Traveling Memory Lane Back to School
It’s only August, yet it’s “back to school” for many
students this month. Here in rural Virginia, our students go back to school
quite early. It is, I think, because of the large number of snow days that
keep kids home and school buses in the garage during much of the winter.
When I think about teachers, I think about Miss Landes.
Zona Landes was absolutely my favorite teacher. She taught English. It was
she who first urged me to become a writer— “because of your imagination”—she
would say, with a wry smile.
I’d be remiss if I did not mention
Mrs. Ruth Dalton, too. She, also, taught English, and also urged me
to become a writer. Thank you, ladies, for putting ideas into my head!
I truly loved both of these women, and although Mrs. Dalton is gone to her
heavenly reward now, I spot Miss Landes from time to time. This always
causes me to break into a big smile and rush the poor dear. One great thing
about getting older is, I can call her “Zona” without feeling guilty or
still employs that wry smile.
There was one teacher in elementary school with whom I
most assuredly did
not get along; the dislike was mutual between me and
Miss Lucille Bonner. Miss Bonner taught school and then
was an elementary
principal in Bath County for 50 years.
She was a formidable woman to contend with, if you failed to measure up to
her high standards in some way. Miss Bonner detested that “imagination” of
mine that Miss Landes later found remarkable.
One day, Miss Bonner and I got into a terrible row when she decided that, as
a “recess activity,” we could all go outside and pick up trash. “I don’t
like getting dirty,” I whined. “And besides, my father doesn’t want me doing
that.” “Well, I DO want you to do it.” This elicited a confrontation between
Daddy, in his State Police uniform, and Miss Bonner, in her Shelton Stroller
shirtwaist, shouting at each other behind closed doors. In the end, I was
“punished” by being made to sit in Miss Bonner’s office and read during
recess. Ah, little did she know!
I never thought much about Miss Bonner until I began poking through files
and boxes at the historical society. There on a shelf I found a treasure
trove labeled “Lucille Bonner’s scrapbooks.” I began poking through them,
and suddenly found myself thrust down Memory Lane. Regardless of how I once
felt, I now regret that I did not know her better. After poking through her
keepsakes, I now understand how loveable Miss Bonner really was.
The photographs Miss Bonner pasted in her books are priceless in and of
themselves. “Warm Springs School, 1923”—one of her earliest years of
teaching—shows Lucille and a host of
other young lovelies, teachers all, draped
across a brand new Ford. Other photos
are priceless for their glimpse into history:
Picnic at Muddy Run, 1927; May Day at
Millboro, 1926; Field Day at Valley High,
1928. What’s more, Miss Bonner identified
almost every person in every photo.
I know that some of you reading this
recall Miss Bonner. Every person who
went through the Bath school system for
50 years does. Did you know
that Miss Bonner saved every card signed by her
students through the years? Did you know that,
if you gave Miss Bonner a Christmas gift,
your little tag with the childish printing
is still in her scrapbook, with her notation
of the gift written beside it? Perfume.
Hankies. Stockings. It’s all there, preserved
If you got married between 1963 and 1978, your wedding
announcement is probably pasted into Miss Bonner’s book. It is not
surprising she had a special affinity for wedding photos of her former
students. She was a member of the Spinster’s Club for more than 70 years;
surely, she thought she’d die without ever becoming a bride herself.
But fate had a delightful surprise in store for Lucille
Bonner. Along about 1985, an old
sweetheart returned to sweep her off her feet. Fred Gleim was the
only man Lucille Bonner ever loved. But he had headed north, while Lucille
stayed in Warm Springs. Fred Gleim married, almost half a century passed,
and then his wife died. He hied back to Warm Springs, scooped up Lucille
and, at age 87, made her a blushing bride.
Ain’t love grand?