I met Ms. Easly on my first day in the seventh grade.
Twenty-eight students sat in a classroom awaiting the arrival of our social studies teacher.
This was a new experience for us, as during the previous six years one teacher taught all of our subjects in one room. Now, in junior high school, we would change classes hourly and have a new teacher for each class.
At exactly two o’clock, in walked a frail looking lady, slightly bent, pale of face, hair pulled back in a tight bun. Ms. Easly, as we later were to note, always dressed in black.
No one knew her age but our guesses ranged from 70 to 80 years. Her voice was weak as she greeted the class and explained the rules for her class.
“The first rule,” said Ms. Easly, “is you must always be on time. If you arrive after class has started, report to the principal’s office and get a permission slip to return to class. This will let the principal know that you have misbehaved.”
“The second rule,” the teacher continued, “is there will be no talking during class time. This is very important as there can be no teaching or learning with multiple conversations being carried on during class.”
With the rules clearly communicated, Ms. Easly sat at her desk, opened a drawer and pulled out a large, badly worn book. We, in turn, pulled out our social studies books.
Ms. Easly announced that as part of understanding social interactions/studies, she was going to introduce us to Uncle Remus, a fictional character and narrator of a collection of black American folk tales, compiled by Joel Chandler Harris in 1881.
None of us realized at the time that from that point on, every hour spent in Ms. Easly’s social studies class would consist of listening to old Ms. Easly reading a chapter from Uncle Remus.
These were wonderful tales, but in no way furthered our knowledge of social studies.
It wasn’t long before we lost interest in the class, as Ms. Easly was difficult to understand, attempting to read in old Negro dialect, with the occasional slipping of loose-fitting dentures.
Sitting on the very back row, I would begin chatting with my best friend as Ms. Easly read.
Observing my violation of rule two, she rose from her desk, walked up behind me and snatched me by the hair, “I said no talking,” she screamed and then returned to Uncle Remus.
Sad to say this turned out to be a daily occurrence for me. A half hour of Remus, two minutes of hair pulling.
I decided to go on the offense.
One morning before school, I loaded my hair with Wildroot Cream Oil. This was a hair dressing popular at the time that gave young men, like Elvis, that shiny, wet look.
As I chatted with my friend, Chuck, I could sense old Ms. Easly creeping up behind me. Then she pounced, grabbing a handful of hair, but she could not get a grasp. Try as she might, her hand slipped from my hair, frustrating her even more. Two hands had no more success.
The entire class was watching and now laughing out loud.
Desperate now, Ms. Easly pointed to the door and said, “Go to the principal’s office!”
“Why?” I asked.
Red faced now, she stuttered, “For dirty hair!”
Reporting to the principal, I noticed a slight grin when I told him of my offense.
“Sit here on the bench for the rest of the hour and wash your hair tonight. Tomorrow is another day, son,” he said as he turned to go to his office.
I’m not absolutely certain, but I think I heard sustained laughing behind his closed door.
Ms. Easly never tried to pull my hair again.
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