#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Education

My pap-pa, Hoyt Cook, is on the front row, second from left. My mam-ma, Willie Stevens Cook, is in the second row, right behind pap-pa. The tall lady in the center front is principal Clara Stringfield Thompson, who was still principal when I attended Brentwood Elementary School, Pensacola, in the early 1970s. (See end of blog for full list of teachers)

There was never any doubt in my mind that I would graduate from high school and then go on to college. My experience in school, however, was a bit different from day one.

We lived in Scotland the year I turned five. My birthday was just a day (or a few days) after the cut-off to enter first grade. My friends who lived down the street were a few months older, so they got to start school, while I was left behind. My mom went to the headmaster and pleaded our case, but he was an older man and stood firm. My mother, the daughter of teachers and who had, herself, done some substitute teaching before my dad went back in the Navy, was not deterred. She found out what books my friends were using and where to buy them. Every day, we’d ask my friends what they learned, and my mom would make sure I was caught up the next day. A few weeks into the school year, the old headmaster retired, and my mom went back to the school and again pleaded our case, and I was allowed to join the class.

Halfway through second grade, we returned to the United States, and I went half a semester at Gulf Breeze Elementary School while we stayed with my maternal grandparents. Then we moved to our house in Brent, and I finished the year at Pensacola Christian School.

That’s the way my school life went. A few months here, a few months there. When my dad was at sea, my mom and I often moved back to Pensacola, so I spent more time overall in Pensacola schools than anywhere else. We also lived at home, the house my parents built when they first got married, when my dad was stationed at NAS Whiting Field in Milton. His final duty station before retirement was in Panama City; he lived in our camper there during the week and came home on weekends.

Even when I attended the same school for a year, I never once had perfect attendance. My parents thought nothing of taking me out for a day or a week to travel. I mostly had decent grades.

Contrast that with my mom, who attended three schools in Pensacola, had perfect attendance through most of her years of school, and knew many of the same people all her life. I can’t even imagine.

My mom and dad both graduated from high school, and so did my mom’s parents. My maternal grandmother had to fight for the right to go to high school. My maternal grandfather took time off to work on the family farm, so he graduated late, but he still graduated. They were both teachers, and they took weekend classes and summer school and eventually they both earned college degrees.

My paternal grandparents had far less education. They never struck me as being uneducated, but according to the 1940 Census, Papa Hahn finished 6th grade and Grandma Hahn finished 7th grade. They were married when he was 20 and she was 14. Their first child, my dad, was born a year later.

The 1940 Census shows Papa Hahn’s parents, Theodore Hahn and Maggie Cooper, finished 8th and 6th grade, respectively. Grandma Hahn’s parents, Dave Silcox and Annie Givens, completed 5th and 6th grade. Grandma’s half-sister Jewel (aka Judy) was still living at home, and had completed her sophomore year in high school.

According to the 1940 Census, my maternal great-grandparents, Arthur Cook and Dollie Allison finished 6th and 7th grade, respectively. The 1920 Census indicates that both Billie Stevens and Mollie Pittman could read and write; Billie died before 1940, but that Census shows that Mollie completed the 3rd grade.

From the 1880 Census, my paternal great-great grandparents William F. Hahn and Ary Loper could both read, and she could write. Henry Cooper and Sarah Givens could both read, and she could write. William H. Silcox could read and write; his wife Doratha Duck could not. Looking at the 1920 Census, another set of great-great grandparents, John Silcox and Ellen Parker could both read and write.

On my mom’s side, looking at the 1880 Census, John Cook and Loucinda Ryals could neither read nor write. John Allison and Delila Bruce, on the 1900 Census, could both read and write. The 1900 Census also indicates that Isaac Pittman and Mosella Thompson could read and write. I haven’t identified William Stevens in any Census records; his wife, Mary Reid could read, but not write, according to the 1920 Census.

I am fortunate to have lived in a time and with parents who encouraged my education.

Here I am in my Washington High School yearbook photo with other members of Future Business Leaders of America.

Brentwood School Teachers 1956-1957

Front Row (L-R)

1 Allie Dismukes
2 Hoyt Cook
3 Ms. Perry
4 Ms. Glover
5 Mrs. Clara Stringfield Thompson
6 Ms. Kraut
7 Ms. Gay
8 ??
9 Ms. Joiner

Second Row (L-R)

1 Ceil Alcott or Ms. Steiner
2 Nancy Christianson
3 Willie Stevens Cook
4 Dorothy Laird Robertson
5 Pauline Carr
6 Ms. Smith
7 Ceil Settle
8 Barbara Gillespie Shivers
9 Ms. Gafford
10 Marguerite Byrd
11 Betty Hale
12 Fern Vaughn
13 ??

Third Row (L-R)

1 ??
2 ??
3 ??
4 ??
5 Louise Calvert
6 Ms. McLaney
7 ??
8 Mary Russell
9 Charlotte Harrison
10 ??
11 Evelyn Bonifay
12 ??
13 Lillie Mitchell
14 ??
15 Ms. Smith (Willis)
16 ??


About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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