That’s About the Way It Was

Posted November 21, 2012 at 3:48 pm

by: Glynn Mann

The following is a letter I received from the late Ben Harlan Dyer in November 2000 before he passed away. Of course, he was kidding (with) the title and about wealth, etc.

He forgot to mention the times myself and many boys on the way to school helped push his Model A out of numerous mudholes. He would let us ride on to school, hanging off the fenders, running boards and hood. He would let everyone hang on even when it was dry.

He lost two of his students in the war. They were Randall Taylor, his favorite and Luther Craig.

Ben was a school teacher, insurance executive and Postmaster.

Time and tide waits for no man. Think about it.

Lady Lake Florida 32159

November 28, 2000

The Right Honorable Glynn Mann, President of the Alumni Committee, University of Churntop (Defunct), Executive Secretary of the Exclusive C.H. Club, Owner and Operator of World-wide Mann Enterprises, Past President of the Exclusive B.S. Narrative Organization, Executive Office in The Jones Restaurant Building, generally referred to as “The Man About Town,” U.S. Postal Rural Route #2 (Unless other-wise indicated), Albany, Kentucky 42602.

Dear Glynn,

It was so good to hear from a former student of good old Churntop U., I do not remember ever seeing the original copy of the brochure you sent to me. In 1935 I was either at Lindsey Wilson College or washing dishes at the Seven Gables Hotel in Burnside, Ky.

I have many pleasant memories of Churntop U. Especially picking you up on your way to school along with all the other kids that got on, or hung on the old one “seater MODEL A” Ford car. It’s been nigh on to sixty years ago, it is extremely hard for me to realize that you must be around 65+. I believe the Model A Coupe was a 1930 (sometimes referred to as Old Betsy.) She was a good ‘un. I paid a total of $50 for her to a Dr. Horton in Burnside. While it was the first car I ever owned out-right it also probably was the most enjoyable car to drive that I ever owned. You could set that “spark” lever just right and she would “purr” like a kitten. We called it “Cadillacking.”

I really did enjoy my “tenure” (fancy word for “stay”) at old U of C. So if I should have a tendency to stray a bit, from reality, you can blame it on old age (86 in March) or think maybe “he has done gone and lost it”!

Looking back over the last sixty years, it is easy for me to remember the old one room school house as a special place because it was the first real job I ever had. Even though the old school building could have been painted and spruced up a bit you have to remember that times were hard. We had just started to recover from the worst depression that this country ever had. Money was scarce, World War two was on the horizon. There was no such thing as Social Security, well-fare or food stamps. A one dollar bill looked as big as a wagon wheel. Glynn, I am going to stop right here and pay tribute to one of the most remarkable women I ever knew. That woman was your mother, “Ethel Mann.” Under the most adverse conditions, she raised a fine family and practically worked day and night to do it. The job was never too hard or the weather too bad for Ethel. You won’t find many like her. You were a mail carrier for many years and know the old code of “Neither rain, nor snow nor dark of night will keep me from my appointed rounds.” While Ethel did not carry the mail, she didn’t let any thing or any body stop her when she had a job to do.

Back to the subject “Churntop University.” To the casual observer going through the community would probably glance over and think, Oh well it was just another “Ho-hum” one room county school-house. Well, it was more than that to me and I am sure it was to you. It was my first experience on a real job and as far you I doubt that you would have become a millionaire (exec) if it not been for your education at C.U.

It is my opinion that Churntop was really beautiful, (so there). Beauty is only in the eye of the beholder. I remember the old frame school building sat on a hill-side that had little or no grass, but it did have bunches of sage grass scattered here and there. White lime-stone croppings from the red clay dirt created a good place to play “the fox and hound,” Ring Around the Rosey,” or just plain old skip the rope and a Friday afternoon game of baseball. Since I was the teacher I also got to sweep the floor and build the fire in the old “Pot-bellyed” stove, also wipe off the blackboard, pick (up) books and papers and just generally straighten things up. We had a coal pile right in the front yard. I don’t remember for sure but I am pretty certain that you had the privilege of getting to carry a few buckets in. I almost forget about that little stream of water that flowed down on the lower side of the property. It was a real pretty place. There was a little water fall about a couple of feet high. Some folks that can’t say “creek” called it a “crick.” I never did know what the name of it was. By the way Glynn, what was the name of that little crick down there? (Churntop Creek.)

