two girls were gorgeous, beautiful angels!

I want to add this little note:  In 1970, I was working at a furniture store in Oildale, a suburb of Bakersfield, CA., just north of the river call Westside Furniture.  I delivered furniture among many other duties at a job I had right before I married.  One day I was sent to deliver some furniture to Mojave, CA.  This is a little town east of Bakersfield, and is the gateway to the Mojave Desert on Highway 58, just east of Tehachapi, (CA).

While setting up the bedframes I noticed the accent of the lady to whom I was delivering.  She had also noticed mine and inquired as to my origin.  I replied Arkansas to which she excitedly replied "Me too!"  Then, "what part?"

Since most people don't have any kind of idea as to where the itty-bitty towns are, I usually say Jonesboro, or Paragould.  I replied with "Paragould."

She said "me too!"

Then I said "actually, I'm from a little town north of Paragould, called Rector."

By this time she quite excited and responded with "me too!  I always say Paragould or Jonesboro because they're much larger and people are more apt to know where I'm talking about."she explained

Now, she had my full attention.  How often do you meet someone from your old home town, especially from a little place like Rector?  Of course I then asked her name to which she replied "Kathy (I think), Davis.  My Dad was the jeweler in Rector."

"I went to school with a Rae Jean Davis" I said.

"She's my little sister." was her reply.

Of course by the time we'd conversed about Rector, the times, the place, and it was time for me to go.  I've reiterated this story to relatives, but, it's just an unimportant little quip of a story to them and it means nothing.

But I've thought about that meeting many times.  I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking to her.  She was a very nice lady, and I would have loved visiting more with her.

It just goes to show ya; it's a small world . . .

George Cavaness

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