Grisamore: Springdale memories flow for mother, daughter

May 17, 2014 

When the long hand reaches around to 3:45 p.m. Friday afternoon and the last student has walked out the door of Beth Davis’ second-grade classroom, a chapter will close at Springdale Elementary.

The clock on the wall once belonged to Beth’s mother, Bebe Parker, who taught second grade at the school when it opened in 1971. She passed the torch to Beth in 1988, along with her clock, globe, record player, pencil sharpener and planning notes.

Beth followed in her mother’s footsteps -- except she didn’t wear high heels every day -- and now is retiring after a 30-year teaching career.

There have been generations of families who have contributed to education in Bibb County as teachers, coaches, principals and counselors.

But few can match the mother-daughter continuity of Bebe and Beth at the same school. They will have combined to teach 42 years at Springdale (all but a handful in second grade) to an estimated 2,500 students, and 61 total years in teaching.

Beth has always posted the same classroom rules her mother once used.

1. Be polite. 2. Raise your hand. 3. Listen. 4. Take turns. 5. Treat each other kindly. 6. Follow directions. 7. Come in the room with a smile.

Beth’s decision to become a teacher was greatly influenced by her mom’s passion for teaching. Bebe could hardly look to her own mother for inspiration, however. Ethel Roberts lasted just one day. She went to work as a supply teacher at Gray Elementary in the late 1930s and never went back.

Bebe and Beth did share a common teacher, dating back to grammar school. Bebe was a second-grade student of Berta Morton’s, and Beth was in Morton’s first-grade class 25 years later. (Morton is still living and resides in Gray.)

Bebe, who was named after actress Bebe Daniels, earned $2,650 her first year teaching at Ellsworth Hall Elementary School in Macon in 1957. She stayed there six years, then had an opportunity to teach at Peabody Laboratory School in Milledgeville. When daughters Stephanie and Beth were born, she taught five months at Whittle.

She jumped at the chance to become a member of the first faculty at Springdale, back when the old V C & L Road was being paved and renamed Northside Drive.

Construction delays pushed the opening of the building to early 1971. Bebe and another teacher, Jackie Mann, went for a sneak peek. The walls were up but the floors weren’t down. They toured the school by walking on boards.

“Under this school is the reddest mud you’ve ever seen,” Bebe said, laughing.

But it provided a firm foundation. Beth had been teaching for four years at W.T. Morgan Elementary when Springdale principal Jim Littlefield asked her to replace her mother, who was retiring at the end of the 1988 school year.

“On her last day, my mother walked out with just her purse and gave everything to me,” Beth said. “She never even cleaned out her desk. She just walked out with lots of memories.”

Until a few years ago, when one of the legs finally fell off, Beth had kept the same desk her mother used. She still consults the “Primary Manual” her mother passed along, filled with time-tested information.

She has also used her mother’s old record player -- the only one still left at Springdale -- to play her favorite album of holiday songs, a holdover from “Miss Duffey’s Playhouse.” (Louise Duffey Bass was Beth’s kindergarten teacher in 1966 and went on to become the first woman elected to the Bibb County Board of Education in 1970.)

Bebe and Beth were both named Teacher of the Year during their Springdale careers. They often taught siblings and the children of former students. They shaped the minds of youngsters who went on to become doctors, lawyers, bankers, writers, ministers and teachers themselves.

Those former students now live as far away as Spain and as close by as Wesleyan Woods. Beth and Bebe both have to laugh about never giving up on a student. “Some of those ‘wiggly’ boys turned into fine young men,” Beth said.

There have been challenges, too, like the time one of Beth’s students brought to school the $250 in cash her parents had saved to pay the gas bill and passed it out like candy. Beth spent most of the day retrieving the money from the unintended beneficiaries. She remembers having students with deaf parents or who spoke little or no English. When Springdale had more ESOL (English as a Second Language) students than any elementary school in the county, she helped design the Continental Cafe in the cafeteria, featuring food selections from other countries. (Beth’s daughter, Mary Parker Davis, a dietetics major, helped create the healthy menus.)

There has also been the usual parade of animal visitors for show and tell. Beth and Bebe have seen more than their share of snakes, dogs, possums, hedgehogs and pot-bellied pigs. Some came to school with permission slips. Others did not.

The only thing that ever really changed was the classrooms. They often bounced from room to room and wing to wing. They both had to spend times in mobile classrooms, back in the days when Springdale was so overcrowded the school grounds resembled a trailer park. Beth once had to switch rooms four times in one year because of construction.

Despite all that moving around, it was all under the same roof. The mother and daughter provided stability. The memories will forever flow from Springdale.

Reach Gris at 744-4275 or egrisamore@macon.com.

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