Tuesday, February 25, 2014

PAXTON PEOPLE: LIVING AT MRS. WOOD'S PART II




Six teachers lived at Mrs. Wood’s---always phrased with an apostrophe, as was shopping at Kroger’s---one still in residence after twenty-one years, and the latest, for two.   Mrs. Wood was a widowed lady whose husband’s family had been “well off” in early days, and had built a house to fit their own six children and flurry of social activities.

Mr. Wood, having lived on with Mama and Daddy until their deaths when he was in his forties, inherited that big house, by dint of long custom and residence.  He made his living at the Railroad Depot, tapping out the mysterious messages in Morse, retrieving and hanging the bulging mail-bags which hung from the long gallows-arm like heavy fruit until magically grabbed-on-the-fly by the rattle-roar of the passing train.  He had gained a mantle of magic to the town children, as well, as the man who could talk across the wire with his fingers, coupled with a mystical aura of one who appeased the roaring beast twice a day.

He had gently courted the pretty young Miss Ruth when his parents were living, escorting her to church and singing programs and the Senior Play for several years, with an occasional date to the picture show or to his Lions’ Club Dance.





Mrs. Wood had been a teacher herself for some few years and was just-past-forty  when they married, so she did not return to teaching after her husband passed away.

Having Margaret and her son Royal “right there” living in the servant house out back, and tending to everything around the place, and herself being well acquainted with the demeanour, personal lives and character of her fellow teachers, she offered room and board to a chosen few, and was gladly accepted.   The original six had been diminished only by marriage or retirement during the succeeding years, and by one Miss Ratcliff’s further education in four years of Summer School up at NWJC, after which she moved and became a member of the faculty there. 


And there was ALWAYS a waiting list---with the new residents chosen with an eye to compatability and good nature.   The house was welcoming, the cooking was excellent, and the company agreeable, with breakfast at seven, supper-right-after-John Cameron Swayze, and lunch on weekends and every day in Summer.   Mrs. Wood set a good table, having two freezers out on the screen-porch ---one just for the beef and pork “spoken for” from Mr. Neighbors, one for vegetables and fruit shelled and peeled and put up by Margaret and some of the ladies themselves in Summertime, and an extra refrigerator in the butler’s pantry  so each of her residents could have a space for whatever extra treats or refreshments she cared to bring in herself. 

And another draw and convenience was that Mrs. Wood had the distinction of having not one but TWO water heaters installed out there with the freezers.



Miss Edith Mae Jones was one of the long-time residents at the “Teacherage” as Mrs. Wood’s home was called by the old-time residents of the town, and had secured a nice reputation for herself as an orator and actress and performer at little local events.   Her room in the top east corner smelled of Woodhue and lemon drops and an ever-so-faint wisp of the Vicks salve she kept to ease her throat, and her shelves were arranged with volumes of poetry and Shakespeare and many of the slim, flexible little books of readings from Shaw and Longfellow and Service and Millay, most of which she "knew by heart."


And moiré non, of these quiet ladies of the past, and their gentle ripples toward the future.







2 comments:

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Rachel:

What a splendid tale, and so beautifully written. We are enchanted.

Such and air of gentility to be found at Mrs. Wood's is unlikely, we feel, to be replicated anywhere in today's world where the niceties which surely existed under that roof would be unknown to the present generation of single people. How indeed times have changed.

Kim S. said...

Enchantment, indeed! I'm confident that there are folks even now who would treasure sharing Mrs. Wood's home.