To The

Laster School

Classmates Recall Adventures They Experienced
At One Room Schoolhouse Called Laster School

Printed in the Lexington Progress Wednesday May 15, 2013

Contributed by Dianna Grissom Reed, Janice Patterson Jones, Ann McAdams Stone and Bruce White

We want to tell you a story about education in Henderson County, TN. We, Bruce White, Ann Mc Adams Stone, Janice Patterson Jones, and Dianne Grissom Reed, all began our school days in a one room schoolhouse called Laster School. That was in 1955, and we all graduated from UT Martin in 1972. All four of us had teaching degrees.

Teacher - Clyde Martin

The teacher at Laster was Mr. Clyde Martin....the only teacher for all eight grades. His wife is still alive and living in Savannah, and his grandson, Steven Johnson, is now the Technology Supervisor for Hardin County. He was the uncle of Don Martin and Nancy Booth. Our cook, who cooked on a wood stove, was Jeanette Morris, the mother of Wanda Morris Williams. Our heating system was another wood stove in the center of the only classroom.

The highest enrollment at Laster (during our 3 years there) was 32. We averaged 4 students in each grade, but of course some would have 5 or 6, and some would have 2. We had a first grade table, a second grade table, and a third grade table. The fourth through sixth graders sat in individual desks with one arm for writing. The seventh and eighth graders sat in those desks that fit right behind each other and formed a line. To begin with....we LOVED our days at Laster! We loved going to school every single day. Of course, we knew that if we weren't in school we would be in the cotton fields. We absolutely loved Mr. Martin. The only time any of us could remember had a football helmet on his head during class. Mr. Martin told him to take it off. He didn't, so....Mr. Martin proceeded to take it off for him., but he couldn't get it off. He pulled and pulled and the boy's neck stretched and stretched.... it was the funniest sight in the world!! It finally came off, and we were laughing so hard we didn't check to see if the boy's head was still attached or not!!

Christmas 1956

Our last year, the third grade, our table was right beside a big window. We didn't have screens, so the window stayed open in warm weather. When we needed to go to the "toilet", we just went out the window, climbed down a tree, and went to the bathroom. We didn't ask permission, we just went out the window. If Mr. Martin noticed that one of us had been gone for a while, he sent another one to check and see what the problem was. To get back inside, we just climbed UP the tree and crawled back in the window.

We had a "library" that consisted of ONE shelf. We had one framed picture on the wall........George Washington, of course. Our day started with Mr. Martin listening to the first graders read, and when they were finished, they went outside to play. Then he read with the second grade and they went out to play. He finally worked his way up to the eighth grade. By that time, we young ones had already had about an hour of playtime, and then we ALL played another hour. When it was time to come in, he would ring a little hand bell. If we were placing way off in the woods, we didn't hear it. I don't remember him ever getting made about that, he just let us come in when we noticed that nobody else was outside. Of course, about once a week, somebody would hide his bell and we had VERY LONG recesses!

The only time I remember getting punished was when I called my cousin a cheater and made her cry. She wasn't cheating....she just had the prettiest rock for hopscotch... and I wanted her rock! I thought that if I could make her quit. I could get her rock. Well, some Good Samaritan told on me! I had to sit inside.... at recess....for a WEEK!!! My world, as I knew it, was OVER! It taught me a lesson.... never called her a cheater again! Other than hopscotch, we liked to play "kick the can" and "red rover".

Once a year. Middlefork School (commonly called The Lick') would come and play us in a game of softball. We thought those kids lived in New York City!! Some of them actually LIVED RIGHT BESIDE THE HIGHWAY!! We couldn't even SEE the highway! When they came, it was so special that we wore our EASTER outfits! It was so exciting to actually see kids from another school.

We got our water from a pump across the road and kept our little tin cups on a shelf on the wall. We got some gourds from neighbor and carved out our own drinking gourds, We had a chair factory right up the hill and they would let us come up there and get their scraps of wood. We used them to build playhouses, stacking the boards on top of gallon-sized tin cans. But...our real accomplishment was building houses so tall that we could stand up in them! That was quite a feat! We also had a cafe, made from wood and tin cans, where we sold mud pies! We HAD to taste them, but I think it was pretty rare for us to eat the whole pie. In the winter we would make snow balls, soak them in water, and have WAR! Janice Jones was getting pelted so bad that she hid in the toilet, along with the rest of us girls. The boys opened the door (she was sitting right in front of them, on the throne with the lid down) and they just about killed her with those ice balls!! And....once a girl dropped her 'Friendship Ring' down into the throne and was so upset that an eighth grade girl held a first grade girl by the ankles and lowered her down into the 'hole' and... she got the ring!

We had a neighbor who dug a storm house right up the hill from the school. It came a big rain and filled it up to about waist high on a kid. So...Bruce White and Robert McAdams decided, just before school started one morning, to push two boys into it and they did. So, Robert's mother, Mrs. Willie Lee McAdams, happened to be the substitute that day. When she called the roll, she asked if anybody had seen those two boys. Bruce and Robert kept their heads down, not saying a word, and the rest of us didn't know where the boys were. Well, they finally crawled out and came in the door. They were dripping wet and Mrs. Willie Lee found them some old clothes to put on. Bruce and Robert started snickering and someone finally told what happened, so she whipped Robert on the spot, since he belonged to her, and sent Bruce home so his parents could whip him!

