The Saltillo Teachers Who Taught During the 1930’s and ‘40’s
By Robert Cowser
I graduated from Saltillo High School in 1949. I began school in the building in 1937 and never attended any other school. Almost all of my teachers left for other pursuits, usually other teaching jobs, before or shortly after I graduated.
Mae Green was my first and second grade teacher (1937-39). She earned her degree at East Texas State Teachers College. She took a teaching position at the Sabine School in Gregg County circa 1942. The Gladewater Mirror reported that in 1954 Miss Green was awarded a 10-14 years service pin. At some point later she accepted a teaching position in the Mesquite Schools. After her retirement, she bought a house in Saltillo and lived there until her death.
Ruby Blann was my teacher in the third and fourth grade. She began teaching at Saltillo in 1937 and continued teaching until the early 1950’s, when she retired. She married a local man, Ross Briley.
Annie Jo Russell’s first teaching job was teaching the fifth and sixth grades in Saltillo. I enrolled in her fifth grade class in 1941. Miss Russell married an Army officer from her hometown of Daingerfield and resigned her position at Saltillo after one year. Gay C. Koonce came one hour a day to teach the geography class. He left teaching after that year in order to sell insurance policies.
Addie Speed was my sixth grade teacher. During the only year she taught at Saltillo she contracted cancer and died before the end of the school year.
Paul H. Dodson, a native of Saltillo, was my seventh-grade teacher. He had taught at Wolfe City before teaching at Saltillo. Varying the color of chalk he used, he wrote a “daily thought” on the board each school day. An example: “A cigarette has fire on end and a fool on the other.” At the end of each grading period, Mr. Dodson posted the names of those students with grade averages above 90. Because of problems with epilepsy, Dodson resigned at the end of the school year in 1944. Lorene Henry Bedgood came to the classroom one hour each week that year to teach geography. She gave thorough but fair tests over the material covered in class.
Virginia Grace Adams Briley was my eighth grade teacher. She came to the school to teach after Garry Blann resigned his position shortly after the school year began. He went to Dumas, TX to work in an ordnance depot. World War II had not yet ended. Mrs. Briley left Saltillo after one year and later taught elementary school classes at Mt. Vernon. In the math class she emphasized charts and graphs as a means of showing solutions to problems. She was very much interested in crafts and required us to work on projects using soap, wood, cloth and other materials.
Beulah Mitchell was a graduate of North Texas State College. Her home was Fulbright in Red River County. She taught in the Talco School beginning in 1924 and remained there until 1932 when she accepted a position at the Fulbright School. In 1936 she came to teach English in the high school at Saltillo. She was my teacher in ninth-grade English. Miss Mitchell was a stickler for correct usage and neatness. We could use only blue or black Skrip ink in writing our assignments. Many bottles of ink were spilled as students filled their fountain pens. Each student was required to keep an English notebook with seven different sections. As we read the novel Ivanhoe, Miss Mitchell required us to memorize the spelling of the names of the characters, some of whom had French names. Each student was required to complete a certain number of books for credit in outside reading. She served as principal of the high school during WWII. In 1946 she moved back to Red River County and at some point later married Bartow Ponder, who lived in Fulbright.
Before entering military service, Austin Skinner taught in a school in Delta County and later in a school in Nevada (Collin County). The 1940 census shows he and his wife Margaret lived in Delta County. After having been discharged from the U.S. Army, he taught the Algebra II class I took as well as classes in Mechanical Drawing and Plane Geometry as well as woodworking in a shop in a building a few hundred yards from the campus. He also taught a world history class that I took. His wife bore a son circa 1948. He left his position at Saltillo circa 1953 and took a position at the high school in Ferris, Texas (Dallas County). He died in Ferris in 1993.
Estella Birdwell Griffith taught the class in junior business training I took as a freshman. She and her son Gerry, who was six years old, rented a room from Mrs. Chelie Henry, who lived just off Hwy. 67 Mrs. Griffith had been married to a former Saltillo resident, Glenn a. Griffith. After one year, she and her son left Saltillo. In the years 1957 through 1959 she taught business and mathematics classes in the Wells High School, near Nacogdoches. Her son Gerry enrolled in Stephen F. Austin State College in 1958, according to the Alto Herald. Mrs. Griffith died in Lufkin, TX in 1999.
Leita Nell Hallman replaced Beulah Mitchell in 1946 as the English teacher. She was one of Miss Mitchell’s former students and adapted Miss Mitchell’s requirement that every student had to keep an English notebook. Miss Hallman was my teacher for three years. Besides English classes, she also taught classes in typewriting, shorthand, and bookkeeping. In 1949 she married J. Nolan Worsham and continued to teach classes until 1951 when she left to teach for a year in the Dallas School System. Elouise Roberts of Greenville was hired to teach English and choral music
In 1954 Leita Nell Worsham accepted a position on the faculty at Bryan Adams High School in Dallas. At some time later she divorced J. Nolan Worsham and never remarried. She remained at Bryan Adams until her death in 1985. Besides her regular teaching duties, she supervised a number of student teachers from East Texas State University. She died in 1986; her remains are buried in the Old Saltillo Cemetery.
Thomas M. McClure served the Saltillo School as superintendent from 1945 until 1949. Then he took a job at the Winnsboro High School where he taught math classes until he retired. He was my teacher for Algebra I when I was in the tenth grade.
H. Clay Cheek succeeded McClure as superintendent and served one year (1949-1950). Then W. W. Cooper of Avinger served one year (1950-1951). Thurman Stroman served as superintendent during the year 1951-52 and was replaced by Thomas Striblilng.
George Williams taught the civics class required of all seniors the year I was in the twelfth grade. He also coached the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams in 1948-49. Two years after I graduated he took a teaching job at a small school in Malone (Hill County, TX).
Charles Speed taught American history during my junior year. He also coached the basketball teams both in 1946-47 and in 1947-48. He left Saltillo in 1948 or 1949. He died of colon cancer in Sulphur Springs, TX in 1978. He was the brother of Agnes Brem and Addie Speed, both of whom taught in the Saltillo School.
Garry Blann began teaching the general math class in which I was enrolled during my freshman year. He also began the year coaching the boys and girls basketball teams. He resigned in November and the remainder of the year the classes previously taught by Mr. Blann were taught by Mrs. Magalynn McClure, the wife of Thomas M.
J. D. Lancaster taught the science class I took as a freshman. He left the faculty in 1946 and later became a minister in the Church of Christ, serving churches in Cooper and in other Delta County communities.
------Bob Cowser, October 13, 2018 Amended June 3, 2020.