I do remember that the roads were pretty dusty in July through September (School started in July and ended in January.) I could go down by your place at thirty miles an hour in that old Model “A” and it would leave a cloud of red dust a mile long and a mile high and of course you know what would happen when it rained-MUD-Mud Holes (more about that later.)

We were getting ready for a Christmas program at the school–we put crepe paper flowers, and streamers all over the place. (That was before plastic.) Crepe paper was the “in” thing back in them days. The Christmas tree (a red cedar tree cut in the front yard of the school) was decorated by students with strings of popcorn, icicles, and other stuff. Artificial ornaments were pretty scarce back then, so I let the children do their own thing.

You can see why it was an important day for a young “schoolmaster” who wanted to give the parents the impression that he half way knew what he was doing. So with the school room all ready for the program the next day, I went home with the feeling that life was good and after all, I was being paid seventy two dollars a month for teaching, which wasn’t too bad under the economical situation, which was pretty bad.

I had a good supper (I still lived with my parents.) We had no idea what a TV looked like because as there was no such thing. Also no computer or internet so I had settled down in my room to listen to the radio to some of my favorite tunes like “Mares-eat-oats-and-doe’s–eat oat’s-and-little-lambs-eat-ivy-a-kid’l eat-ivy-too-wouldn’t you” or another top current top seller like “Down in a meadow in a iddy pool farm three itty fiddles and a momy fiddle too. Fim said the Mom fid-fim if you can and they fam and they fam all over the dam. Ooo! cried the Momy Fidy-Ook at the whale ‘n as fast as they could, they turned on their tails ‘n back to the pool the meadow they fam and they fam and they fam all over the dam.” Don’t you just get all choked when you hear a good sentimental song that makes sense for a change, instead of the stuff we have to listen too now?

I strayed a bit, but back to the situation at hand. I heard the pitty-patter of raindrops on the tin roof, outside my window. Under ordinary circumstances I would have not paid much attention to it but I suddenly remembered the Jack Ferguson mudhole. Well, the “pitty-patter turned into a large thunderstorm and it rained and it rained most of the night. However, the next morning the sun came out, which would indicate a beautiful day. So I said to myself, “Self, I think everything is gonna be OK.” I looked things over–I thought I should put on the tire chains but I decided I would not need them. (To tell you the truth, I didn’t have any tire chains.) Anyway, being as it was such a special day, I put on my “best bib and tucker” (which meant my blue serge suit, white shirt, tie and I even shined my shoes.) I cranked up the old model “A.” So off I went, everything looking rosey-dosey. I cruised down to the left turn at the Peolia Methodist Church on to the Churntop county road. The road was slick in places. Well, I got down to the J.F.M.H. It didn’t look too bad, so I revved up old “Betsy,” pushed the metal to the pedal and plunged in. The wheels were spinning but I was still moving until WHAM!!! like the bottom had fallen out of the car. I reached over and rolled down the right window and I could not even see the rear wheel for the mud. There I was, stuck out there by myself, so there was just one thing to do, get out of the car (suit, tie, shoes and all) and look the situation over. I then realized that the reason I couldn’t see the wheel was because it had come ‘plum off’ and was down there somewhere in that ‘sea of mud.” I was a church going man and didn’t cuss hardly as much as I would have like too, but it didn’t hurt none to ask the Lord to have mercy on this ‘pore soul.’ So I waded out to go find help. What a mess!! I won’t bore you with any more details.

To make a long story short, I did get help, we did get old Betsy back on the road. I got to the schoolhouse over an hour late. The house was full of people, mostly women and children and there was me, covered from head to toe with Churntop mud. After all of the excitement and a lot of laughter we went ahead with the program, followed by a scrumptious meal prepared by the mothers. I’ll say one thing, them ladies in the Churntop Community could ‘shore cook.’ To quote an old saying, “And a good time was had by all.”

