Mary “E” Wright Mills Richardson
I began elementary school at Louisa High School . The high school classes were upstairs and the lower grade classes were held on the first floor. When I started school in the fall of 1927 I was very timid and insecure. All the classes lined up on both sides of the sidewalk, by grades. Not knowing where I belonged, I picked out my place among a group of older girls. I chose Audrey Shumake (Petz). She was so kind and nice to me. She took me by the hand and led me to the first grader’s line. That gave me more confidence and I felt much better. Later Audrey worked at the drug store where she was remembered for the same kindness through the years.
Low and behold upon entering Louisa High School as a first grader we learned the school was over-flowing, and we were sent to the new two-room frame school building, built beside what was eventually the baseball diamond, with no restrooms. Later the second and third graders took over the building. Mrs. Anna V. Petty was our teacher and lived in the corner house on Church Avenue and School Street , which came to be known as the Levi Self home. I cannot remember who the principal of the school was at the time, but he and the superintendent of schools, Mr. Frank T. West, came by and Mrs. Petty suggested she would let them use one or two rooms in her home if they would bring desks, etc. for the students to use. They accepted, and the first grade began in Mrs. Petty’s home. I must say she was a dear Christian lady and the first thing we learned were Bible verses. We answered to the roll call by reciting a Bible verse.
We began second grade in the two-room frame building next to the baseball diamond and were taught by Miss Inez Hiter ( Hudson ). It was in her class that one of the boys came over and sat beside me and said, “I like you,” and placed a five dollar bill in my hand. I gave it back to him but he wouldn’t accept it. He finally just put it on top of my desk and rushed back to his seat on the opposite side of the room. I took it home and gave it to my mother and then the questioning began. I told her everything. The next morning when I left for school she gave me the five dollars. She told me to take it to Miss Hiter as soon as I entered the classroom and tell her who gave it to me. I did as I was told, and the next thing I knew, Miss Hiter was escorting the boy out of the classroom. He finally admitted taking it from his father’s pant’s pocket while his father slept.
Miss Hiter began the third grade year with the groups in the two-room frame building housing the second and third grades. It was quite crowded and the “powers that be” decided to split the class, and those of us who were a little ahead of the class were sent up to Miss Grace Shealor’s class in the big stone high school building. It was heated by a coal furnace located in the basement. We liked the stone school very much because we had restrooms there. They were in the basement with the coal furnace, but they were there. The radiators would bang and pop so loudly, the teacher would stop teaching until the noise quieted down. This happened often in very cold weather. Many of the girls would sit in class with their coats on in order to be comfortable enough to study and learn.
We all got along fine under Miss Shealor’s wing for part of the third and all of fourth grade. The last day of school before Christmas she wrote on the blackboard, “Boys and girls have a glorious Christmas. When I return I will not be Miss Shealor. Over the holidays I will marry Elton G. Callahan.” He owned a barber shop, and was the son of L. F. Callahan who was the Methodist minister in Louisa from 1925 to 1929.
The fifth grade was taught by Lovell Smith Kiblinger (wife of Elroy Kiblinger, who was for many years the depot agent in Louisa). Mrs. Kiblinger drove an Austin and that was something special for us to see. Nothing spectacular happened in fifth grade except I remember having poison oak on my ankles and legs and in my eyes. I was miserable, but Mrs. Kiblinger was most understanding. Once when I had to leave school to go to the doctor, she allowed Dorothy Ann Deane (Boo-Boo Deane Leake), who was in my class, to walk to town with me.
My sixth year was a nightmare. My teacher, Miss Grace L. Hunt, was partial to the boys. I was one of the girls she disliked very much. We were having geography class and she would name the state and we were to name a city within the state. She came to me and said “ Mississippi .” All the larger cities had been used. I had a half-brother and sister-in-law who lived in Okolona , Mississippi . She thought I was trying to say the state of Oklahoma . She just laughed a long laugh saying I didn’t know a state from a city. I tried to tell her I had a brother in Okolona , Mississippi , but she wouldn’t accept that. She hid many an upper class boy in the coat closet when the principal was going around the school trying to find those who had been skipping classes. I just did skim by and pass the sixth grade, but I was delighted to leave Miss Hunt.
The seventh grade teacher we all loved was Lloyd N. Nicholas. Many of us called him “Pop-Nick” which he loved. He taught us many subjects, some our parents didn’t appreciate. We were seventh graders and we needed to know some of these facts. He was good and kind to us. We had our class in the basement. When it became time for teachers to be appointed for the next year, Mr. Nicholas didn’t get his contract renewed, so he inquired why. Some of the parents had gone before the school board and asked that he be removed. We were sad to see him leave.
