Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Great Remembrances from a Time Long Ago

*Look for a new posting every Tuesday and Friday*

That was a great "remembrance" comment from Jackson Hearn on this past Friday's post.  When this blogging activity was first started my intention was to share the many letters that were received in response to my "Request for Memories" piece sent out to James Neville and Catherine's former students, fellow teachers, and friends via the Lake County Banner and the LCHS and THS alumni websites.  Those letters contained some really funny and touching material and I would encourage any newcomers to go back and find those first 30 or so blog-posts for a real treat.

1970's Mr. LeDuke
You know, if "YouTube" had existed in those days there would be a whole section devoted to " LeDuke Lab Experiments Gone Bad" and many of them would have gone "viral" overnight:
* Matches ignite in Mr. LeDuke's pocket
* Is the Maalox bottle in Mr. LeDuke's file cabinet "spiked"?
* Fire in the trash can
* Volcano experiments gone horribly wrong

On Friday, we'll re-post the original "request for memories" and encourage all of you to continue to share your remembrances of Catherine and James Neville, and others they may have touched, with us here.


Professor LeDuke at Burritt
College Prep in 1937
Back to Jackson Hearn's memory... James Neville taught Chemistry and Physics along with Latin for many years in Lake County.  Many of you would be surprised to learn that he was not an "A" student in those science courses at State Teachers College.  When he accepted his first teaching job at Burritt College in Spencer, Tennessee, he was quite disappointed to learn that he would likely be teaching Chemistry there as one of the seven classes assigned to him by Mr. H. E. Scott, the Head Master of that Middle Tennessee Prep School.
James Neville spent an anxious summer waiting for a "teaching place" at one of the several schools he applied to.  When he received a phone call on Monday, September 14, 1936 with a job offer, he did not even ask what the salary would be or even what subjects he would be teaching.  Mr. Scott simply asked him if he could make it to Spencer by Wednesday morning to teach his first class.  An eager James Neville quickly agreed, packed several suitcases, made a phone call to his true love in Memphis, and boarded a train in Union City at 9 AM the next morning.

The following short letter was mailed to Catherine Patty from the Union City Train Station and was postmarked 8 AM.
                                                                                     Tuesday Morn.
Hello, Sweetheart, I'm on my way.  Scared stiff, really and truly.  I love you, darling.  I love you.  I find that I can only ride to Doyle, Tenn.  Then, the last 9 miles, I have to get there the best way I can.
School has already started.  I don't yet know what classes I'll teach.  Hope I can do them OK.  I dread that Chemistry.  You know I hate it, I'll try hard, you know I will.
I have an hour's wait here before train leaves.
I'll miss you terribly there.  Seems I'm going to Europe.  Wish I could kiss you now.
Didn't even go to sleep last nite.  Start teaching in the morning, I think.
Honey, I love you, love you,
I love you.
James Neville never made it to Spencer that day; in fact he didn't actually even make it to Doyle.  Because of several delays and missed train connections, James Neville had to spend the night in Sparta, Tennessee.  The entire train trip is described in Chapter Seven of "James Neville and Catherine - A Love Story" (copies are in the Tiptonville Library).  The letters written by James Neville during this 15 hour ordeal gave birth to the term "Train Letter."  Amanda and Jimmy would read and laugh aloud at many more "train letters" written during James Neville's frequent journeys from "camp to camp" during his WWII experience.

The last part of his epic letter is included below:

                                                                                  11:30 PM

      Sweetheart, I'm in Sparta.  18 miles from Spencer.  Mr. Scott is coming after me in the morning.  Darling I love you.
     I do feel better now.  I think just sitting in Nashville made me feel so bad.
     I'm going to bed here at Mrs. Bonner's Tourist Home.  I know I'm going to dream of you.
                                                                                 All my love,

James Neville's next letter was written Wednesday night and gives a detailed description of his first day on the campus of Burritt College as a "Brand New Teacher".  That letter begins Chapter Eight of the "Love Story" book.  I'm including just the first few paragraphs below to give you a sense of James Neville's entry into his long and glorious teaching career; well long, anyway.

     Sweetheart, of all the pleasant surprises, this is the best.  Miss Scott (2nd yr. Latin Student) and Miss Kimmins (Education and English teacher) came to Sparta this morning to get me.  They were very nice and friendly.  Took about 30 minutes to drive over.  The 1st good surprise was --I Don't teach Chemistry.  I teach Latin and History.  Got 7 classes.  1st period: History II; 2nd period: Latin I; 3rd period: Latin II; 4th period: History IV; 5th period: History 201 (College American History); 6th: Civics; 7th: Class of 2 pupils in Gov. and 1 pupil in Politics (to be organized) so they can get their 2 year College Certificate.

     I don't mind teaching a thing on this schedule.  Don't care so much for the Civics. 
     Sweetheart, I love you.  I feel that, at last, I'm on the road to bringing us together.  Darling, I am almost happy.  I know I'm going to be content...............................................

Those who knew James Neville as the somewhat Neurotic Character that he was can imagine that his state of happiness that first day was short lived.  As all you teachers reading this would know, the many problems associated with dealing with students, other faculty members, and his Head Master, Mr. Scott produced some interesting letters to his Sweetheart.

James Neville only taught one year at Burritt.  What he did not know at the time was that the Van Buren County School System was building a consolidated High School which was to open in the fall of 1937.  The small Burritt College Prep School which had existed for almost a 100 years had to close its doors due to a lack of enrollment.  James Neville had an interesting entry into his teaching career, but after that first full school year ended in 1937, he would wait more than 10 years before teaching his next beloved Latin class.  And, oh yeah, and his not-so-beloved Chemistry class.


Jimmy LeDuke (I'd love to hear from you...feel free to comment below, or click HERE to send me an e-mail.)

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