Emma B. Ross is the reason that I write today. I entered Hazard High School and at that time they had three courses to choose from, (1) General Course (that would get you graduated); (2) