[Rebecca Wilson Clark was born August 16, 1899, in Laurens, South Carolina. She graduated from Winthrop College in 1919 and taught school in North and South Carolina until her marriage to Theodore Snyder, a builder and a farmer, in 1931. With Mr. Snyder she had four sons, Theodore, Jr., John, Charles, and Henry. During her marriage she lived first in Cedar Mountain, North Carolina and later on a farm near Walhalla, South Carolina where she resumed teaching for another 11 years before retiring. She lived a long and productive life documented in a memoir completed in 1987, three years before her death on April 2, 1990, at the age of 90 in Greenville, South Carolina, where she lived after the death of her husband in 1970. Rebecca Clark Snyder is survived by her four sons.]
When I graduated from Winthrop College in May 1919, I was offered several teaching jobs. My good friend, Alpha Bolt, and I accepted work at Little River, SC, a village on Little River Inlet, near the ocean and Cherry Grove Beach, as well as Conway, SC.
Our three-room school house was a one-story building painted white, having huge wood stoves in each room for heat. When a play was to be given, or if cake walks and box suppers were on, two of the rooms could be "thrown together" to give added space.
In the spring, sand fleas were so plentiful they got into our rooms, nearly disrupting classes. One reason for this was the "no-fence law," so hogs and pigs liked living under the schoolhouse, and they spread the fleas. At our complaints, the trustees had the hogs and pigs removed and boarded up all sides of the openings.
Getting from our home town of Laurens to Little River was one round-about-way and took many hours. Alpha and I took the CN&L (Columbia, Newberry, and Laurens) train to Columbia, spent the night there, catching an early morning train to Florence, changed trains in Florence for Chadbourne, NC. Arriving there we were met and driven, over oyster bed roads, to Little River. It was just as complicated going back home to Laurens.
Little River consisted of one very large general store, run by the Stone family. Here, you could buy anything from food to clothes; a bank, one or two smaller stores, a Methodist Church, and a "good many" homes. There was one doctor available, Dr. J. H. Stone.
The location of the town was on Little River Inlet, there were many beautiful live oak trees, hung with gray moss, flowers of many varieties, including yellow jessamine. It was not far to the North Carolina line, and many people went to Wilmington, NC, to shop.
When the rum boats came in from Wilmington, you would hear groups of sailors, high on rum, near town, singing as loudly as did Long John Silver when he let out with "Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest, ho, ha, ho, and a bottle of rum!" The school was supposed to operate only eight months, paying a teacher $80.00 per month. We three teachers decided to raise money and extend school one more month. This we accomplished by having cake walks, box suppers, and oyster roasts. What fun it was to raise money this way! We made enough to teach the extra month.
At the small Methodist Church we three teachers took part in all activities. I was chosen to teach the men’s Bible class (me—only twenty years old and never having had a Bible course in my life!) Alpha Bolt was the organist, and Nettie Mitchell taught the primary Sunday School class. We were so inexperienced, all except Nettie, who had taught there the year before. When any person died, we teachers were asked to keep a wake all night before the burial. We were glad to do this for the families, but how hard to keep awake all night long! Usually someone would serve us hot coffee around midnight.
Once or twice we were called upon to sit up all night with ill people. I recall one night, especially, when I was sitting up with a little girl who had fever. I was to massage her with alcohol to cool the fever. There was no electricity, and as the lamp was turned quite low, and as I was very drowsy, I reached for the alcohol and got the wrong bottle. I gave the child a good rub-down with Coca Cola. The little girl survived. Good ad for Coca Cola, if they see this!
There was a flu epidemic that lasted several weeks, so we three teachers pitched in and helped the family where we boarded. All members of the family were ill. We pumped water from a pump in the back yard, we cooked the meals, and we helped all we could until the family recovered. And we taught every day, too! As the house was heated by fireplaces in each room, it was not easy to bring in wood, build fires, and take up ashes. We were young. We survived!
I shall never forget my introduction to venison, many sea foods, and the pleasures of oyster roasts. Swimming at Cherry Grove Beach, moonlight picnics, square dances, shopping in Conway, a trip to Wilmington at Thanksgiving, en route to Spring Hope, NC, to visit my Aunt Martha Rebecca Gardner, cutting hair for small pupils, helping coach the girls’ basketball team, getting up plays—memories!
Several days per week I taught piano lessons after school. I had six pupils. At the closing recital, held in the parlor of the home where I boarded, I made a "foxy poppa." After I though I had introduced each pupil as she went to play, lo and behold, I forgot to call on _____ Stone. Her mother arose from the chair and said, "Miss Clark, you did not call on _____ to play." I could have vanished, had it been possible, for my overlooking the daughter of one of the school’s trustees. Anyway, I begged her pardon, called on her to play, and that was that—a mistake I really was sorry I made.
As I taught grades 8, 9, 10, and 11, plus three pupils in the third grade, my hands were more than full. A big help was a "pony" for use in teaching Caesar; another was having correct answers in my math books.
To add to my chores, I was asked to help with the girls’ basketball team. Alpha and Nettie and I coached as best we could, and our team did very well playing against other small schools.
Little River was in a picturesque setting of beautiful live oak trees, hung with moss. At the docks we enjoyed seeing boats of many kinds. Once a lovely yacht owned by Mr. Eaton (writing paper millionaire) docked there for several days. We teachers were invited aboard to see the yacht. I told Mr. Eaton that our school had no library and I hoped to start one. He had a good selection of books on board and gave them to me to start a school library.
During the year we presented two plays: one was at the commencement season. It kept everyone busy. There was always something going on, even in this little remote settlement.
I cherish the memories of my first year of teaching. Naturally, we three young teachers met young men who escorted us about. I shall never forget J. Marion Cox, Walter Bessant, and Clyde Bellamy. They were attentive to the three of us, took us to square dances, to ride, and added variety to our work-filled days. As I am nearing eighty-seven, there soon will be no one of that group.
Memorable are the trips to Cherry Grove Beach for picnics and swimming. In 1919-20 no houses or condos stood there. I recall only one building near the beach. It was a large shed used by fishermen. One Sunday, in the little church, the pastor referred to the teachers in a very stern manner, saying we should not go swimming in bathing suits, but should wear dresses. I wonder what he would think of bathing suits in 1986, were he living.
Teachers were called upon for all sorts of extras. One mother asked if I would trim her little girl’s long hair—a queer request for a teacher, but I told her I’d try to do it. The little girl was about eight years old and very quiet. I took scissors and clipped her hair as best I could, when, lo and behold, I clipped one small notch on her ear! I was overwhelmed by this, but the spunky child looked up at me and said, "Miss Clark, it didn’t hurt a crumb’s worth."
What a year! What memories! What experiences!
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