Memories of our county – My memory of Liberty School

Nannie Maude Reynolds shares memories and thoughts about Winston County’s past.

I started to school when I was four years old. I started the same year as Dot, my older sister. I think that they needed an enrollment of a certain number and allowed me to start early in order to reach the specific goal.  I am not sure what the reason was, but I think it meant that Liberty would have another teacher if they had a certain number of students.
Today, that is nothing extraordinary.  Many parents put their children in school at 4 years of age. However in that day, 6 years was the right age to start a child and it was not uncommon for a family to wait until child was 7 or 8. My teacher was Ms McDowell. I cannot remember too much about her. I did not go on to the second grade the next year as Dot did.
The school called what I had been in that first year, “The Primer.” It would compare to the 4 yr. old Kindergarten today. I began the 1st grade the next year and I loved school better than anything else in the world.  This was probably due to a teacher that meant very much to me. She made such an impression on me that I never forgot her.
Her name was Virginia Jenkins. Ms Jenkins lived in the teacher’s home on the school grounds. Usually there was a family who acted as principal and taught school and lived in the teacher’s home.  The family that lived in the teacher’s home that year and for many years after was Mrs. Orena Wade Adams and Josh Adams. They had come to Winston County from Webster County. Mr. Adams taught grades 6, 7 and 8. Ms. Adams taught the fourth and fifth grades. Ms Jenkins came to Liberty from Attala County and was unmarried.
I thought she was beautiful. She rolled her hair every night and I can still remember her pearly white teeth. She had a beautiful smile. Ms Jenkins taught the first, second and third grades in one room.  The fourth grade was taught in a room behind the teacher’s home. Mrs. Ollie Kirkpatrick taught the fourth grade. Don’t chastise me if I have gotten some of the years wrong. It has been a long time.  We warmed ourselves around a wood burning heater that was in the center of the room. Our tables were arranged in the room around the walls, but when she was teaching a class, the class came and sat in chairs in a circle around the wood burning heater.
Boys in the higher grades brought in wood every afternoon just before the buses arrived to take us home. Mr. Adams got up early every morning and made fires in all the heaters in the school. By the time the children arrived the rooms would be warm. The room with the highest grades had a huge pot bellied stove. This room was divided from the one behind it with a line of doors which had hinges on both sides of them and they could be folded back to allow the two rooms to become one. This made a great auditorium.
I remember watching movies in these rooms. I do not know who brought them or who showed them, but I do remember going to the movies there. I remember one movie was “God’s Country”. It was in color and was the story of a baby that was thrown from a train that ran into a washed out bridge. The baby was found by animals in the forest and was raised by them. He was eventually found and returned to his family after he became grown. I wish I could see the movie again.
My family came to the school house in a wagon to see the movie. We had no electricity so I do not know how it ran or what it was powered by.  Oh, by the way, Ms Jenkins married Carson Edwards and they became pillars of that community. They had no children, but they lived and worked in the school system and church giving of their time, talents and many times financial support to worthy projects. It is my pleasure to continue to communicate with the descendants of the Adams family also.
Their son, Samuel Wade Adams was born there and now lives in Calhoun County. The daughter Elizabeth Ann Adams Wilson lives in Louisiana. These good people were our friends and neighbors. How far we have become from the simple teachings and basic goodness we learned at the knees of those good teachers.
Lord, help us to return to the simple ways and the truths that do not change. We know and understand that change is good, however, we also know that sometimes change is not for the better, but for the worse. Give us the wisdom to search and find the good way and the strength to stand firm in the face of evil.
Nannie Maude Dewease Reynolds.