Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ooops! The wrong valedictorian got the credit!

*Look for a new posting every Tuesday and Friday*

One of the problems I occasionally face as I rummage through the many batches of papers I have stolen from my parents home in Tiptonville has to do with identifying who's "stuff" belongs to whom.  For the most part this is an easy task.  Anything that can be dated after August of 1977 can only be attributed to mother.  And anything written in long hand is pretty easy for me since I have read so many of the letters written by James Neville and Catherine in 1936 and again in 1944 through 1946.

But every now and then I come across a type-written item that is mixed in with stuff that clearly belongs to both of them.  With a little detective work and a bit of common sense I manage to figure out who should get the credit for each piece of writing.

But about two weeks ago I found a valedictory speech that was completely type written.  I studied the document thoroughly and found no references to the name of a school, the name of any individual, nor any geographical clues.  The entire speech was scanned and included in the posting on June 25th and as you can see there are no meaningful hand written margin notes. 

Since I could only go by the content of the speech itself, I decided that Mother was the author.  I really don't recall how I arrived at that conclusion but I have decided that James Neville was looking down from his lofty perch frowning at being slighted by my mistake.


Ben Neville LeDuke and family
To correct my error he "pushed" a new box under my nose that contained an old cigar box stuffed with report cards from several elementary grades including Grade 8; all bearing the name of James Neville LeDuke.  All cards were signed by Ben Neville LeDuke and only a few "B's" were found mixed in with only "A's."  The B's were pre-7th grade and were for "deportment."  I had to look that word up to see what it meant; "The manner in which one conducts oneself."  Apparently, pitching an occasional "LeDuke fit" will not get you an A.

I knew that Daddy was valedictorian of his high school class.  His four high school report cards are also in this box and mixed in with only A's and A+'s are just a few A-'s.  It would seem that James Neville "conducted" himself better during his high school years.

Well, back to the apology I am offering to my father.  In this same cigar box is the following draft of what I now know to be "his" valedictory speech which he would have written in 1929 at the age of 14.  I'm not exactly sure if this new find, two page instead of three, is the first draft of the speech or the final draft.  Nor am I sure which one is the version that he would have given from the stage at the actual graduation event.

Either way, I am impressed that this 14 year-young man could write such a fine piece, receive an "A" for it as you will see on the actual copy enclosed below, and still be active enough after 36 years floating around heaven with a harp to nudge his son into giving him proper credit for his efforts.

Sorry Dad.






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


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Burritt College's Loss Became THS's gain

*Look for a new posting every Tuesday and Friday*

Since the posting last Tuesday was about the wedding of our two main characters, James Neville and Catherine, I thought I would just continue with a bit more of the story of those next few months of their lives; at least as much as we have put together considering that they are no longer writing letters and leaving them laying around for snooping children to find years later.


James Neville and Catherine LeDuke returned by Greyhound Bus following their Christmas Holiday Wedding in Memphis, Tennessee and their short visit to Tiptonville where James Neville presented his new bride to his family.  When they arrived back at Burritt College in Spencer, Tennessee they took up their first residence in the two room, dormitory apartment which James Neville had lived in during the first four months of the school year.  They lived there until the last week of May of 1937.

As James Neville had arranged they took their meals at Mrs. Worthington’s Boarding House, trudging through the snow for most of the winter months.  Catherine wore her new galoshes and heavy winter coat she brought with her from Memphis.  She got very cold at least three times a day.


While James Neville was not particularly happy with his first teaching experience at Burritt College he felt he was basically doing a good job and had assumed that if no other job surfaced for the 1937-38 school year, he could always continue on at Burritt.  When he completed his obligation to Burritt College in May of 1937 he did not re-apply to teach the next year believing that he and Catherine could both find teaching jobs elsewhere.  He received the following letter of recommendation from the Head Master, Mr. H. E. Scott.










James Neville and Catherine spent the next several months bouncing back and forth between Catherine's family home in Memphis and James Neville's in Tiptonville.  When it became obvious that no teaching jobs were on the immediate horizon, James Neville recontacted Mr. Scott.  Unfortunately there was no position available for him at Burritt for reasons that were unrelated to his teaching abilities.