First year high school was very enlightening to most of us. Our homeroom teacher was Miss Edith Richcreek, who also taught math. We were now on the top floor of the school where there were four classrooms and a small library. We changed classes rather than staying in one room all day. Different subjects were taught by each teacher. Miss Richcreek left and Margaret Clarke took over. Miss Mary L. Rilee taught me English I, II, and III. She married Carroll Wright’s father, who was a widower from the Bells Cross Roads area, but he worked in Washington , D.C. When they married, they went to Washington to live. They had one daughter.
Frank Carner taught chemistry and science. He was our second year home room teacher. He left to take a teaching position elsewhere, and it is my thought that Henry Burruss, who lived in Green Springs, took his place. He wasn’t there long before he moved.
Robert N. Harris, from the Elk Creek neighborhood, joined the faculty. I remember vividly, he taught me fourth year English. He was an excellent teacher and everyone liked him. He also directed plays with Mrs. Helen M. Wright (Mrs. Porter C.). The auditorium and stage was used often. Mrs. Wright played piano as we would march in and take our seats to the tune of “The Washington & Lee Swing.” In my senior year, Jimmy McCarrick was the lead male in the senior play and I was the lead female. When Mr. Harris left Louisa High, he went to the “Homestead” at Hot Springs , Virginia , and was in charge of reservations. Mr. Harris was a cousin of Louis Jr. and Claudia Chisholm.
The school was always ready to give a helping hand when anyone in the community needed to use the auditorium. Once a company came by and sold the principal, Mr. Charlton, on the idea of allowing them to put on a program that would include students of the school in a sort of “Variety Show,” open it to the community and charge admission. The school and the company would split the proceeds. I was one of a long line of “chorus girls.” A lady with the company taught us the steps and we had great fun. My mother did not want me to wear the short shorts (I was very thin then). I kept telling her that the other girls’ shorts were just as short. I finally won her over and danced with the chorus girls.
The school’s lunch room was the small room at the right side of the hall. Miss Mary Powers served us a bowl of soup, and I think a sandwich. We thought Miss Mary’s soup was great. We would take it back to our home room and eat at our desks. I can’t say for sure, but I think the soup was fifteen cents and the sandwich was ten cents.
Pupils had to exit the front door and go down the basement steps to the girls’ restroom on the left. The boys’ restroom was on the right, down the basement steps.
There were basketball games where we played the other schools in the county, Mineral High School and Apple Grove High School . Miss Rilee was our coach the three years I played basketball. I was a forward and captain my senior year. “Boo Boo” Deane was the manager. We lost a few and won a few. The quote under my picture in the 1938 high school annual said, “May you make your goals in life as easily as you did for our basketball team.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt, our president, had established a National Youth Administration (NYA). I was asked by the principal, H. W. Charlton, if I would work in his office if he could get the NYA to pay me. I did, and the last two years of high school NYA sent me a check for six dollars each of the nine months of school.
I have not mentioned one of the workers. He was the school’s janitor, Letcher Waddy, of Louisa. He was a wonderful man. He not only cleaned, but he kept watch on the pupils. Mr. Breeden was janitor prior to Letcher Waddy. He and his wife lived on Main Street , behind the present Bank of Louisa.
My years at the Louisa school, 1927-1938, would not be complete without a notation about our principal, Hubert W. Charlton. He was one of my best friends and always had the time to talk and offer me good advice. He was a great principal and made the years at Louisa High School most memorable. I can remember some of my first year classmates who went through school with me, and we graduated together: Dorothy Deane (Boo-Boo) Leake, Dorothy Page Miestroff, Howard L. Marshall, Frank Woolfolk, Pauline Shrum, and Mary Jacoby Jones.
In high school we had a couple more teachers, E. A. Davis, and Mrs. Mary Swartz Shackelford (Mrs. B. L. III) who taught French II.
I do not remember the year, but when Mr. Frank T. West, Superintendent of Louisa County Schools, passed away, he was replaced by Mr. David B. Webb, who held the position for many years. Mr. and Mrs. Webb were members of the Louisa Methodist Church , where I learned to admire and love them.
I have many other great memories of high school. My home was always open to my friends and on Friday nights they gathered there. Eleanor Murray Morris (Duke), and Ruth and Donald Loving came and taught us all to dance.
Monroe Mills was a senior in 1936-37, and it was through these little parties we began to know each other and dated. In 1947 he and I were married. He graduated in 1937 and I in 1938.