JOHN J. HARRIS JUNIOR HIGHSCHOOL, FOLKSTON
(We become like those whom we constantly admire.)
On this frigid Illinois day on the 6th day of November of 2010 comes the thought
that nobody may take time to write about Josephine Gowen, Kathryn Jones, and Mildred Mizell. Those three ladies were our teachers in grades six, seven, and eight at John J. Harris Junior Highschool, Folkston, Georgia. They taught many of us during the 1950's, and they survived us.
It's not that we were that troublesome. Most of us were borderline teens entering
into many different developmental stages. Our parents, teachers, observers, and critics understood that. There was Why Johnny Can't Read(Rudolph Fletch) when I and others read quite well. Our comprehension was deficient. For one reason, we lacked experiences. A few had never journeyed beyond the Charlton County, Georgia line. A few fellow students relayed to me that they had no need to be anywhere else, and I understood and respected their statements. Among my personal desires were to see the world, leave the area, and gain great wealth.
During recess one chum stood next to me and in a humble manner said to me. "George, I saved your life today".
"How's that?" I inquired.
His answer was- "I killed a shit-eating dog".
Shocked by his remark, I said, "Look-if you don't like me or want to be around me, you could go somewhere else, or I can! What's the problem, and I'll try to fix it"!
"I don't mean anything at all, George. You're still my friend. My daddy told me to teach everybody a lesson here at school. Daddy says that you can't work with other people on a job without people saying things like that to you. Sometimes they'll threaten you or even fight you. You can't keep a job unless you learn to take what people throw at you. Other people on the job will do and say all kinds of things to you".
What that childhood friend communicated to me did indeed amount to some truth and
wisdom. Humans can become quarrelsome and troublesome, and so can lower animals. Hundreds of examples from my own experiences would amount to a sizeable disertation.
That's not necessary. Allow any who wish to compose a mental list of life incidents supporting my friends' statements. Then "let it be".
Mrs. Josephine Gowen, Sixth Grade Teacher
Most of Mrs. Eleanor Saunder's former fifth grade were moved into John J. Harris Junior Highschool for the 1951-52 school term. We were the rural kids mixed with those living in or near the city of Folkston. Our teacher, Mrs. Josephine Gowen, had a large class of boys and girls; perhaps as many as thirty-eight. Strict discipline was maintained in a humane fashion. Paddlings were allowed but seldom administered.
Mrs. Gowen was in charge of students who were into early adolescence. That strive for independence for many had begun- a time when one wants to be free of parental supervision but without means of self-support. Trouble would flare-up occasionally. A students would be sent out of the room or to Mrs. A.J. Harris's office. What happened to them there, nobody knows. Those who made that trip to the principal's office returned to the classroom redfaced and calm; better at least for a time.
Personally, sixth grade with Mrs. Gowen as its teacher was a pleasurable experience for me. I'd become a more quiet and studious person; working, co-operating, and listenings to "what trouble there was" much as a soldier at war. "Glad it's them instead of me." My grades were alright, I had several friends, and very little trouble was encountered emotionally. For me, it was an academically prosperous year. (Some of my homeliness began to disappear, and I had some female
admirers; but not the ones I wanted.)
Sixth grade and 1951-52 was the debute for both vocal and instrumental programs
for Charlton County School District. Hired and introduced was Mr. Ralph R. Bellcher,
an outstanding teacher and musician from Boston Conservatory. Mr. Belcher had been a former trumpeter with the Boston Pops Orchestra. First Mr. Belcher invited the Baxley Highschool Band toperform in the highschool auditorium. They were an excellent group; playing well with less than three years training.
During that same school term a large number of Folkston's own students learned to play tonettes, bells, and cheap percussion instruments. Folkston students in grades one through twelve were treated to a concert by their own students. They were impressive and enthusiastic.
By November of 1952-53 when we 1957-58 Charlton County Highschool Graduates were seventh graders, Folkston's own marching band of 40 or more instrumentalists marched in the Centennial Parade as hundreds of residents stood on downtown sidewalks, listening proudly to an amazing performance by their own Charlton County Highschool band. We could hardly believe that those musicians had progressed so quickly- thanks to their high interest, hard work, and Mr. Belcher's expertise at teaching instrumental music. Their new musical instruments were amazingly beautiful, shiny, and impressive. They were fantastic.
Introduced to a rural Methodist Church by Mrs. Josephine Gowen and the Tommy Roddenberry family, I enjoyed the services and good fellowship practiced by that segment of the Christian movement. Singing their songs from their hymn books, reading their lessons and taking part in their seasonable celebrations contributed positively to my own education and personal growth.
Mrs. Josephine Gowen was one of the teaching stars for me in Charlton County, Georgia. As a sincere practicing teacher and Christian, her patience, kindnesses, and generousity make for good memories and kind thoughts of those days long ago. Thank you, Mrs. Gowen.(Their pastor, his wife, and two children hailed from the state of Illinois.)
End Part I on November 6, 2010/1:40 A.M. CCT