Never the Same Again

Old Greenwood Junior High School

“We had a Negro woman named Irma who helped with the cleaning, ironing, etc. Some days she would stand at that ironing board all day long. She made $3.00 a week, which was the average being made by maids at that time. Some years later she, like so many of the blacks, moved to Indianapolis. They went north to try to get better wages but many came back because they were not happy up there.

“There were two sixth grade rooms, one in the Davis School building, and the other in the Junior High building. The one in the Junior High was very crowded but they managed to squeeze me in because that’s where my friends were. Everyone was so nice to me, and I just knew I was going to be happy again. They had a Who’s Who contest a few days after I arrived and voted me the smartest girl in the class. (They were probably just being nice, but I was flattered.)

“After exactly one week the principal, Mrs. Emma B. Stinson, came in one day and called me out of the room. She said that the room was too crowded and that I would have to be moved over to Davis School. It turned out that Rebecca Gary, who lived at Money, was going to start school in Greenwood and Mrs. Roe, who was on the school board, was a close friend of the Gary family. Rebecca wanted to be in that room too because Lora D. Roe, her friend, was in there, and Mrs. Roe decided that since they couldn’t put us both in there, they would just move me, along with a boy who had been in the room all year but who lived in Money, over to Davis. J.D. Garrick, the boy, ran off down the railroad tracks crying, and I sat in Mrs. Stinson’s office crying. She called Big and told her to come see about me, and I heard her tell Big that I was just fine and was going to be happy. I never did like her after that, and I was off to a bad start.

Davis School

“Mrs. Blalock, the sixth grade teacher at Davis, was very sweet and kept all of the children except me after school to ask them to be especially nice to me since my Daddy had just died and I was unhappy about being moved from the other class. They were nice, and I soon made some good friends in that room, but since the two classes did not even play together at recess I was never as close to my old friends.

“I remember that first Christmas how sad it was without Daddy. Mama was still not over the shock of his death, and somehow it seemed I had to grow up before I was ready to. There would never again be the big Christmas mornings we had known with Daddy bringing in fireworks and sharing all the fun with us. Mama tried to make things a little like they had been by whipping up an eggnog, but that wasn’t the same either without Daddy there to help. She always made divinity by Mrs. Ashcraft’s recipe in the Earnest Workers Cookbook and tinted it pink and green. She poured it into a huge china platter. She and Big made fruitcake. We each got a few gifts, but it was just not the same, and I realized then that life never would be the same again.”

Paula Deen's Divinity, which probably doesn't compare to Mrs. Ashcraft's.

Cruelty among children is just part of growing up. Cruelty inflicted by adults is inexcusable, and this unnecessary incident at Davis School was egregious in every sense of the word. Sara despised bullies, no matter their station or their age, and she had a heart for the broken-hearted, especially little ones. I would like to reach back through the years and tie Mrs. Stinson, Mrs. Roe and Mrs. Gary into one large knot of infamy and shame. One has to hope that they later turned into human beings, but I doubt it.

And poor J.D. Garrick? Where did he run to that day? It couldn’t have been home, as he lived in Money. Apparently, he wound up back at Davis School, for his photo appears in the 1939 Deltonian as a senior. He worked on the Bulldog Broadcast, which Sara edited, so they must have stayed friends. J.D. served in the Navy during World War II and later lived in Grenada, dying there in 1997. May he have avoided mean girls and foolish parents for the rest of his long life.

Joseph Daniel Garrick

About sec040121

Hello....I'm in possession of a priceless collection of memoirs and memorabilia left by my mother, Sara Evans Criss. She was a native and lifelong (88 years!) devotee of our small town, who covered this peculiar and volatile corner of the world for 30 years as the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Greenwood bureau chief, a job that started out with debutantes and high school football and wound up spang in the midst of one of the twentieth century's most enduring social upheavals. This blog is dedicated to her memory and the legacy she left behind, both for her family and her community.
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