– PART TWO
When Nell Mashburn arrived in Monroe to teach her special classes, one of
the first things she did was to find a reputable car dealership to service her
car. She was directed to Walker Motor Company on Broad Street. The first person
she met was service manager Mell Conner who welcomed her to town. Explaining to
Mell her purpose in town, he said he had a son, Jimmy, who might benefit in what
she had to offer. Nell said, “I will sign him up. He will be my first
student.” Nell’s second student was Jan McGarity, daughter of the late
Mr.& Mrs. Caldwell McGarity and the list grew rapidly from there.
As Nell’s classes began, loose leaf notebooks the students referred to
as “Speech Notebooks” were handed out to hold page after page of printed
material Nell expected them to read, learn or recite in her classes.
Brightly colored stars were pasted on the pages when an exceptional
rendering of a poem, fable or story was delivered.
These notebooks grew large as the years passed and more binders were
needed to continue holding all the pages as the students returned year after
The enthusiasm and success of Nell’s classes spread rapidly through
town and it was not long before parents of the high school students were
pressuring Mr. Odom for Nell to teach their children as well.
By 1950 Nell’s classes ranged from first grade through high school. The
subject matter was enhanced to include the older, more mature studies which
delighted Nell. She spent summers
attending classes in Athens, Milledgeville & North Carolina taking a variety
of subjects she felt would be suited for her high school students. Notes from
these courses were gathered into her own notebooks which she transcribed to pass
on to her upper level students. Just
like her student’s notebooks, hers grew heavy with material filling binder
For those students Nell sensed had an artistic or dramatic flair, she
organized and sponsored a local chapter of the National Thespian Society in high
school so their voice and talent could be further illuminated by the various
plays she chose to fit their individual talents.
Should a parent or visitor had taken a quick peek inside her studio on
any given day, they would have found her teachings ranging from children’s
poems & fables to Shakespeare, Greek & Roman classics, poetry, Gibran,
Goethe, biographies of famous authors along with current literature and prose of
the day along with art history and art. And,
quietly nestled among these subjects, she taught them the importance of the
social graces; the art of the letter, how to pour and hold a cup of tea, the
majestic beauty of the operas and how to properly interpret them, how to
properly cut fried chicken with a knife & fork, the correct way to talk on
the telephone and the importance of friends and friendships and what it takes to
be a friend.
It seemed she knew everything and how she smiled as she imparted all this
valuable wisdom to her eager young charges whose minds she carefully tended.
She was often referred to as
“The Lamp of Knowledge” with her students being her candles, ready to be lit
with the knowledge she passed on to them forever changing their lives by what
she taught them. One of her early Rochelle students dubbed her “The Pied Piper
of Education” and likened her as literally waltzing out of a school building
onto a wide road, very similar to the “Yellow Brick Road”, lined with books
as her students followed merrily behind her down the road into the sunset as she
tossed page after page of notes to them, material vital to their educational and
Nell’s studio changed venues several times over the years, from the old
red brick school building to a small church building on High School Avenue to
the old Monroe High School and ending up at her home on Broad Street, going full
circle, so similar to where it all began back in 1945 at her home in Rochelle.
A “sweet memory” was enjoying a lemon drop before classes from an
antique glass turkey sitting on a table or chest. Next to it was a small metal
“treasure chest” where coins could be deposited to help “feed the
turkey”, always keeping it full of lemon drops for everyone to enjoy.
The popularity of Nell’s classes soon caught the attention of parents
in Social Circle who wanted their children to absorb the wonder and wisdom so
unique to this wonderful teacher. In the early 60’s Nell rearranged her
evening schedule to accommodate the Monroe high students and the students from
Social Circle who would drive to her home and join the others as they received
lessons like none other.
Shortly before her husband’s death in 1944, Nell sustained a horrible
fall which left her severely bruised and broken; her arm in a cast from her
right wrist to her shoulder. Arthritis set in causing unending pain and
discomfort. As the years passed the arthritis spread, transforming into a type
of immobility which resulted in the use of a cane or physical assistance.
Her Monroe physician, Dr. Philip R. Stewart, often fussed at her for not
closing down her classes and taking better care of herself. She would not hear
of it, her students were her life and she was determined to keep going for them.
In late 1963 Dr. Stewart strongly advised her moving to a warmer, more Southern
climate would help ease the pain she wore on a daily basis.
reluctance and sadness, in the spring of 1964 she closed the door to her studio
and students, packing her house of furniture, books and memorabilia and moved to
Valdosta to live with her sister. Prior to her departure she was honored at a
farewell reception where a large part of the Monroe community came to express
their love, devotion and appreciation for all she had meant to her students and
the town. When Anita Sams’ county history, “Wayfarers in Walton” was
published, she sent Nell a copy, inscribing it to “One of Walton County’s
most loyal, distinguished and influential wayfarers whose absence is greatly
One of the greatest lessons Nell taught me came from her own experiences,
saying “Happiness really has little to do with wealth. Look around you and
find things that you love and share them with others; you will not be
I asked Nell’s first Monroe student, Jimmy Conner, to share his
memories of what she meant to him. A recent email begins to explain the essence
of Nell Mashburn. Jimmy wrote:
“She was the epitome of grace, culture and elegance, the likes of which I had
never experienced. I loved her but
there was always formality in all she did but she never came across as being
“superior.” She kept us
spellbound. I wanted to hear her
stories and whatever else she had to say. She took us to Shakespeare plays in
Athens and Atlanta. She was one I
wanted to do well for, wanted to make her proud of me. I loved her maid,
“Levy”, always attired in her black & white uniform, pushing in the cart
from which Nell served tea. She was
without a doubt, “one of a kind”. I adored her and miss her still.”
be thrilled to know Dawn Griffin of Liberty First Bank and Patti Souther of
State Farm along with assistance from Communities in Schools have formed a class
in helping Monroe Area High School football students learn the essentials of
etiquette. An editorial from the October 25, 2017 Tribune states: “No matter
their background or gender, such etiquette skills would stand all our youth in
good stead going into the future. Many more of Walton County’s youth need to
be taught such skills, not just athletes.”
The granite marker covering Nell’s grave in Morningside Cemetery in
Rochelle carries a sentiment, from an early student who knew her so well, and
attributed to Archibald Rutledge, beautifully sums up her life: “She was one
of life’s extras.” Her students and friends were the fortunate ones who
“soaked up the knowledge” she passed along to us.