REMEMBERING A MONROE  “EDUCATIONAL” LEGEND

 

 

          In various Tribune columns I have referenced Monroe teachers I consider “legends” in the field of education not only from my generation but from generations spanning the 1940’s and 1950’s.  Names such as Bill Davies, David Hitchcock, Julia Hogan, Wayne Shields, Kathryn Smith Phillips, Nanette Robison & Nell Mashburn. 

          One name has been omitted from this list and it is my error in not remembering and paying tribute to one who came to Monroe in 1937 to teach in the school system and became one of the most dedicated and beloved of teachers, Emily Johnson Stark.

          While updating my Monroe notebooks recently, I happened across a letter Emily wrote to the Tribune in 1970 recalling her years in Monroe along with those years she taught school in Dekalb County. Emily married Gus Stark, a Monroe native who was a former tax commissioner for Walton County, in 1956 and moved to Avondale Estates in 1958

          Prior to retiring from teaching in July, 1970, Emily wrote the following letter to her friend Sanders Camp, editor of the Walton Tribune in which she shared happy memories of her time in Monroe as a teacher which evoked happy memories for me of the times and people she wrote about.

          Sanders entitled her letter published in the Tribune on May 27, 1970, “I Remember…..” Says Former Local Teacher Now Retiring”.

          “Even though I have enjoyed these 12 years of teaching here, eight at Southwest DeKalb High School and four at Columbia High School, Monroe is still ‘home’ to us and we hope to sp

          Many of my former students are now leaders in Monroe and Dekalb County and I’m proud to claim them. The first class I sponsored in Monroe was the class of 1940 and this was the first class to go to New York.  Previous classes had only gone to Washington.

          Mrs. Tom Towler and Mrs. R.C. Martin helped me to chaperone this first trip.  Josephine Towler was in this class as was Bill Stark.  In fact, I am now teaching in DeKalb County two students whose parents I taught in Monroe: Steve Hutchings, son of Walt and Virginia Witcher Hutchings and Denise Shelnutt, daughter of Bobby and Shirley Witcher Shelnutt.

          So you see, I really am a ‘teacher of yesteryear’ and I can’t hide it! It’s time for me to retire.  I prefer to hear ‘why DID you’ rather than ‘why DON’T you?’

          One of my pleasant memories from ‘way back’ is sponsoring the first Future Teachers Association at Monroe High. We named it the Rufus C. Harris FTA in honor of a Monroe native who was president of Tulane University and went on to become president of Mercer University. I enjoyed working with the Glee Club for several years with Nelly White Segars as pianist. Some of the boys who sang in special numbers were Johnny Bell, Josie Blasingame, Knox Bell, Julian Stewart, Richard Wright and Jimmy Burton.

          One of the first public programs I directed after coming to Monroe in 1937 was a ‘womanless wedding’ for the benefit of the Kiwanis Club. Ed Almand was the bride and Caldwell McGarity was the groom. George (Icky) Lewis won the beauty contest.  For a number of years I was the Gypsy Fortune Teller at the Kiwanis Carnival.  There was never a dull moment in summer with the Senior Girl Scouts at Camp Rutledge, where Dorothy Nowell was director, Mamie Williamson dietician and Dot Wright in charge of swimming.

          A big event in 1952 was receiving a call from the Herb Shriner show, Two for The Money, in the middle of class one day. I was invited to appear on the show when I accompanied the seniors to New York.  I learned later that Gus Stark had been responsible for this (he was an eligible bachelor then) and the event caused much excitement. My seniors were in the audience to cheer (a fix) but the questions on the show certainly were not fixed.  My partner, a mannequin salesman from Chicago, and I earned $700 that night.  The question I missed was naming a seaport in Spain.  I just couldn’t think quickly.

          On my return to Monroe a certain gentleman met me on Broad Street and chided: “Anyone who can’t name a seaport in Spain?  Anyone should know Lisbon.”  And I replied, “But Lisbon is in Portugal!”

          When I first went to Monroe seven of us teachers lived upstairs at Mrs. Gallaway’s home on Washington Street.  We called ourselves the GGG’s (Girls of the Gallaway Garrett).  When the eligible men called we never knew who would ask for whom. Later four of us moved to the Hotel Monroe and life there was just like one big family.

          During my years in Monroe I taught Latin, French and Senior English and served as Beta Club sponsor for several years.  In 1945 I became advisor for the school’s first annual, the “Hurricane”, where I served in that capacity until I left Monroe.  Martha Launius, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Dennie Launius was editor of the 1945 Hurricane and Mell Cleaton was business manager.

          As I said, I have happy memories of Monroe.”

          Emily Johnson Stark died on March 11, 2002 and is buried in Rest Haven Cemetery next to her husband.