Another big event had to do with the wood stove. Bruce's dad, Oder White, had come to the school early to build a fire so the building would be warm when school started. He had to go to work at his barber shop, so he left Bruce there. My brother, Carey, and I arrived about that time on the bus. We went inside and, among the three of us we figured out how to make it WARMER. We filled it up with wood, just as much as we could stuff in there. Then Bruce saw this knob on the stovepipe and KNEW that you were supposed to turn it. So...he reached up there and turned it as far as it would go. happened to be the knob that closed the flue and kept the smoke from escaping up the pipe! In just a few minutes, smoke started filling up that little school house until we couldn't breathe or see! We ran out the door just about the time Mr. Martin drove up. He had to race into the building, open up the flue and raise every window!! We got writing tablets and dish towels and anything we could find to fan the smoke out!! By that time, all of the students had arrived and we had to stay outside until the smoke cleared. What fun!! Then one day Mrs. Mary Bloodworth came to see us; she was the Supervisor of Instruction for Henderson County. She looked at Robert, who was chewing gum, and said, "Boy, spit that wax out!" He grinned and asked "What kind of wax...ear wax?" She got so mad we all feared for our lives.

Mrs. Jeanette Morris (the school cook and mother of Wanda Morris Williams) and Warren McAdams,
Nancy McAdams, Linda Fesmire, Brenda Morris, Barbara White and Judy Patterson

Our bus driver was Mr. Alf McPeake. When he stopped and opened the bus door, we always stepped over to the side so he could spit his tobacco juice, and then we got on. His phrase to us was always, "Did you know that me and you are kinfolks?" Then he would say, "Pretty girls and pretty boys." Every morning! morning Ann Stone came running up to our third grade table and said, "Guess what? Mama had another baby last night; it's a boy!" (She had eight in all and five became teachers.) I was all excited and asked her, "What did she name him?" She said "James Fred." I looked at her in horror and said, "James Fred? That's awful!" She told me it was after his Uncle Fred. He, by the way, is Mr. Jamie McAdams of Caywood School.

We also had a little grocery store up the hill called 'Miss Minnie's'. She was the aunt of Gene Milam, another teacher. At Miss Minnie's, you could take 12 cents and get a coke, a candy bar, and two double bubbles! We always had fall festivals where Jack and Dorothy McAdams would play the guitar and sing "Salty Dog".

As you can tell, the years in a one-room schoolhouse were absolute joy on earth! When we were in the fourth grade, all little schools were consolidated into a few big ones. We went to South Haven. We had never had a test before, and the first one we had...we all failed! The teacher told us we were going to have it, but that didn't mean anything to us we had never studied for a test before! Our years at South Haven were also great. We were always in the same room because at the time there was only one room per grade.

We also had a dear friend who started at South Haven with us and also graduated from UTM the same time we did. Her name was Kathy Little Tate. She taught school at Caywood.She was killed in a car accident when she was 36, and we miss her dearly. Her two children, Will Tate and Katie Tate, are now teachers.

Our teachers at South Haven were: Fourth Grade, Mrs. Jewel Pope, Fifth Grade, Mrs. Virginia Butler, Sixth grade, Mr. Berthel Johnson, Seventh Grade, Miss Avel Grissom, and Eighth Grade, Mr. James Wilson. Our principal was also James Wilson, and he was a super principal....we thought he walked on water! Imagine being a classroom teacher and principal too!! The only time I ever remember him spanking a girl was once when she threw a glass coke bottle out on the basketball court during a game. He might twist the boys ears, but all he had to do to us girls was give us a stern look! In Miss Avel's social studies class, I remember a certain time when we all had our books open and she was lecturing. She asked me a question and I said, "I'm sorry, Miss Avel, I didn't hear you." So she repeated it. A few minutes later she asked me another question. Again I said, "I'm sorry, Miss Avel, I didn't hear you." (I thought I was SO COOL.) On the third question, I repeated the same thing. She marched back to my desk, jerked my social studies book up....and my library book, "The Boy Next Door" went flying into the air!!! I learned NOT to hide my library book inside my text book!! Mr. Berthel Johnson always said, "If you can follow directions, you can educate yourself." None of us ever forgot that. Mrs. Virginia Butler wrote scripture on the board every morning and had beautiful bulletin boards. Mrs. Jewel Pope was was very good, fair, and stern, and had a lot of patience with us 'newcomers'. Then we went on to LHS. We all were either in the band, on the football team, or on the basketball team. We were also all in the Beta Club, and Ann Stone was our Valedictorian! I could study all night long for a test to make a decent grade, and she only had to look over it once to ace it. So...I said that to emphasize what a wonderful education we had in Henderson County and beyond, from the tiny one-room schoolhouse all the way through college. So, to all teachers we say, "We know it's getting tougher and tougher out there, but keep up the good work!" It's been a good life!

Also see Rhodes/Laster school

Back Home