Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thirty Eight Dollars and Fifty Cents is a Fortune. You just have to know how to invest it.


James Neville LeDuke graduated from State Teachers College which later became Memphis State in May of 1936. He had majored in Latin and had two minors in Chemistry and Physics; the sciences were due to his having enrolled in 1933 as a pre-med student. The Latin major was influenced greatly because Catherine Patty was president of the College Latin Club. As the history buffs among us will remember the country was recovering very slowly from the "Great Depression" and money for tuition had become so scarce that he had to cut his college career short.

James Neville spent the summer of 1936 sending out resumes to every school in Tennessee hoping to land his first real job. He had decided he would take any teaching position available regardless of the subject and was equally unconcerned about the location of the school. The truth is his main concern was to save enough money to marry his college sweetheart, Catherine Patty.

The two of them began courting in 1935 and that relationship had grown so that he had asked her to become his wife. They had agreed that since neither of them had two nickels to rub together, they would both find teaching positions for the 36-37 school year and save their money for a wedding in the early summer of 1937.

While waiting for his "irons in the fire" to produce a job offer James Neville clerked in Mr. Coats Tiptonville grocery store; enduring comments about being a college educated bag boy. He also worked for Skylar Martin in the farm bureau drawing farm maps. He was beginning to become quite discouraged when he finally got a phone-call interview from H. E. Scott, the Head Master of Burritt College in Spencer, Tennessee on Friday September11, 1936.

Daddy got his official job offer on Monday, September 14; boarded a train for Doyle, Tennessee on Tuesday the 15th, and following a harrowing journey worthy of a story at a later date, was teaching American History and Latin on Wednesday the 16th. He was also teaching Latin I and II, Ancient History and Civics during each 7 period day.

James Neville lived in the campus dorm which housed a total of 10 young men. He was the dorm master to this small brood. At least two of these young men were 20 years old; only one year his junior. Just 4 months earlier he had been in a college dorm as a student and now he felt like a fish out of water as the authority figure to this small group.

James Neville accepted this job without ever even asking what the salary was or what subjects he would be teaching. At the time he cared about only one thing; saving a little money and marrying Catherine in the Spring. When he finally got his first paycheck he found that he was making the kingly sum of $65 per month. His early budgets showed that after paying for meals, cleaning, cigarettes, clothes, and a few other small miscellaneous expenses he hoped to save $150 by spring. I would say that qualified as "saving a little money".

Catherine, having graduated at the same time as James Neville, had to wait until October before she finally got her first teaching job at the Alcoa Junior High School in Alcoa, Tennessee just south of Knoxville. She started out teaching English and Latin and being in a more affluent area of Tennessee received a whopping salary of $85 per month. However, she had to pay for lodging at a rooming house in addition to her meals, so her contributions to the Spring Fling Marriage Fund was not significantly greater than Daddy's.

It took the two of them until Thanksgiving when they finally got to see each other for the first time since the summer to realize that they were poor now, would be only slightly less poor in the spring, and would probably always be poor as long as they continued in the careers they had chosen. This revelation lead them to decide to start being "poor together" immediately. A Christmas Wedding was quickly planned and on Wednesday night December 23, 1936 following prayer meeting at the Chelsea Avenue Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee, Catherine Patty became Catherine LeDuke.

Catherine retired at the age of 20 from Alcoa Junior High School. She and James Neville continued to live in the tiny dorm apartment on the Burritt campus. Together they were "House Couple" to the 10 boys in their charge. They sloshed through the snow three times a day to Mrs. Worthington's for meals. Catherine helped her new husband with his lesson plans and made "scrapbooks" while he was teaching all day. They took long walks and made "angels in the snow" during the heavy snow season of 1937 in the Cumberland Mountain town of Spencer, Tennessee.

Catherine and James Neville LeDuke started out their married life with $38.50 and became the richest couple in Tiptonville, Tennessee.

No comments:

Post a Comment