“Dear March! Come in!
How glad I am!”
Emily Dickinson ... I go to my tattered copy of her poems for the words I need.
What better way to welcome spring after a long, tempestuous winter; the mischievous weather; the evils of society rearing their ugly heads; the unexpected delights of snow unannounced, all combined to leave an already disgruntled world frazzled and unready even for a pleasant event. We are suspicious and reluctant to welcome the joy offered by spring.
The first joy was Becky Cantrell’s LEO Club from Hokes Bluff High School, who came to visit the residents of Paden Ridge. Haley Sprayberry, Summer Westmoreland, Meagan Hutt, Kenzie Smothers and Zane Smothers — thanks, Eagles, you made our week.
Happy Birthday to Kristi Rowe’s beautiful daughter, Eleanor.
I put off telling about my teaching days at Gadsden High because my heart would stub on a memory and it would be 30 minutes the next time I looked at my watch, time I can’t afford to waste. Yet I go there more and more often and stay longer each time. I see the tall white columns, defying anything meaner than the “Checkers” or their nemeses, the “Charlies,” to enter.
I enter and find my classroom; there are some 50 students waiting to get into my classes! I was dismayed. I had taught three years at Emma Sansom High, but it was my first year teaching at Gadsden High School. I was more than dismayed — I was terrified!
The school and its ways became familiar, the students became more congenial day by day and by the summer of the second year, I was a Gadsden High Tiger.
But my days were about to change — again. The day before teachers were to report to school, they got the “letter”: Desegregation had come to Gadsden. “Those who knew best” in the superintendent’s office assigned black teachers to traditionally white schools and white teachers to black schools. They were notified about one or two days before, by a letter.
Tension was high; I was apprehensive, but not afraid. In my heart, background music accompanies that day. It mixes spirituals, marching bands, classical, country, gospel, Prince, old-time rock ‘n’ roll — and some real angels who crossed my path and left footprints that would guide my steps over dangerous terrain for more than 30 years.
Gadsden was filled with young people then. We had a steel plant and other factories, and the children went to school. The desks were running over with teenagers and all the classrooms were filled every period. That’s why the first day, when my planning period was third period and Coach Beddingfield was assigned study hall in my room, I carried my first- and second-period spelling papers to the only vacant room, a small room behind the stage in the auditorium.
I opened the door and every chair in the room was taken — by stern-faced black women. Someone giggled. Someone cleared a throat. “What are YOU doing here?”
To be continued … it has a gloriously beautiful ending, ‘round town!
Glenda Byars is a correspondent for The Gadsden Times. Send submissions to email@example.com.