Margaret Shumate column: Red head rebels
While looking at Community Bank of Rowan on the corner of East Innes and North Long streets, in my mind I can still see the A.T. Allen Elementary School building which was previously at the same location. I spent eight school years there and was educated by some of the best teachers in the world. Nostalgic tears flowed when this treasured building was demolished and a new building with new residents moved in.
Today, I read with great sadness and even horror of drugs, weapons and chaos in schools across our nation. Some students, from grade one up through college level, are causing senseless acts of violence almost every day. It boggles my mind to try to imagine the “why” of all these actions. Sure, we also had some rebellious student activities in my school days, but nowhere near the extreme of those of today’s youth. Sneaking a cigarette (and not a marijuana one) in the bathroom during school hours was probably the highest offense on the misdemeanor list 50 years ago.
Reid Grimes was my eighth-grade teacher in 1958. He was an excellent teacher and was well liked and respected by most of our class. However, two “rebel” females, Viola and Betty Jean, liked to try his patience and tolerance level at times. Both girls had short red hair ó one a strawberry color, and the other an orange-red shade.
They were the best of friends. Each of them struggled somewhat scholastically, but I always thought they could have performed better if they had put forth a little more effort. It was not unusual for them to get caught “lighting up” in the restroom during a lunch break.
On Friday, the red-haired rebels were given permission to go home for lunch since they lived nearby. They returned at the end of the lunch period and hid behind the coat closet (a partition with hooks located in the back of the classroom). When our teacher entered the room to resume class, he noted the absence of the two girls. As he called out their names, they poked their heads around the partition wall, then strutted and giggled all the way to their desks. The class roared with laughter.
Mr. Grimes was not so amused.
Viola and Betty Jean had decided to change their hair color and had generously applied black shoe polish onto their heads. Their once red hair was sleeked back on the sides and excess liquid polish was streaming down their necks and onto their clothes. They were reprimanded immediately and sent home for the remainder of the day.
Now, I ask you ó was this really a rebellious act or just a prank orchestrated by two young girls who desired more individual attention? We don’t always know or understand the inner thoughts, home life situations, and any other factors present in a young person’s life. I am so thankful, therefore, that now there are many more concerned parents, teachers, principals, counselors and even other students who are willing and available to assist any troubled youth if only they sought and asked.
Viola and Betty Jean, both now deceased, went to live good, normal lives as far as I know and never headlined the newspaper, thank goodness. I would like to propose to any student who may have even the slightest urge to cause disruption in the classroom, to please buy shoe polish instead of drugs or weapons.
Please be safe and do the right thing! You are loved!
Margaret T. Shumate lives in Salisbury.