Midway Old School: Part I
The other day my friend, Bill Penn, posted a picture of one of my teachers from Midway Elementary School. The teacher’s name was Ms. Evelyn Clarke, my sixth grade teacher. Johnnie Murphy, who grew up in Midway, stopped by Bill’s store and dropped off her photos and three books of poetry that she had written, Hush Let Me Hear (1971); Now Let Me Sing (1976); and Earth Are You Listening? (1981).
Murphy had Clarke when he was in the sixth grade. His brother Jimmy Murphy, who was a couple of years younger, also was taught by her. Johnnie and Jimmy Murphy despite the fact they now live in Scott County, are very active with Midways Veterans Memorial Committee. They are the gentlemen who have continued to place flags on veterans graves during Memorial Day weekend.
Everybody that had Clarke for a teacher definitely remembers the experience. She didn’t just teach a few students during her time she taught mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. You might say, you weren’t officially a member of the family until you had your turn in her class.
Helen Rentch remembers Clarke as a tough teacher. Rentch, then Roach, said she had to take home seven books a night to do her homework. Her father, Dr. Ben Roach, her sister Judy and Tom also had Clarke and she remembers that she had Clarke’s sister, Miss Caldwell, in the first grade.
She was what we would consider today as “Old School,” a term used to describe an earlier time that favored traditional ways, retro or vintage. I believe that Merriam-Webster Dictionary had Clarke’s picture next to the phrase where the dictionary described what it meant.
Speaking of dictionaries, there was one time when she was reading something to us and she read the word Palomino and pronounced it something like Pal-o my-n–o. I then raised my hand. She called on me and I went on to explain to her that she had mispronounced Palomino and it should be pronounced Pal-o-me-no. I should know, as Palomino is a coat color in horses, consisting of a gold coat and white a mane and tail, and on top of all that I had one in my backyard and rode it every day. Roy Roger’s horse Trigger was a Palomino. I was waiting for her to lambast me for correcting her. She quietly laid down the book she was reading, “John William (that’s what she called my dad and that’s what she called me) we will get out the dictionary and see what the correct pronunciation is.” I held my breath praying that she didn’t ask me to look it up. I knew how to correctly pronounce the word but I also knew that I didn’t know how to spell it.
Fortunately, she took it upon herself to find the word and began to read to the class. She admitted that the way I said it was the correct pronunciation and was the preferred way to pronounce it, but her pronunciation was also acceptable. Then she proceeded to lambast me for correcting her and to never do it again.
I got lambasted, but I was right. However, I have yet to find a dictionary, foreign language book, or anything that said that her way of saying Palomino was also acceptable. As a matter of fact, I have never heard anyone pronounce Palomino the way she did. Maybe her way of saying it was “Old School.”
I’ll have more on Ms. Clarke next week.