Recalling old school – and work – days

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 10, 2003

It is a good thing that in some instances time changes things for the better?

Each of us reporters were assigned to a school on the opening day, and I was glad when I was got to go to Oakland Elementary in Chuckatuck; because that is where my career roots began in October 1965 as a school secretary/bookkeeper and sometimes part-time librarian.

On Aug.30, I was shopping in Wal-Mart and ran into Constance E. Jones, the assistant principal at Oakland. I told her of my assignment and the connections I had with the school. She seemed to be amazed at my story and promised to take me on a tour when I got there, since I have never visited the new structure.

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I arrived at the school at 9 a.m. Sept. 2, and was impressed with the building and parking area. I entered the office, was asked to sign in, given a name tag, and then was asked to take a seat because Jones was busy at that time.

I sat there for about 15 minutes and during that time observed the three people in the office performing their jobs. They were a Title I teacher, Whitman Chapman; the secretary, Savonia Dickens; and bookkeeper, Jan Brewer. I compared that day with my first day of school way back in the olden days and realized how the years had improved things.

It was like Grand Central Station with parents and children when I first walked in – an expected situation on the first day. I observed one little boy who didn’t know who his teacher was and Brewer soon approached him with compassion that made him seem more confident that all would be worked out. She took his hand and guided him out of the office.

Another student entered the office with another problem and it went that way unrelentlessly until everyone’s problems had been solved. What one office worker didn’t have time to handle the other one did and at one point, Principal Suzanne Rice, even came out of her office to assist the others. I thought to myself, what cooperation and efficiency.

I then saw Jones approaching and she guided me to Kaye Jefferson’s kindergarten class. Jones informed Jefferson of the assignment that I was told to cover and the pictures I was there to take. Jefferson explained my plight to the children. I was surprised when they followed her instructions in a quiet and orderly manner.

When we were through with that photo shoot, Jones and I walked back toward the office; she showed me some classrooms, introduced me to the head custodian, Donald Gilchrist, and told me to follow her to the cafetorium.

A class was coming toward us as we entered. One little boy tugged at the teacher when he saw the stage and asked her why was it there. She explained to him why and he seemed pleased and soon got in step with his other classmates. I walked back to the office, took a few more pictures, and then left.

As I sat there in the car, I looked back at the school, remembering the days when I drove to a medium-sized white structure. I remembered performing the jobs of three people. I recorded and kept up with two journals, checked out books in the library, and at times had to go to the cafeteria to take up lunch tokens, then count them to make sure that the number of tokens equaled the amount of money I had taken up that day. I left there many days ready to pull out my past shoulder-length hair but was proud of the fact that my bookkeeping records were seldom off at the end of the month.

I have often been asked why I left that secretarial job and I never really imagined myself being anything else but a school secretary; however, rules concerning maternity leave was different in the ’60s than they are now.

I had to re-apply with the school board if I wanted to return, and I would have to wait until another secretarial position was opened. I was ready to go back to work 10 months after I had delivered my baby but the position was filled. I was devastated because we had also just purchased a new house in late March 1972 and we needed two incomes.

My last day of employment on contract at Oakland was April 30, 1971, and if anyone had told me in those days that I was going to be a reporter one day in the far future, I would have asked them if they were they crazy.

I applied for the typesetting job in April 1972 and was hired on the same day. I now had a new job, baby and home. I faced some difficult times climbing the ladder to my dream career but those times were a learning experience for me.

Now as I look back over the years I realize how blessed we all are – those office workers for having more advanced equipment to do good jobs, and me for moving on up to a career that I am now truly enjoying.

I am sure that this is what is meant by the statement, &uot;When God closes a door, he always opens a window.&uot;

Evelyn Wall is a staff writer and a regular News-Herald columnist. She can be contacted at either 934-9615 or