The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

School Days Of Isaac Booker Goad, Part 1 of 2

By Isaac Booker Goad © 1992

Issue: February, 1992

Standing, rear: Clarissa Candice Goad (Horton). Left to right: Macy Mae Goad (Williams), John Anderson Goad and wife Octavia Webb Goad, Daniel Rupert Goad. The baby on his father's knee is Isaac Booker Goad.Standing, rear: Clarissa Candice Goad (Horton). Left to right: Macy Mae Goad (Williams), John Anderson Goad and wife Octavia Webb Goad, Daniel Rupert Goad. The baby on his father's knee is Isaac Booker Goad.Editor's Note... This story will be presented in two parts because of its length. It is an interesting first person account of teaching school before 1920 in a rural Blue Ridge mountain community. This is the first part, about his own school days. Watch for part two in next month's issue which will present Mr. Goad as a seventeen year old teacher.

My name is Isaac Booker Goad of Fancy Gap, Virginia. I was born on - Well, it happened like this...

Saturday, September 14, 1900 was a blustery, rainy day. At about 2:30 Saturday morning, Doctor Branscome was called to the home of John and Octavia Goad for the purpose of delivering a child. The doctor hitched his horses to the buggy which he always used when making calls. He then drove into the rainy night on his way to the Goad home.

On his way to the Goad's home, there was a stream which he must cross. It was quite swollen from the previous rains. Nevertheless when he arrived at the stream he drove his horses into the swollen stream, and walked or swam them to the opposite bank. He then continued to the home. After arriving, he delivered a red headed boy. He took it by the heels and gave it a rap on the rear to produce the traditional squall - jokingly he tells folks he turned his head to one side, looked up to the doctor and said, "Hey, what's going on here, Doc?" After the squall the doctor turned him upright, held him up for a look and said, "Well, John and Octavia - that's my parents' names -you have here a red headed boy and I believe he is worth keeping, even ugly as he is."

That red headed boy was me: Isaac Booker Goad and here I am perking along, ninety-one years later, and just as ugly as ever.

The period of my life up to school age was about that of any farm boy, carrying water from the spring; helping out on wash day; keeping the fire going for hot water for the wash; bringing wood for the stove when mom was cooking, and just plain growing up.

In the latter part of my pre-school years, I was able to do some beneficial work. I guess the activities need some kind of explanation. The offices of the Commissioner of Revenue and the Treasurer were elective offices. While dad never sought to be elected to either of these offices, those who were elected usually sought him to do the major work involved. This consisted of taking information from individual assessment sheets which listed all the property of each person and the assessed value of this property.

All this information was then posted in large ledger books. Mom did the posting while some member of the family called this information to her. I was able to do much of this calling.

Dad then computed the tax and added it to the ledger, and listed the distribution of the tax to the various agencies. This information was then called back to mom and she wrote the information for each person on individual tax tickets. Some of this calling was done by me. The reason I was able to do this was what I would call "pre-schooling" which happened in this way - During the time I was a toddler, our dining room and kitchen were papered with newspapers and magazines to keep the cold out in the winter. It is said that I would walk along the wall and pick out words and numbers and ask, "What word or number is this and what does it mean?" In the kitchen the table was opposite the stove, and a long bench was along the wall behind the table, which was used by the kids at mealtime. Instead of eating, some of the time I would walk along the bench asking questions as before.

Fortunately, my parents were anxious that I receive full answers to my questions. In that way my knowledge was expanded.

My school life began at the old Cross Roads school house at Fancy Gap, Virginia when I was seven years old.

At Cross Roads all grades, from primer through seventh grade, were taught and all ages, from seven through twenty, attended. Occasionally, those who were only six were allowed to attend.

I know little about primer because I was never in that grade. I know little about the first grade because I was never in that grade. I know little about the second grade because I never was in that grade. I may have been in the third grade a few days, but I don't recall it.

I was told that when I was sent to school for the first day I was sent home with a note from the teacher which said, "Get this boy a fourth grade reader, a spelling book, a geography, a grammar, and an American history book and return him to school so that he can be placed in the proper grade." The teacher also asked that I have an arithmetic. (I understood that the teacher made grade assignments based on reports from the previous year and for the new student the teacher made assignments after determining the student's abilities.)

I was small for my age which meant that all those books made quite a load for a tiny tot. Add to that a writing tablet and a pencil box, so I would really be loaded down.

My mother made me a book bag. This made it much more convenient for me to carry them all. The bag was like a long pillow case with both ends sewed up, with a slot cut in the side. Some of the books were put in one end of the bag and the others were put in the other end. The bag was given a twist and it was then ready to be thrown over one's shoulder. With all those books, and me being so small, it caused me difficulties and sometimes, anger. For when school was let out in the afternoon, many of us walked along together for some distance until each turned into their own pathway, some of the kids would begin a chant, "WISE MAN CARRIES HIS BOOKS. WISE MAN CARRIES HIS BOOKS." I would chase the one responsible, wherein someone on the other side of the road would pick up the chant. I was never able to catch the chanters. All this was very frustrating for a kid my age. Some life for a kid. Anyway, I survived and it was all soon forgotten.

