While in High School I was involved in the musical department. I was part of the Glee Club. The director was Grace Wooldridge, a long-time teacher at Garden High School in Oakwood Virginia. We in the Glee Club were involved in most of the plays that were produced at the School, with of course, Mrs. Wooldridge as director. From this Club, several singing groups originated.
One in particular was named the "Gardenaires" which consisted of several members of the Glee Club. On Sundays,
Mrs. Wooldridge, who was also pianist for the local Methodist Church, would take several of us up to the church and we would present all the spiritual songs that we had been practicing for several weeks. Mrs. Wooldridge tried to make a lot of hillbillies appreciate "the finer things in life," as she called it. She told us later that she would check the enrollment at the School to see if any Shortts had enrolled that year, and if so, she just knew that she had a singer on her hands. I was also used in plays to do bird calls on cue as I had a pretty good repertoire of different ones. I used to sit in the cornfield with my little .410 shotgun and call crows down within range to keep them from digging up and eating our corn seeds.
Another thing I was enrolled in was the "Bus Patrol". I had to ride the school bus anyway, driven by Mr. Brown, all the way up to Shortt Gap at the head of Buchanan County, with many side trips in between, up all the "branches and hollers" to carry students to their remote homes. My job was to keep order on the bus to prevent Mr. Brown from driving us over a cliff from frustration dealing with a lot of uncouth hillbillies. He probably figured that I was a prime prospect as I had been one of the rowdies earlier on. If anyone was 'written up' on the bus they had to go to student court the following week to be either exonerated or sentenced to detention hall for the amount of time that the misdemeanor called for. Most "crimes" written up were for chewing gum on the bus, loud talking, or some other foolish thing that Mr. Brown deemed to be bad for the bus. We had a lot of fun in this little group.
Overall, my High School days consisted of 'just getting by' as I could not participate in any sports because of being so far from the school, 14 miles one way. Even if I had wanted to participate in any after-school activities, I would have had to hitch-hike home from the School! Also, I was too skinny for sports anyhow!
I was a member of the Future Farmers for a little while. The person who ran the club must have forgotten that all his members were hillside farmers in some form or other. Is it any wonder that most of us dropped out of the club after hearing all that we were already doing anyway? Most of us could have taught him how to grow a crop without the benefits of irrigation, bug repellent, (we picked them off by hand), and how to clear a new-ground to grow a corn patch or a truck garden. One thing that he could not teach us was how to deal with blight. Blighting of plants in the Southeastern United States is caused by having too much rain before the crop gets ripe. Then the sun comes along and does a good job of drying the plants out too fast. Ah, such is the life of a hill-side farmer!
Mr. Brown the driver of old school bus #17 must have finally been driven crazy by all the yelling and fighting going on in his bus. He retired early from teaching and from driving school buses. Mrs. Wooldridge, who was also a substitute bus driver, lived to be almost 100 years old and the last time I visited her up on Garden Creek, she was still as feisty and intelligent as she was when I first laid eyes on her. She would still try to give tips to anyone who visited her about how to survive in an intelligent world and was still a purveyor of the "Good things of life!”
I must say on behalf of Mr. Brown that he was a fantastic math teacher. His people skills were a little lacking and some folks even said he lacked in personal hygiene in some areas, but overall, he was a very devoted father, teacher, bus driver and a good human being.
Mrs. Wooldridge, on the other hand, was an all-around jack-of-all-trades, teaching girls P.E., coaching girls basketball, running the music program for the school, directing all the plays, trying to show us how to draw and paint (she never took a lesson that I am aware of except teaching herself from how-to books), she drove school bus, played piano in church, and I even had her in Plane Geometry and Algebra One. All I can say is that she was quite a gal and I often think of her when I need to remember someone who had a definite influence on my life.