He learned that most of the inadequacies, inefficiencies, and seemingly poor management at the school were not the fault of Mr. Scott.  During the previous school year none of the faculty members at Burritt were aware that the school was in such serious financial circumstances.  Much of the time Mr. Scott was off the campus that year was spent pleading for assistance from state, county, and even federal governments for financial aid. 

It would not be found mainly because Van Buren County had actually begun construction on a large consolidated High School in the summer of 1936, James Neville's first teaching year.  The new school was completed and opened in 1938. 

 It's opening forced Burritt College to close its doors forever.  The lack of school books, the condition of the physical plant, and even the low salaries at Burritt were not imagined problems frustrating James Neville that entire first school year.

Despite the conditions surrounding his first teaching experience, James Neville gained much that fall, winter, and spring of 1936-1937.  Not the least of which was a new bride. 

Van Buren County's loss ultimately became Lake County's gain.




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

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A honeymoon cost $3.50 per night

*Look for a new posting every Tuesday and Friday*


Sometimes as the self-imposed Tuesday and Friday deadline approaches for this blogging adventure, I find myself completely at a loss for words.  I know, I know.  Some of you are thinking: "At last! The well has run dry."  But, fear not, I just have to dig a little deeper into the several boxes labeled: "All things Catherine" and viola!, magic happens.

Like this fat little envelope that I found buried in Mother's cedar chest.  You know, the cedar chest that I found her home-made wedding dress in a few months ago.  (I know Amanda will put one of those "linky things" in this paragraph so you can go back and see those recent pictures of Catherine holding that dress.)

This envelope holds several little "snippets" that I think some of you will find interesting; most all are related to the Patty-LeDuke wedding held on December 23, 1936.  The first is a sealed envelope containing rice.  I'm going to guess that this is the rice that I remember mother telling me about in 2007.  At that time her mind was still in pretty good working order and Amanda and I were working on our first book about James Neville and Catherine.  I asked her to tell me all she could about about her wedding and she mentioned that she and daddy were finding rice in their clothes well into January of '37.  I just bet she saved some of it and tucked it away with her dress.  I left the envelope sealed.




Then there is a short newspaper announcement of the wedding neatly cut out of a Memphis paper.





Also in this envelope are two bus tickets; one from Memphis to Dyersburg that has stamped on the back of it "December 26".  The other is a ticket from Union City to Sparta, Tennessee stamped on the back "December 27, 1936."
                                                                                                     







Tying these travel records together is a postcard addressed to Catherine's parents in Memphis.  As you can see written on the card they were stuck in the Nashville bus station for a while, but my guess is that even James Neville did not have any trouble controlling his frustration since he was with his new bride.









Oh, Yeah.  This picture of Mother was in the envelope.  One that I have not seen before.  She's not in a wedding dress, but I am guessing it's a 20 year old Catherine.











Then there are a couple of notes that James Neville must have included with boxes of candy or flowers.  Sounds like he had gotten in trouble and was trying to get out.
















For Catherine's January 14, 1937 birthday James Neville mailed her a card with a box of candy from the Norris Exquisite Candy Company of Atlanta, Georgia.  I'll have to look them up and see if they are still in business around here.  James Neville had trouble finding an appropriate card so he scratched out the wording and changed it to his own liking.












And then he put this note in the envelope with the card.

He must have gotten in trouble a lot 'cause he sure is awfully "sappy" with his note writing.










The most interesting find of all in this cedar chest envelope is the 1936 hotel bill from the Hotel William Len at 110 Monroe in Memphis, Tennessee.  It is made out to "LeDuke, James Melville and Wife."  The bill covers two nights; December 23rd and 24th at $3.50 per night; a whopping $7.00.  There is also a charge for 0.50 bringing the total to $7.50.  Maybe it was for a bottle of Dom Perignon.

When I talked to Mother in 2007 she could not remember the name of the hotel they had stayed at; she only remembered it was a fancy, Downtown Hotel.  I have previously reported that they were at the Peabody, but now I know for sure that it was the William Len.



When Mother gave me the rundown on her memories concerning her wedding she ended our conversation by saying: "I remember when 'Duke and I came out of the church that night we had our first "real" kiss.  Martha and Shelton picked us up then and drove us downtown to a fancy hotel.  They let us out at the front door, drove off, then we went inside......and that's all I'm going to say about that."

Like I really wanted any more details anyway.

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