• By John McDaniel

The Week At Midway: Midway Old School, Part II

I believe that I convinced everyone last week that that Midway Elementary school teacher Ms. Evelyn Jennnesse Clarke was definitely ‘OLD School.” She taught a great number of Midwegians throughout her career, and in my immediate family alone, she taught my father, mother, and me. The other night I ask my brother if he ever had her as a teacher. He broke out in a cold sweat as he explained that he missed her by one year.

Mrs. Jenny Clarke, Ms. Evelyn’s mother, taught my mother in the first grade. On mom’s second day of school Jenny, let her first grade class out to go to recess. Mom, being new to the process of attending school, thought school was over and went home. (In those days students actually walked to school.) The teacher, Mrs. Clarke, called the class in and discovered that she was one student short. A classmate explained that mom had gone home, thinking school was out. The janitor was sent to bring her back to school.

I’m not sure, but I don’t believe that dad had Mrs. Jenny, but he did have Ms. Evelyn. He remembered her as a teacher but she definitely became part of his life in later years. For my part, I had Ms. Evelyn in the sixth grade and had her sister, Mrs. Caldwell, as a substitute teacher a few times. That teacher thing definitely ran in her family.

Even though Ms. Evelyn didn’t know the correct pronunciation of Palomino she really knew a whole lot of other stuff and she made sure my fellow classmates and I learned plenty of other things under her tutelage. Like I wrote last week, she was definitely “Old School,” but we learned about poetry. Boy, did we learn about poetry. We discovered the difference between limericks, sonnets, and odes. She pointed out that poetry actually had rhythm patterns with funny names like iambic pentameter (John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”), dactylic hexameter (Homer’s “The Iliad”), and trochaic tetrameter (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha”). If we had really put our minds into this stuff, surely one of us could have invented rap and become a famous rapper before rapping was cool. We didn’t, because we were learning “Old School,” but I can appreciate poetry today and even quote a few lines from Shakespeare when I need to impress a date.

Last week I listed three books of poetry that Ms. Clarke published. Lea Ann Hanes reminded me that there was a fourth book of poems that was published, “Singing Our Song,” in 1988. This was Ms. Clarke’s last book. Toss Chandler visited Ms. Clarke on a regular basis and one day discovered that Clarke still had some unpublished poems. Chandler worked with Clarke and they published the final book of poems together. The book was illustrated by Chandler. (If anyone has a copy of this book for sale, please let me know. I would like to complete my collection.)

“Old School” Part Three next week.

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