Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cora Gum

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday I discussed my first grade teacher in this space, Miss Helen Hubbard.  I would like to extend the topic of my elementary education a bit further by also talking about my second and third grade teachers.  This piece will focus on Cora Gum who spent many years as a second grade teacher at the Goodman (Missouri) School, and tomorrow I will introduce my third grade teacher, Miss (later Dr.) Melva Foley.

I don't know whether Cora Gum was a spinster (like Miss Hubbard) or a widow, but I am fairly certain that she was not married during the time that she was my teacher.  For the purposes of showing her respect, I will refer to her as "Miss Gum" for the remainder of this remembrance.

Miss Gum had to have been in her sixties or maybe even seventies when I was in her class.  I believe that my cousin, Bill Dobbs, was in her final class before she retired, and he is six years younger than me.   Miss Gum was the complete opposite of Miss Hubbard.  She was sweet in contrast to Miss Hubbard's tendency to be severe.  Miss Gum was gentle, and soft-spoken, and affectionate, while her co-worker in the first grade classroom was more of a drill sergeant.  It was hard not to be completely in love with the grandmotherly Cora Gum.

Reading and spelling were big things in her class.  One of my clearest memories of second grade was preparing for a spelling bee toward the end of the school year.  Two students were to be selected from the class to compete in the bee, and those were chosen through in-class spelling tests.  The group finally narrowed down to myself and two girls, and we finished the second grade speller and were halfway through the third by the time I was eliminated.   (My grandson, Boone Macy, is a spelling machine who goes to his county spelling bee every year - and I guess that I must be the source of his spelling smarts!)

We also did an art project that year that my mother saved for the rest of her life.  We had to bring a pane of window glass to school - or maybe our parents had to bring it in for us - then Miss Gum outlined a picture onto the glass from a coloring book of flowers, and we had to paint our flowers.  Mine was a tulip.  After the flower was painted onto the glass, we crinkled up tin foil and placed that behind the picture for a glitzy background.  The project was "framed" with black electrical tape and taken home to our amazed parents.  I suspect that it was a 'Mother's Day" project.  Anyway, my mother was touched and kept it among her treasures.

Living in Goodman, I had never seen an airplane up close, let alone fly in one.  During the summer after my second grade year, Miss Gum flew to California to visit relatives, and she sent a postcard to each of her students.  Mine was of the inside of a big TWA passenger plane.  I was so amazed and knew that someday I wanted to fly in one of those big planes.  (My dad, who had learned to pilot small planes after the war with his GI Bill, was also impressed by the size of the cabin on that airliner.)

I was in junior high or even early high school the last time I saw Miss Gum.  She was shopping at McGinty's Department Store in Neosho, MO, when my mother, sister, and I came across her.  We all chatted for a few minutes, and Miss Gum told my mother that her children had been very easy to teach.  That may or may not have been true, but Cora Gum was such a sweet lady that she would have never said anything the least bit negative about anyone.

I will always remember Miss Gum as one of my favorite teachers.  She made her students feel welcomed and loved - and if a teacher can master how to do that, the "teaching" part will be a piece of cake!

1 comment:

Cousin Bill said...

Rock, you are right about my class being Ms. Gum's last. She was a wonderful lady, and I, too, enjoyed her emphasis on reading, spelling and math. I can remember specifically her teaching us the value of coins, and even to count back change at that young age! She had a "knack" for inspiration and appreciation across the board. My only negative memory is having to remain in during recess to complete my "coloring" assignments...I'm afraid March (tulips and kites) was more than I could stand! Thanks for bringing back these pillars of our early education, if only momentarily.