Maryland Cracker Barrel Magazine
Readin', Writin', 'Rithmetic - The Ruby Hoffman Byers' Story: Educator Extraordinaire
By Linda Perry
Reminisce with us as we look back on the memories of a few of Washington County's residents. Excerpts featured here are from the current Fall 2017 issue.
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Maryland Cracker Barrel Magazine: Sentinel of Washington County's Heritage
“...Teaching runs in the Byers’ family blood,” explained Ruby, a 93 year old Washington County retired teacher. Ruby was the middle daughter of Joseph and Anna Hoffman. In her preschool years, she was raised near Pinesburg, living a simple country life. That meant, no indoor plumbing or furnace (with a milk cow in the backyard). When her family moved to Williamsport, she attended all three Williamsport schools graduating as valedictorian from Williamsport High School in 1941. She was very active in sports and the yearly drama productions of the high school. Then began her true love: teaching. She enrolled in Frostburg State College and was in the first class to finish in three years because of World War II. Teachers were in short supply, and as a college senior Ruby was approved to become a regular teacher using her practice teacher time while still studying to become a teacher at Frostburg. At graduation she was quickly hired as an elementary teacher at Williamsport. Her childhood dream was fulfilled because she related, “From the time I was a little girl, I knew I would be a teacher..."
"...Life in the 1950s was much simpler and less hectic than today. As the young men and women who attended sock hops, baccalaureate services, and other relics of a by-gone era approach their 80th birthdays, they are concerned with health and quality of life, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. From their childhood in the town between the mountains that insulated them from much of the world beyond, they have since made their own contribution as they were admonished to do when they 'commenced' their lives one June day 60 years ago.
Before we ever crossed the threshold of Hagerstown High (yes, I was among the scared, timid members of the Class of 1957), or tasted a milkshake at The Valencia across the street (the building remains only with the name the same), we saw Fairchild Aircraft crank out the Flying Boxcar (the C-119), and later the C-123. We remember rationing of food, gasoline, rubber, and other petroleum-based products. Our parents planted victory gardens, sheltered us through black outs and other activities and products completely unknown to today's youth. Who among the Millennials knows what a 'blotter' is?
The children of 'the greatest generation' walked to school, respected their teachers, and feared the more severe discipline of parents when the school notified them of misconduct. The only things with a screen were the Colonial, Maryland, Henry and Academy theaters. Families let children roam the neighborhoods with instructions to 'be home for supper,' or 'when the street lights come on.' We listened to the 'Lone Ranger,' 'The Green Hornet,' 'This is Your Life,' and 'Fibber McGee & Molly' with the family gathered around a large floor model radio powered by tubes rather than digital mother-boards...."
"...Most of us couldn't wait to get to school each day because we loved being with our friends. We were eager to learn and anxious to please our teachers. When you were in elementary school a hug from your teacher and a gold star on your homework made you feel special, safe, and secure. I loved diagramming sentences and learning about exotic far away places. I still love to read maps as I'm traveling the highways - more fun than using a GPS. In sixth grade we wrote reports about the states and did numerous book reports. Our go to resources were Life and National Geographic magazines and World Book Encyclopedia, the 'Google' of the '50s. Art and music were favorites, math and science not so much, but all were part of the well-rounded grade school education we received. Our days were full of learning, but there was always time for fun. One event that we looked forward to each year was Play Day. Held in the spring, this was a big deal that included every student regardless of age or grade. Other schools had Fun Nights or Field Days, but Play Day was unique to Funkstown School. It consisted of six teams, made up of students from each grade level and one faculty advisor. A captain and co-captain were chosen, a color was assigned to each team, and the team picked a theme to go with the color. For one week, time was allowed each day for creating a banner, writing a team song and team cheers. This was fun, but it was also an exercise in teamwork and sportsmanship. Friday was the big day when the whole town turned out to see the teams parading around the schoolyard in their colors and then competing in relay races. The banners, songs and cheers were judged, and one team was declared the winner. A bake sale, raffle, and picnic completed the day's festivities. I'm pretty sure steamers were part of the menu. The safety patrol program was another activity I participated in. I felt a great sense of pride to be given this responsibility...."
Window to Yesterday - Class of 1957: NHHS/SHHS On the Threshold of Change
By Larry Weber
Nostalgic Moments - Funkstown Elementary: A Small School with Wonderful Memories
By Lois Bowden Shoemaker