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Growing up in Louisa

Weekly Feature by Mike Coburn

The last room on the right of the old LHS building, just before the narrow back stairs that led up to the backstage or on higher to the band room, was occupied by a number of different teachers during my tenure. Usually the course was History, Government or some Social Science kind of thing. It is possible that even others used this room, but this is all I remember. One of these was Mr. Ken Hayes. Ken Hayes was a member of the Louisa Methodist Church and attended there regularly when I was growing up. I remember him and his wife adopting twin girls and doting over them proudly. They were cute little girls as I remember.

Billy Elkins reminds me that Ken was a real sports fan and was fairly easy to get off subject by bringing up sports. Bill says he never took advantage of this because he was a studious type not given to distractions. Wendell Maynard, another teacher in this room, was a Civil War historian that would diagram major battles on the blackboard. He was well-read and wrote poetry and short stories. I have visited a number of civil war battlefields, including Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, Petersburg, Chancellorsville, New Market, Big Bethel, Williamsburg, and the wilderness. In two trips to Gettysburg I toured and studied the various points of the battles and compared the history with the movies and books that have come out. They were pretty true, but I know some historians were less than pleased with some portrayals. I suspect that Mr. Maynard may have had a strong opinion and I would have loved to have heard his viewpoint.

Frank Webster had served in the Army during WWII and enjoyed talking about some of his war experiences. I never really recall him talking about any battles or anything, but just about Army life in general. When he spoke of the Army, it was always to make a point and not brag, or to go off on a rabbit trail. He was too grounded for that. I first met him when he was principal at the grade school. Liss suggests that Frank was always there from grade school to graduation with the Class of ’58. It was close to true for my class, but when we were in the fourth grade, I think, he was moved to teach at the high school. I think it Rev. Perry from the Methodist church took over as principal at the grade school for my final two years there. All that is a guess because being an outstanding student and citizen, I limited my visits to the principals office to perhaps one a quarter. On those occasions I was distracted by the paddle and hardly ever saw the hand that was attached.

Frank Webster was much focused and not easily distracted. I personally can vouch for that because the first quiz I had with him in my senior year I earned an “F” because of a ‘smart aleck” response I had written when I didn’t know the real answer. He was offended; something I had not taken into consideration when I wrote it. I thought that surely the man would see the humor in the thing and understand my ignorant plight. I personally thought the grade was unearned punishment so I chose to be mad. I skipped his class for several days and ran off at the mouth in the bookstore. While hanging out there I told Mrs. Cheek and others that would listen that I was mad enough to whip up on the man. I knew, of course, that trying such a thing was contrary to good logic and not a good ‘life’s’ decision, either. It was said, but I really needed an honorable solution wherein we could both ‘save face.’ A week later, or so, I was summoned to the bookstore. It was a set-up by Mrs. Cheek. Upon arriving at the bookstore none other than Frank Webster himself appeared. I apologized for my ineptitude, rudeness and absence from his class and he smiled, shaking my hand. He agreed he’d give me another chance but I’d have to apply myself to my studies. After that, as I promised him, I put my whole effort into improving that grade. I was so relieved that this had worked out.

Mr. Webster gave this senior government class a final exam that I shall never forget. He gave us five subjects, such as: The Bill of Rights, The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, etc. We had a week to study and then come to class on Monday with no books, papers or anything, but to be prepared to write on one of the subjects for the whole hour; one subject for each day of the coming week. He would announce the subject at the beginning of class and then we would start writing using the paper and pencils he would provide.

Johnny Bill Boggs and I teamed up and studied the subjects all day and night Saturday. We got back together on Sunday after a little nap, and summarized what we knew. Then we took a gamble and spent the evening working on only one of the subjects, hoping it would be the one selected for the next day. We knocked off fairly early, tired and spent with little choice but to go to bed. The next morning Mr. Webster announced the subject for day one. It turned out we were right in our choice and were very lucky. We had picked the right subject! I was still writing when the time was up.

That night we met again and summarized all the subjects that were left, and then chose another that we hoped would be selected the next day. Again we were right. This went on the whole week. At the end we made the two highest grades in the class. I was so proud but I was also totally worn out. Mr. Webster came up to me afterward and shook my hand, telling me that he was very pleased with the results of my tests. I had earned an “A.” Wow! What a feeling. Had this happened earlier in my life I would have behaved so much differently. I made the honor roll that quarter for the first time in my life. I knew that I could have been top in the class if I had only tried. Instead, I mostly played, joked and acted much the class cutup, wasting time that could have put me way ahead in life. Later, thanks to the study habits from Frank Webster’s class, I was able to fight the uphill battle toward a level of success. Potential was lost for sure, but he helped me persevere later in life. That’s what being a great teacher is about.

The author is a member of the LHS Class of 1960. He is writing and compiling stories about life’s experiences in growing up in Louisa during the late forties, fifties and early sixties. He would look forward to hearing a few of your tales that could show up in a future article of the ‘Lazer.’ His email is: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. He’d love to hear from you.