Neil Joiner, a columnist for The Cordele Dispatch is new to it, having started in March of this year. He is very good. His most recent column is titled “Aunt Genie Goes Shopping.”
He describes Aunt Genie using these words: “Her stature was extremely erect, her hair always neatly coiffured, her shoes had to be in perfect order, she never laughed at anything that could possibly be considered crude, regardless of whether it was funny or harmless.” Then he tells of her shopping in the summer of 1962 at Stephens Grocery in Vienna, Georgia, and being waited on at the meat counter by Emmett Stephens. Now verbatim from Neil’s article after he explains that Aunt Genie was having “a literary friend” to visit from Atlanta.
“Aunt Genie, if I was having really special company, like a literary friend from Atlanta, I would give them something they probably can’t find up there.”
“Excellent thought, Mr. Stephens,” she said. “What specifically might that be?”
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“Emmett Stephens reached way back in the corner of the meat cooler. He unfolded the white waxed paper and held it so she could take a close look.”
“I would cook them up some of this fresh cow tongue. I don’t know as you can even buy that in Atlanta.”
Aunt Genie was not disposed toward such humor. “Mr. Stephens,” she sternly mustered, “Your suggestion is despicable! I would never eat anything that came from the mouth of a cow!”
“Well then,” said Emmett Stephens, without any hesitation, “how about a dozen of these fresh hen eggs?”
Aunt Genie furrowed her brow, but then she placed one hand over her mouth. She turned her head slightly to the side. Emmett Stephens said that he could not be absolutely certain, but he thought he saw the slight hint of a stifled smile. He politely suggested an eye of round roast for her dinner guest.”
Well, some of you, especially Perryans who are over 60 years of age and went to Perry Junior High School or Tucker Elementary, might agree with my having been reminded by Aunt Genie of Mrs. Malissa Giles Tucker who tried to teach me in the eighth grade.
Now don’t get me wrong, I loved Mrs. Tucker. Our whole family did. Daddy and mother lived with the Tuckers when mother and daddy were newly married after he came to Perry out of the University of Georgia to teach school here. And, I believe daddy, who served on the Houston County School Board for many years, had something to do with the naming of Tucker Elementary School (where Mrs. Tucker served as its principal) for her. Still, Aunt Genie reminded me of Mrs. Tucker.
I remember this from 1956, eighth grade, where I was ‘exposed’ to Algebra by Mrs. Tucker. She wore those “granny shoes” (black with little short heels), often a seer sucker dress and always with her hair in a bun.
“Sharp pencil, sharp mind,” as she waved her sharp pencil in front of the class. Then: “If your eraser is worn off your pencil, you’re probably not a good student.” I should also add that she had total control of her classroom. No one talked or ‘cut-up.’ They were afraid to.
Now, back to when my parents lived with the Tuckers. They also “took some of their meals” with them. Mother told me that when Mr. Tucker (Charles) would say: “Cohen, would you like some more peas?” Mrs. Tucker would scold him: “Tucker, don’t say ‘more’, just say ‘would you like some peas.’ You hurt his feelings when you say ‘more.’”
You get the picture. Or do you?
Mrs. Tucker was an excellent teacher. She was inducted into the Houston County Teachers Hall of Fame in 2007. She was a school principal. An elementary school was named for her. But, as good as she was, I didn’t understand Algebra. Oh, I got: 3x = 6, x = 2. But that was about it. As good as she was, Algebra was ‘Greek’ to me. But, as I said, I loved Mrs. Tucker. Our whole family did.
I’ll never forget when their house, which Mr. Tucker, a farmer, preacher, undertaker and carpenter, had converted from a two story house to a three by jacking up the roof and adding a floor, burned to the ground. We had been to Washington County to visit with Papa and Grandma. The three story house was just a smoldering pile of ashes when we got back, but we could still feel the heat as we stood across Swift Street in front of Dr. Henrick’s office. We were all very sad.
Daddy came to Houston County from the country, about five miles from Warthen in Washington County. Mrs. Malissa G. Tucker came to Houston County from the country, Deepstep in Washington County. Daddy was a school teacher in Perry as was Mrs. Tucker. Mrs. Tucker tried to teach me. Daddy helped in getting Tucker Elementary named after Mrs. Tucker. Mrs. Tucker was a great teacher and our friend. Still, Neil Joiner’s article on Aunt Genie reminded me of Mrs. Tucker, a good woman and a great educator.
Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry, Georgia. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly, and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org