GHS, Class of ’39

Sara's Geometry report card, signed by Coach Chadwick. If he hadn't been so cute, she might have made 100s.

“I had a lot of fun in high school. I managed to make good grades and get in the National Honor Society, but I never liked to study and worried Mama because I didn’t bring many books home. We had some really good teachers in those years. One of the best was Miss Mary McCain, who taught me American History. When you left her class there wasn’t much about American history you didn’t know. I did a term paper on Andrew Jackson and felt like I knew old Andrew pretty well when I got through with that. She is now 90 years old [1990] and still a very good friend, and her mind is as sharp as it was back then.

Miss Mary McCain

“We had several good English teachers who gave us a very good English background. I feel that it was the knowledge I got from them that enabled me to later write for newspapers without any journalism experience.

“The girls all had crushes on the football coach, Gene Chadwick, who was a bachelor and sort of the Clark Gable type. He had a terrible temper, and the kids said he would throw blackboard erasers across the room if he got mad, though I never saw him do it.

Coach Gene Chadwick

He was a big flirt, and the girls flirted with him. He taught geometry, and we didn’t learn much but had fun looking at him every day. He let me help grade papers, which flattered me, I guess, but which, of course, was not very ethical. He came to a high school reunion we had in 1978, and in 1985 I attended his funeral in Cleveland. He had died with cancer.”

Sara's Commonwealth article about the 1983 GHS reunion for the classes of '37, '38 and '39.

I love that old photograph of Miss Mary McCain. Look back at it and try to imagine her as anything but a crackerjack high school history teacher. She is so confident and so full of spunk and, according to Sara, she could make the driest epoch in American history jump off the pages and dance. Sara would take me over to visit with Miss McCain in her big white house on East Claiborne, when she was well into her 80s. She was so lively and so interested in everything, both in Sara’s life and mine. Books lined every shelf and she could easily discuss any topic that came up in conversation. I found her so fascinating that I began writing to her occasionally, and I’ll bet I still have the letters from her in a box somewhere. And I hope they’re still making teachers like Miss Mary McCain, who left her mark on  so many young Greenwood minds. Talk about priceless.

And Coach Chadwick? I know Sara was crazy about him, but cute high school coaches are generally trouble waiting to happen. Regardless, if you were a teacher, wouldn’t it make you feel good to know that your students would track you down for their 40th class reunion and show up for your funeral, half-a-century after you tried to teach them about equilateral triangles? I hope he knew how much he meant to those kids.

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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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2 Responses to GHS, Class of ’39

  1. jemiller25 says:

    I still remember Grandmama taking me to visit Miss McCain in a nursing home when Miss McCain was ninety-seven (so I assume that was the week that you and Dad went off to Nantucket and left Emily and me in Greenwood?). I clearly remember my eleven-year-old mind trying to fathom one’s life experiences over ninety-seven years, and even today I am at a loss to imagine that. I believe Miss McCain died soon after, but what a neat person.

    • sec040121 says:

      She was a local treasure. Imagine that you’re a teacher and your students are still coming to visit and pay homage 60 years later. Wow. Miss McCain would write me little notes while I was in college and med school, just gentle encouragement.

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