Sixty years ago this morning a 9th grader stood at the intersection of Padgett-Switch and Half Mile roads in south Mobile County waiting for the school bus to take him to Theodore high. When he climbed aboard a 9th grade girl was sitting in her seat, having gotten on at a store in “downtown” Irvington.
At the same time, a few miles south in Bayou La Batre. a 3rd grade girl was getting ready for her class at Alba school.
And today, 60 years later, the three of them had lunch together in Mobile and spent nearly two hours laughing and swapping memories of long ago.
The 9th grade girl grew up to be Tina Nelson, who retired after 28 years of teaching and being a principal. The 3rd grader grew up to be Martha Peek, the superintendent of the Mobile County school system, the largest in the state. And the boy, well, he just grew up to be me.
How we all came to be having lunch is really a small world story for sure. Of course Tina and I rode that school bus for four years together and graduated the same night in 1961. As her career in education unfolded, she became the principal at South Brookley elementary in Mobile. Along the way her school became the first ever in the system to get an assistant principal. Someone by the name of Martha Peek.
And a few years ago when I became interested in public schools, Martha and I got to know each other. No doubt the fact that I knew Tina helped. Martha still lives near Bayou La Batre and twice a day passes the house I lived in growing. Tina lives on the Half Mile road not far from the corner where I caught the bus.
The ladies recalled many great times at South Brookley. They talked about old friends and where they are now. For the most part, I just enjoyed their stories and shared their laughter.
Martha recalled the time when there was a big education event at the Mobile Civic Center and representatives of each school marched in with a banner naming their school.
To Tima’s horror, when her school group came in they proudly held a banner announcing they were from “South Brocoli” school–not South Brookley..
The superintendent also told me that Tina did not abide stray animals on her campus, especially dogs. So she bought an air horn that worked very well in dispatching strays. However, one day a very large Saint Bernard came on the campus and here went Tina with her horn. But it had no effect on the dog.
Then suddenly a window in a classroom came open and a girl shouted, “Ms Nelson that is my dog and he is deaf.”
It is truly moments like today’s lunch that make life worth living. Moments that many of us let too often slip by because we thought something else was more important. Trust me, unless it is open heart surgery, they probably aren’t.
And I must confess that even though I am a Road Warrior, it’s not often that I drive 360 miles roundtrip for lunch. But had it been twice as far, it would still have been time well spent.