Sweet Miss Billie This is an excerpt from my book in progress. It is a collaborative memoir of my mother’s memoirs of The Great Depression.Pictured above you can see Kathleen Holdaway, left to right from grades 1 through 5 Please don’t be too hard on Miss Billie. Corporal punishment was an accepted part of education at that time.
I adored Miss Billie, my first grade teacher. I hungered for her approval, strived for perfect work, and admired every thread she wore, her floral scent, her ladylike jewelry, and her kind, modest manner. Heaven could have granted me no greater wish than to grow up and be just like her. And above all this, Miss Billie was fair and gentle. One day after lunch Jimmy Wilson shocked us all by “sassing” Miss Billie, earning me the privilege of serving as message bearer to Mr. Kinnebrew, her husband and the principal. I proudly carried a note concealed beneath red and white checked napkin covering the lunch basket Miss Kinnebrew packed for them daily. I almost felt like a member of the family, being on such intimate terms. I knocked shyly, intimidated by the powerful man. He opened the door just a crack, took the basket, and returned it to me moments later, without a word, to my great relief. I returned the basket to Miss Billie, got her smiling nod in return, and scurried back to my seat.
She, Jimmy, and the covered basket exited the room. The entire class gave the door just time enough swing closed before rushing to claim prime viewing spots at the large crack afforded by a missing panel, the faster, more aggressive kids and the lucky ones in the back rows getting the best views. Despite our enthusiasm to see the show, we restrained ourselves sufficiently not to push the door open and fall out into the hall in harm’s way. After a quick lecture on manners and respect, Miss Billie had Jimmy bend over, grasp his knees, pulled Mr. Kinnebrew’s belt from the dainty basket, doubled it and gave him three stinging licks across his backside. As Jimmy rubbed his bottom, Miss Billie tucked the belt beneath the napkin, took Jimmy by the arm, and led him back to the classroom, just ahead of the thunderous sound of the class returning its seats, which she somehow failed to notice. No mention was made of how Mr. Kinnebrew was to keep his pants up the rest of the day, since neither the basket nor the incident was referred again, but Jimmy was respectful the rest of the year. I think he’d seen a new side of Sweet Miss Billie. It was an altogether edifying and satisfying experience for the rest of us.