Thursday, April 5, 2012

A to Z April Challenge: E is for Escue

 This is day 5 of the A to Z Challenge.

is for Escue.  That’s MISS Mattie Escue to you.  I mentioned Miss Mattie briefly on “C is for Coleman” day.   

Mattie Coleman married rather late in life, age 42, to Harry W. Escue, his second or possibly third wife (note to self: check those census records again). She was step-mother to his three adult children.

Even before Harry came along, Miss Mattie was her own woman earning a living as a teacher. In those days the requirements to become a teacher were to complete three years of high school and then to pass a state test in every subject. But Miss Mattie completed two years of college. Her starting salary was in the neighborhood of $18.50-$25.00 a month. 

Miss Mattie taught during a time of growth in Shenandoah as it went from a sleepy idea of a town to a regular boom-town thanks to the railroad.  She saw the school grow from a couple classrooms warmed by a wood stove to a modern brick building.  The town outgrew that one as well, and classes were annexed to the Boy Scout Building and YMCA.  She was there when the rooms were so cold students wore their gloves in class.  She was there when the lighting was so poor that they couldn’t do much teaching on a cloudy day because no one could see the blackboard.  She was there in 1928 when a new building costing $43,000 was the modern marvel. 

She was there in 1930 when the cafeteria had its beginnings thanks to the home economics teacher and her students.  And she was still there when the world was changing – educational tv in the classroom and bussing were on the horizon as she hung up her red pen. 

Miss Mattie at her retirement party

Miss Mattie Escue retired in June 1960 after teaching school for 55 years, all but one in Page County, 49 years alone in the town of Shenandoah, Virginia, where she lived her entire life. 
Anybody who hangs in for that long becomes a bit of a legend.  With her reputation as a stern disciplinarian and her longevity, Miss Mattie probably was at the forefront of students’ school memories.  However, she is a grey cloud in my memory.  Prior to her death I probably saw her only a handful of times.  She was heavy and sour, or so she seemed to me.  Maybe she was just serious and didn’t care for little kids anymore.  (I can say all this without fear of offending a distant cousin since she had no kids of her own.)

I don’t know why, but she was always MISS Mattie.  Not Mattie.  Not Mrs. Escue.  Miss Mattie.  People call me Miss Wendy.  I used to think it was left over from my days of teaching preschool.  It’s a Southern Thing, to be sure:  Children call their preschool teachers Miss So-n-so.  But EVERYONE calls me Miss Wendy.  My husband calls me Miss Wendy.  People who have no connection to my preschool past call me Miss Wendy, just out of the blue.  Is there something of the teacher aura that prompts people to do that? 

I’m obsessing over this because I know in generations to come I’ll be somebody’s Miss Mattie.

If you want to Explore more E subjects, Exit this blog and Enter A to Z April Challenge .

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. Morning Miss Wendy, thanks for visiting my blog. Having lived in NC for a number of years, I know people regularly called Miss although it sounds more like Miz. I was certainly called Miz Jo once or twice during my 12 years in the south. Interesting article. Enjoy your steak.

  2. People have asked me before, how much time do you spend on putting your post together. Funny those that they ask about just seem to flow naturally, like all your fascinating posts! So I must ask you, (although I know many differ with research and such) How much time do you spend on putting yours together!

    1. A lot of time. She is a TEACHER for sure. If it is done, it is done well and that is WHY she is Miss Wendy. HA!

    2. Oh Karen, what a nice thing to say. I wish I had a good answer. I can't decide whether I spend too much time or not enough. To me none of it sounds natural. I have to confess I'm rule-driven. I like good grammar, smooth transitions, and parallel structure, all of which can result in some stuffy writing even if it's technically correct. It's difficult for me to break the rules and write a fragment which gives blogs that chatty, carefree, friendly sound. Most of the time I just write a straight-forward piece, walk away, and let it marinate. That's when I finally think of something cute or surprising giving me the confidence to break a rule.

  3. I mostly remember Mattie having Dementia, which is truly sad because Momma said she was so smart, curious about everything, and was a good teacher. I think Miss Mattie was teaching Momma the year Grandma sent her to school with a broken arm. Momma threw-up in Miss Mattie's classroom. I bet Miss Mattie didn't have a lot of sympathy. LOL