Saturday, January 26, 2008

She Learned Me Lots ...

If you were privileged to know Juanita Murrah then you were among those blessed by her radiant personality. Miss Murrah was my fourth grade teacher at J. L. Giles Elementary School in Beaumont.

When fourth grade began for me I was “runt of the class.” What happened was that I started first grade in 1941 when I was five years old. Then I skipped the second grade because the twelfth grade system was implemented. This meant that I was seven years old when I was in the fourth grade. I felt “left out” of things because, well because I was left out. The other kids considered me to be the baby and I guess I was. Most of them were nine years old.

Miss Murrah was well aware of my quandary. She knew that I was still down on myself for failing the audition to play rhythm sticks in the first grade Christmas band. She knew that I was too young to be in the fourth grade and she acted accordingly.

One morning Miss Murrah called me to her desk and said, “Winston, I want you to play one of the leading roles in our upcoming Christmas play.” I was stunned. I was overcome with stage fright. I remember being a “star” in the first grade Christmas play but I did not have a speaking part. All I had to do in that play was to twinkle while Helen Wilshire, one of my classmates, read from the Bible about the Nativity. My mother told me that I was a good “star” but I knew that just being there twinkling scared me to death.

Anyway when rehearsals came around for the fourth grade Christmas play, Miss Murrah assigned me the role of Dibbs. Dibbs was one of the shepherds out in the fields when the angels announced to them about the birth of Jesus.

In the play I ran back to the “house” and yelled, “Rhoda, Saba, where are you?” Rhoda said to Saba, “That’s Dibbs, my brother. He has been out in the field tending the sheep. I wonder what he wants?”

Rhoda was played by Shirley Maxwell, the first red-haired girl I ever knew. Saba was played by Milton Magee. I have lost track of Shirley but Milton and I still communicate once in a while.

But back to the play. I came running onto the stage supposedly with much excitement in my demeanor. I told Rhoda and Saba about the angels appearing and the story they told about the Christ child. Then I ate a piece of bread which was supposed to be home baked but looked suspiciously like a slice of Taystee Bread.

The play was a success. Mr. Heartfield, our next door neighbor on Pipkin Street told my mother that I was, “ … headed straight for Hollywood.” David Bean, one of my younger friends told me that I, “ … looked funny wearing a dress.” Actually I was wearing a shepherd’s robe but David was too young to know the difference.

And a reporter was there from the Beaumont Enterprise. He took a picture of our play in progress. The picture showed Shirley, Milton and me on stage. The picture and write-up appeared on about page nine of the Enterprise. I cut out the letters, “The Beaumont Enterprise” from the top of page one and glued them to the top of page nine. Then I folded page nine and left it lying around the house for all to see. It appeared that our play was featured on page one. I felt important.

Miss Juanita Murrah was good for me. She was good for all of her students.

She was a good teacher.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise


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