No ERA In 1934


Little Red River Journal, March 17, 1982

The first warm days in late winter always seem to remind me of just such, several years ago. In 1934, the entire 8th grade class at Pangburn was required to take a class in basic agriculture with Garland Henderson as teacher. Not that the class in budding, grafting, pruning, planting, leaf identification and proper ways to set trees wasn’t fine. It was all good stuff to know; the rub came in when the five little girls in the class were denied the opportunity to go along on the field trip to dig and set trees on the schoolyard. We had studied and made as good grades as any of the boys and better than most, but when time came Mr. H. said the girls couldn’t go!

Now I’ve never been an Equal Rights backer but if a rule on such was ever needed it was then and there. Imagine a teacher who admitted he couldn’t handle eleven little boys and five little girls!

The little boys were John Hamilton, Houston Butler, Glen Buckmaster, John Marsh, Flatus Crook, Paul Strong, Thomas Moss, Arnold Wideman, Marlin Jackson, Mitchell Morron … and I can’t remember the last one. They were off with their picks and shovels and some giggles and some laughs. We were hurt, humiliated and even tearful. To think: to be left there to have study hall until time for math class, of all things.

Instead, we walked boldly across the yard to behind the coal pile, back of the large rock by the road just down as close to Mr. LaBean’s shop as we could get without leaving the schoolyard, which was probably forbidden without special permission. We sat on the bank and hung our feet in the road, and leaned back against the rock and fumed! We were not afraid of getting run over; nothing ever came by that road except Mr. Howell on his big horse.

Nobody bothered us until time for math. Little Miss Baker, with her short snappy steps came down and demanded we get in class. Now Pangburn has never seen an atomic bomb or earthquake but I don’t believe either would have caused as much havoc in our minds as that demand did. For the first time in our lives we were all able to say what was on our minds, and it wasn’t going to math class by ourselves.

Olivia Page and Beatrice Hilger were main spokes-“men”. No, there were no men there, just the most outspoken of the five. Don’t remember if Bea’s dad, Harry, was on the school board … but she said, “No, we won’t go in.” We all backed her. Olivia maybe knew she wasn’t going to be at Pangburn after that year, so she said, “No,” and told Miss Baker why. Willa Whitehurse, Helen Baker and Marquerite Higgins all agreed.

After much coaxing and some pretty rough threats we stood our ground. Miss Baker returned to the building. We sat there until bus time. Nothing else was ever said about our misbehaving except Mr. Dillaha, the superintendent, said later that he admired us for taking a stand. That didn’t compensate for our missing the field trip, though! ????