Mill Village boy becomes teacher
By Bill Shepard
January 1953, my years at Lander College were over. I had earned a B.S. degree with a major in Elementary Education. I also had a Teaching Certificate from the S.C. State Department of Education. As stated in last week’s column, I was offered a teaching position at a school in Ware Shoals. It was hard to imagine that all of this was happening in the life of this mill village boy!
It was time for a decision that only I could make! It may have been pride, ego, or something else; it was not salary. A beginning teacher with a Class A certificate was paid a yearly salary of eighteen hundred dollars ($1,800). District pay varied according to whatever it could offer. My total yearly salary amounted to twenty-four hundred dollars ($2,400). Divided into twelve monthly payments, I would be receiving approximately two hundred dollars ($200) per month. Unbelievable, but this was 1953!
I was finishing up my third year as pastor of my church at Ware Shoals. I was asked to stay on for another year, but decided to resign. My salary was more than the school was offering, beside the church was furnishing a house and other benefits. My mind was made up, I would become a teacher, another first in my family.
I set out immediately to build a house on a parcel of land that I had purchased. I would be moving at the end of my church year.
Mill village boy was back in school! I stepped inside the classroom, this time as a sixth grade teacher! I was greeted with stares and smiles from thirty-five students. They sat quietly, waiting for me to say something. The principal, an elderly lady, arrived momentarily and made the introduction and left, just like that! They were mine! This was the first day of the next six years at this school.
This principal had been at the school since its first beginning! She was a strict disciplinarian, and was respected by students, teachers, and parents of the children in attendance at this school. She was indeed a no-nonsense educator, and I learned much from my years of teaching under her supervision. It was a large school, and I was the only male teacher employed. I became her assistant right off.
The superintendent that had first made contact with me back at Lander, and I had a good relationship. He visited my classroom often and he called me “Parson!” He confided in me that his main reason for hiring me was that of my mill village background. He felt that I would be good for the village children and parents also! There were nearly eight hundred students at this school, all were from the mill village. We indeed had a good relationship.
At the end of the school year, I would invite my class to a party at my home and we made memories that have lasted all these years.
My dear wife had also returned to school at Lander and was now teaching at Ware Shoals, the same as I. Our three children were in attendance at this school also. We were a school family. We had a beautiful home in the country and were happy.
I had continued preaching at nearby churches, filling in where vacancies occurred. When the church I had pastored at Calhoun Falls burned, and they were in need of a pastor to carry on, I returned as pastor and helped to build a new church there. For two years, I drove back and forth from my home in Ware Shoals. I had never stopped preaching!
I had always felt that a Divine calling into the ministry was for a lifetime! It would never let go! That is the way it has been with me all these years!
Just when I thought I had found my spot on this earth, and was ready to settle down, I learned there were other factors to be dealt with. Our church at Piedmont was applying pressure for me to come and be their pastor. I was not! I loved my home at Ware Shoals. I called it my “dream” home. Built on twelve acres of wooded land, open fields, and flowing streams boarding it. It was all that I ever wanted in a place to dwell! Our children were happy and had their friends, both my wife and I had good positions at our schools, but to be in God’s “will” for our lives was more important! Moving day lay just ahead.
My wife applied and was given a position at a school in the Piedmont, just up the street from the parsonage where we would live. I did not plan to teach while in Piedmont. The superintendent at Ware Shoals had said that when I was ready to return to Ware Shoals, there would be a position waiting. I fully intended to return after my stay in Piedmont ended. I rented my beautiful home to some friends and in the summer of 1959 I moved away. It was one of the saddest days of my life, as well as that of my family.
One never knows what lies ahead. Life can lead in many unexpected directions; my family and I were learning that lesson well! Winding roads can be a challenge.
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. He is the author of “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised”. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week.