Mr. Norman Quesinberry was my first teacher. He was a wonderful teacher. He had the ability to cause pupils to find their subjects interesting. In his firm but easy way he was able to maintain proper discipline in the school room. With his easy manner, a "rap on the rear seemed like a pat on the back."

From the first my parents took a deep interest in my progress. At a meeting between my parents and the teacher, my father asked, "How is Booker coming along with his studies? At home he can never seem to do as much homework as we would like." The teacher responded, "I have the same problem at school. I never see him doing a lot of studying. In class I ask him the hard questions but he always seems able to answer them."

That was very true. I did not need to pore over the subject to grasp its contents. I had the knack of opening my book, seeing the page, and it seemed to make a photograph in my mind, so that no deep thought was required. It was in my mind to be used on a "rainy day" or as needed, but that did not mean that I was idle.

Herbert Hall, my cousin and I had a lot of playful ideas, so we planned pranks to play on the school, and then convinced other students how much fun they could have by carrying them out.

If the teacher caught them we were still in the clear and were the "good guys." Later, as a teacher, I understood how this occurred and it helped me to find the real culprit.

My second teacher was Harriet Ada Quesinberry, with her locket watch pinned to the right side of the bosom of her blouse. She was a very strict and sedate teacher. Her father rode by the school several times a day to see if the kids were kept well in hand. Both Norman and Harriet lived near the school and were able to board at home.

My next teachers were Berta Gardner, Ava Vass and Inez Webb. All three boarded at my home. Just imagine the thrill I got from walking to and from the school with these beautiful young teachers. The fact that I was such a youngster made it a great deal more thrilling. With me having the chance to walk to and from the school with the teachers, I was in my glory. I somehow looked upon them as my "lovers," so I was on my best behavior all the time. I was determined to be a model pupil and cause them no trouble. But "ALAS" they were just my teachers and nothing ever came of it. Posey Vass was my last teacher. He was a very strict and serious teacher. But more incidents happened during his year than at any other time.

It seemed that we were always looking for some reason to banter. I remember well this incident. Pell Branscome, Herbert Hall, Wiley Quesinberry and I had an understanding that when it snowed during the night we would leave home early the next morning, meet at the school house and go tracking rabbits until the school hour, when study began.

One morning when this occurred we tracked a rabbit into a hollow log, but we could not reach it. Herbert and I went back to the school house to borrow the teacher's axe so we could chop a hole in the log and get the rabbit out. When we arrived back to the school house, the teacher was standing in the yard, talking to one of the neighbors. We asked him for the axe so we could get the rabbit. He said, "You can't have the axe. Go on inside and begin studying." I told him that it was not school time, and besides, we had not yet come to school. Of course that didn't set too well with him.

We then went to Mr. Wes Quesinberry's house and borrowed his axe, chopped out the rabbit and gave it to Mr. Quesinberry. By that time it was past school hours when we arrived back to the school, and we knew we were in for trouble. Posey landed on us and attempted to shame us by pointing out to us that we had deceived our parents when they believed we were in class doing our lessons. He asked me, "Now just what did you tell your parents when you left home this morning?"

I answered, "I didn't tell them anything, I just picked up my books and walked out of the house." He wanted to know what we did with the rabbit. We told him we gave it to Mr. Quesinberry, but if he had let us use his axe, we would have given it to him. Our first class was arithmetic. He told us that if we didn't have all our problems worked and in written form by the time the class was called, we would be kept in during recess and lunch time.

Wiley was always slow with his solutions, and had difficultly meeting the deadline even when he had plenty of time. So to help out a "fellow man in trouble" we had the problem of working out his solutions and getting them to him without the teachers knowledge, so that he could copy them in his handwriting. "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED." All hands were to go out at recess and lunch time and play along with the other students.

I recall another instance where some banter arose. We were having discussions in our physiology class. Some time during the discussion the subject of moles came up. At some point in the discussion I mentioned the mole's eyes. Posey said that moles have no eyes and cannot see. I got the dictionary and found this - MOLE: a small burrowing animal with minute eyes. But Posey took a different view. Since he was the teacher, that ended the subject of moles for the time being.

At a later date in the physiology class I requested that we again review the subject of moles. Posey agreed and asked if I had something new on the subject. I indicated that I had and arose from my seat and marched to the front of the teacher, reached into the right hand pants pocket, withdrew it [my hand], holding a small furry animal with its nose skinned back showing two small black dots on its nose. Posey said, "Well, that may be true, but it still can't see." Thus endth the study of the mole.

In the spring of 1916, when I was fifteen years of age, I enrolled at the Radford College for teachers. At the end of the session, I received a certificate of passing grades. I went to Roanoke, Virginia and took the teacher's examination. I was given a second grade teaching certificate, as distinguished from a professional certificate. I was then assigned to the Vinson school for the winter of 1917. In September of that year I would reach my seventeenth birthday, just as school was beginning.