7/17/13 Remembering the Teacherage

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Way things were for teachers
(l-r) Lou Clark and Dot Sutton share memories Monday evening at the Mebane Historical Society meeting about the old Mebane School and the Teacherage they lived in when they were teachers back then.

Karen Carter/Mebane Enterprise

(l-r) Lou Clark and Dot Sutton share memories Monday evening at the Mebane Historical Society meeting about the old Mebane School and the Teacherage they lived in when they were teachers back then.

Remembering the Teacherage
By Karen Carter, Enterprise Editor, The Mebane Enterprise 7/17/13  
Reprinted with permission.

About the Mebane School

The Mebane School was built first as a wooden building where the city tennis courts are today and then changed to a brick building in 1910, said Lou Clark. Back then, the schools were segregated according to race and geographic boundaries.

Clark said Annie Lee Patton Young used to tell the story that back at the turn of the century students in the Woodlawn community did not get to go to the Mebane School because they were not in the city limits. But exactly who financed the school, Clark said she did not know. The town is thought to have financed the school. Back then, the school was a district charter school with a superintendent, not a principal.

After 1923, the school became part of the Alamance County schools, no longer a district charter schooland with a principal and its own school board.

In the 1940’s, the school had a gym, the oldest in Alamance County, a science lab, a library, and a home economics department in addition to the classrooms.

Local businesses closed their doors for ballgames, and the teachers worked at the games too. Teachers put on plays, conducted the May Day dances and programs, and enjoyed an era of Mebane’s history.

The teachers served as chaperones for the Teenage Club where teenagers had some fun over Rose’s Dime Store.

“If these walls could talk,” said former teachers of Mebane’s “Teacherage,” Lou Clark and Dot Sutton; they shared stories about Mebane’s fascinating house and the life for those who lived there in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Their recollections of life back then for teachers, and their house of residency—the Teacherage—and the town, the school, and the local boys they came to love and marry brought back cherished memories. The tales Clark and Sutton told before a packed audience at the Mebane Historical Museum Monday evening, including former students and teachers, presented a slice of life carved out of a time period of Mebane’s unique history.

The Teacherage was a two-story house located at 212 Jackson Street across from the site of the old Mebane High School. Its story cannot be told apart from the school, said Clark.

Back then, the schools were segregated according to race and geographic boundaries.

Clark said the Mebane High School was the first school in Alamance County to be accredited by the Southern Association of Schools.

The school owned the Teacherage, said Clark. The Teacherage was open until the Mebane High School closed in 1962. Today the Teacherage is a private home.

In 1915, Clark said the teachers had the following rules to obey: A teacher had to wear two petticoats and could not ride in a carriage unless her father or brother was with her. Curfew was 8 p.m. and no going out before 6 a.m. Teachers were not allowed to dye their hair or wear bright colors. Teachers were expected to be in church.

In the 1940s and 1950’s, the Teacherage had rooms for as many as 14 to 22 young, single female teachers who taught at the school, said Clark. There were six bedrooms, one bath, and a tub (no showers). The Teacherage had one telephone on the landing on the steps.

When Clark was a teacher living in the Teacherage with 11 other teachers, they had no cars and earned $25 a month. No stipends, teachers were expected to do bus and lunch duty, sell tickets at ball games, and be on time at school at 7:30 a.m. They paid rent and the electricity and heat.

Imagine 12 young ladies and one bath getting ready to be at school across the street by 7:30 in the morning, said Clark, scheduling always a concern.

The teachers cooperated with each other except for one time, Clark remembered, when one teacher would not scrub the bathtub.

“A lady did the cooking, but we planned the meals and had to go and get the groceries,” said Clark. On the weekends, they were on their own.

Clark said she never expected to stay. One day she was buying groceries downtown at the Colonial Store for dinner and came out with two bags. “Curtis came out of his office and said, ‘Can I take you home?’ I was his pick up. We went to a football game later and we’ve been going to games ever since.” Lou married Curtis, the local boy and stayed.

Clark and Sutton lived at the Teacherage when E.M. Yoder was the principal. Mr. Yoder was a strong disciplinarian to the students and a father figure to the teachers. “He hated two things: Clarks’ Store and students smoking,” said Clark.

He came into the classroom everyday and struck up a conversation if he liked the teacher. He rubbed his finger over a file cabinet to see if it had been dusted, said Sutton.

“Once Mr. Yoder rubbed my shoulders,” said Sutton, about her “boss and then he said, ‘I hear you came in a little late last night,’ I said, ‘Mr. Yoder, I graduated from college; I’m grown’ and he left the classroom.”

If a teacher wanted to get married, she had to go see Mr. Yoder and get his blessing or convince him she should get married.

Young men would come over to the Teacherage and look over the new crop, something Sutton said she did not take to, having graduated from a girls’ school, Meredith College, in Raleigh. When she stayed and married Bill, she said her husband told her she had given him a cold shoulder when he tried to date her.

She said, “He had to earn that first date.”

Not any jealousy over dating, said Clark, because the teachers cared about each other even though the Teacherage served as a social setting for the boys and girls.

“We got excited when a teacher got a ring,” said Clark. She remembered only one breakup. A teacher asked that a box in the closet be taken out and burned.
It contained her wedding invitations.

The teachers served as chaperones for the Teenage Club where teenagers had some fun over Rose’s Dime Store.

Entertainment yes, Sutton remembered being caught in a tree by a neighbor one time when she went to get flowers for the kitchen table for the meal at the Teacherage.