Bon Jellico, Kentucky School Memories
(From Velma Pemberton Papineau Decker, 2006.)


    The schoolhouse at Bon seemed pretty big to me. There were three rooms, primer (kindergarten), first grade, and second grades were in the small room. Third, fourth, and fifth were in one half of the middle room with a partition separating it from the sixth, seventh, and eighth. The big room was two years of high school for a while. There was a flagpole outside the school; the “Stars and Stripes” were raised and lowered traditionally. Every morning we gathered outside before classes to pledge our allegiance to the flag.
    I started school when I was five. Primer and first grade were fine. The primer teacher’s name was Kathleen Brandon, and the first grade teacher was Katherine Van Overbeek. She lived in town and I went home with her to spend the night a few times. I really liked her and her family. They were Danish people and even at that age I was very curious about different cultures. Ms. Kathy lived with her brother and his family. He had children my age, and they attended the city school. I never forgot how nice he was to everyone. He had me sit next to him at the breakfast table (a long table with a long bench on either side.) He was asking me questions and I was answering and said ‘onest’ instead of ‘once’. He corrected me and I never said ‘onest’ again. I even corrected some of my friends.
    Second grade was a different story. There were many substitute teachers but the one that stayed was Ms. Laddermilk. I can’t remember her first name but I sure remember her last name. I thought her name must have caused her to have such a terrible disposition. I thought she was so mean. I got mad at her one day for some reason and told her I was quitting school. I was afraid to go home; so I went in the big room. The principle just looked at me and told me to go sit down with Nannie Hinkle (Green). Now I can see the smile on their faces, but then it was a serious situation for me. I remember why I quit school that day. Ms. Laddermilk wouldn’t let me go to the toilet. Our toilet was a two-hole outhouse down a path on the right side of the school. The boy’s privy was on the left side. They were far enough away from the school that we didn’t notice the odor. After I got home, it took me a while to tell Mom, but when she heard the teacher wouldn’t let me go to the toilet, she wasn’t very happy about that. Next morning Mom took me to school and told my teacher “When Velma wants to go to the toilet, you had better let her go. And I don’t want to have to come back over here.” But the bad part was she did not pass me to the third grade. Luckily we had a different teacher the next year. I think it was Dora Lovitt (Sharpe). Anyway, I got good grades after that and never quit school again.
    In the third, fourth, and fifth grades, my teacher was Grace Taylor. She was also dating my brother Red. Ms. Grace was a very good teacher, but sometimes I felt she picked on me because she was afraid to show favoritism. She later married my brother and they had a wonderful life together. Those were fun years. Jack Fritts, Johnny Hinkle, Guy Robert Stanfield, and Jack Bishop were some of my best friends. I had lots of girl friends but being a tomboy, I had more fun with the boys. I remember Grace wrote a note to Mom telling her that she was afraid I was boy crazy. Mom said I should have been a boy, but she wasn’t worried. I could beat them all up, so they did not mess with me.
    One time Richard Johnson made me mad about something. We weren’t allowed to fight going to school or on the school grounds. After school I was still mad at Richard; so I ran home as fast as I could, put my books on the porch, and ran back in time to catch Richard before he got home. We were about 8 years old at that time. I pounded him pretty good and went on home as if nothing had happened. While we were eating supper, someone knocked on the door. Mom went to see who it was. It was Mr. Johnson with Richard all scratched and crying. He said to Mom, “Just look what Velma did to Richard.” Mom said, “Well, he doesn’t look like he’s hurt to bad. He’s bigger than she is and a year older, but I’ll talk to Velma and find out what happened and take care of it.” Mom said to me, “Shame on you.” Dad had a grin on his face but he said that I shouldn’t be fighting like that. The principal didn’t do anything, because I had already been home.

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