By Ruth Nowlin
Third in a series
Mrs. Clara Perry
Since my all-time favorite subject in any class during my education was English/Literature, it was natural that my favorite teacher became Mrs. Perry. It was not only that I loved the classes, but also she was such a sunshine person, always smiling, that the classes became even more favored.
Mrs. Perry’s classroom was on the top floor of the high school building; I believe the second from the end of the hall on the west side. You could tell that she loved teaching, she loved the subjects that she taught, and she loved us. She even loved the cutups.
This morning I was mumbling around, as usual these days talking more to my cats than to a human. Like many southern folks I tend to drop the …ing from many words and drift off into other bad speech habits. My particular no-no this morning was in using bad and badly. I don’t remember (sorry about that Mrs. Perry) the rule for the usage of these words but I could remember that I would not say something was needful, bad. The way I explained it to myself (no laughing please) was to look at one of the cats and say, “You are a bad cat, and, you need a bath badly.” Was that right? To tell the truth I am now so confused that I am not sure.
Anyway, Mrs. Perry took such pride in her students. When we would study literature and read or recite a certain passage correctly, she would beam. She also had a great deal of patience (which high school students need BADLY) when we did not do so well and tried her best to set us on the right path.
Not many will identify with a “Rainy Day” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow but for some reason that particular poem has stayed with me since junior year in high school. That was the one that was assigned to me to memorize and talk about and it stuck with me. Over the years in the really hard times of my life it would surface in my mind and the beginning and ending would give me a sort of comfort. I won’t write the entire poem but just go with me for a minute: “The day is cold and dark and dreary, it rains and the wind is never weary.” So would be those sad or troubled times. But then, “Be still sad heart and cease repining, behind the clouds is the sun still shining …. Some days must be dark and dreary.” So are the days and years of our lives.
Mrs. Perry not only taught the assigned subjects, she taught much more. She taught good etiquette, good grooming, and good manners as well as good grammar. I well recall one of her pet peeves–bad posture. She would tell us to imagine that we had a string in the top of our head and that it was being pulled upward. Often as I walk I feel that string pulling my head and shoulders erect. Her best lessons in this area, however, were taught by example. She was the embodiment of a southern lady.
During our 50th class reunion (class of 1954) we had a meal at Pap’s. I left my treasured 1954 annual on one of the tables. When I went back it was gone. No one knows where it went. That was the only annual Daddy ever gave me money to buy and I treasured it. I now have one of those annuals due to the generous gift from a dear friend and schoolmate. In my annual, in the back where friends and teachers left little notes, Mrs. Perry had written: “To a rose in a rose garden of girls.” I treasure that note in my heart, I do not need to see it.
Mrs. Clara Perry, truly “A rose in the rose garden of teachers.”
…and that’s life.