Have you heard that old saying, “Those who can, do…..those who can’t, teach?”
Mr. Ratliffe Pascahall and his wife, Velna Gray, came into my life in 1960. They “moved in” just a little ways up Stonewall Street from us into a house across from the grammar school. I was going into the seventh grade. And let me tell you, I was so frightened by the unknowns of junior high that I was completely oblivious to the impact that move would have on the rest of my life!
They had three sons like stepping stones. Douglas was in the tenth grade. David was a freshman and Martin was one year ahead of me. They were gifted students, terrific friends and special mentors, not just to me, but to an entire student body. I didn’t, of course, realize then but I have spent a lifetime understanding more each day that children like this don’t “turn out” by accident. They had parents that knew something about life, motivation, communication, expectations, contributions and a healthy respect for people, places and things.
Miss Velna Gray taught junior high social studies. She could make studying the building of the Aswan Dam on the Nile River exciting and interesting. You try that sometime! And she was the first person ever not related to me to pull me aside and tell me I had special ability. “Kesley, you have a great sense of learning and the intelligence to comprehend it all. Please don’t cheat yourself in the high school days and life ahead.” Maybe she told lots of students the same thing. But I never forgot it. I majored in history in college in large part because of the interest she raised in me about the world around us.
Mrs. Paschall would have been a success in any endeavor she chose. She had the spirit and the will to do about anything. The fact that she could handle Mr. Paschall AND David and Martin (Doug didn’t need as much attention) was testimony to that! Her choosing to teach was an everlasting credit to our school, our community and countless lives just like mine.
Mr. Paschall taught high school biology, shop and agriculture. He never told me I was anything special. If you gave a wrong answer……especially if it was way south of the mark, he’d kinda stare around the room like you’d just dropped in from another planet, finally his eyes would narrow in on the culprit, “Did you come to learn today, or did you just come to be entertained!”
The maddest I ever saw him, besides the time he whipped David and Martin for being late to school, was over a blooming frog. He had me and Bobby Jackson carefully tie this live frog he picked up somewhere to a board. We were supposed to take a scalpel and lightly scrape the skin off one hind leg so the class could better study the blood circulation. We had the frog’s leg stretched too tight or we dug a little too deep—the leg popped off! We had cut the thing in two! Mr. Paschall shook for a while and then turned red, “I selected,” his words were a cross between torrid anger and abject disbelief as he repeated them over and over, “the two best men I had for the job”.
If a class or a group was really not acting to suit him he’d shake his head and admonish us, “Don’t act like them Atwood boys”. I don’t actually think he knew any boys from Atwood and I can assure you, he meant them no harm. It was just a reference with him to get us to mind our p’s and q’s.
He never missed a ball game of any kind. Usually, he sat up close and cheered for us and reminded our opponents that we “were gooder than they were”! When the football field needed the hash lines mowed, he invented a six inch blade that worked perfectly. If you hadn’t heard a good fox hunting story in a while, all you had to do was stroll over to the house across from the grammar school. He could talk eloquently or “down home Puryear, Tennessee” slang in the most entertaining way on any subject you could bring up.
He taught, treated and was concerned for the student that was struggling to graduate just the same as the ones he knew were college bound. That was a “life lesson” that I have never forgotten. He made learning a laughing ride and field trips into lasting memories.
I loved the whole family. And I will carry in my heart to the day I die the love, knowledge and guidance the whole family so unselfishly poured into me.
I went to visit Mr. Paschall several years ago. He was probably in his early seventies. While he was chastising me about crippling his favorite frog I remembered one of his many abilities, “Mr. Paschall, can you still walk on your hands?” He said, “I don’t know, let’s see.” He proceeded to swing up on his hands and “walk” half way across the front yard.
If you put one ounce of credence into that ignorant and erroneous statement about “those who can’t, teach”……..then you just read this story today to be entertained!