When John Branham was made the “Head Hancho” of the Kentucky Highway Department, it was about the best thing that ever happened to Clinton County, because he “blacktopped” just about everything in sight–what with the roads and a few other areas (that was after I got to be Postmaster) Hip, Hip, whooray for John Branham, he took care of his friends.

Who can forget the “Well” (water well) where the crystal clear water was pumped out of the ground by using a pulley and rope and a rather “aged” (old) galvanized bucket that was used to carry the water to a special place in the “main auditorium” (one room school.) The bucket of water was placed on a shelf and a tin dipper was provided for all who wished to partake. For the sake of clarification, in 1939 “running water in pipes” was unheard of in the Churntop Community. So the only running water available was that you had to run down to the spring or well with a bucket, fill it with water and run back with it.

With reference to the bucket of water on the shelf, it was referred to as “a common bucket–a common dipper.” All the children drank from the same bucket using the same dipper. (My, my, wouldn’t the health department like to get ahold of that situation.) Somebody said to me, you were the teacher, why didn’t you do something about it. Holy cats honey…I was drinking out of the same dipper. I just didn’t know no better. Of course, there were a few children who for sanitary reasons had their own little folding cups. I think the little fellows would go to the common bucket and use the common dipper to fill their little cups–oh well, “Bless their little hearts.”

If I remember correctly there were two small buildings on the back of the school property. The lumber in the buildings was genuine red oak. (Plastic had not been invented.) The buildings were identical in structure. The rough wood gave out the appearance of antique design (which they actually were.) One was considered to be the ladies lounge (girls) while the other building was the men’s lounge (boys), sometimes called the Smoker’s Lounge because on some days you could detect the faint wisp of smoke seeping through the cracks on the “loosely constructed” building, which would indicate that one or more of the “BIG shots” in the fifth or sixth grade was sneaking a “drag on a fag” and the stupid old twenty four year old teacher didn’t know what was going on. (I hate to admit it but I had a pack of “luckies” in my pocket and could hardly wait until I could get a chance to get to the same facility and light one up.) Randal Taylor knew about the Cigg’s because he would come up to me and put his arm around my neck, reach down into my shirt pocket and slip one out. He said he liked them ready mades better than the roll your own…I guess he was a “teachers’s pet.” I sure thought a lot of him.

I started to skip this part but for the sake of clarification I will try to give a very brief description of the above buildings. They were actually toilet facilities located on the opposite sides of the school property. Construction consisted of digging a hole in the ground, about three feet deep, three feet wide and about five or six feet long. Then place the building on it. The hole was covered with a home-made structure that looked like an oblong box about two feet high made of rough oak wood planks which had three or four holes cut out that was about the same size of a regular bathroom toilet seat, with one exception–one or two of the holes would be a lot smaller in order to accommodate the smaller children. Using a carpenter’s plane, the rough oak planks could be smoothed down somewhat to prevent “splinters” (which could create a most serious and embarrassing situation for the teacher as well as the child.) As for toilet paper or paper towels, there was none, so in most cases an old Sears or Montgomery Ward catalog was furnished instead. Most people have seen the portable toilets that construction workers use. These facilities were very similar. It was the only place the children (and teacher) could use to go to the bathroom. Of course, there was no water system so you can use your imagination as to the sanitary conditions that existed. While we had minor problems they can’t begin to compare to the present school system’s problems with drugs, etc. today. That’s enough on that subject.

Glynn, sometimes when I am on this computer, I start to write and don’t know when to stop. If I can find a copy of some of the “stuff” I have written, I will send it to you.

I am sorry I didn’t get to see you when you were down this way. I am not listed in the Leeburg’s phone book. We live in Lady Lake–I will enclose a card with my name and address. If you are back down this way give me a buzz. Forgive me for this “goofy” letter I wrote. It was fun remembering–Thanks again for the brochure.

The Old “Perfessor”

P.S. I am sorry to have been so slow about answering your letter. I wrote a couple but did not mail them for reasons known only to me.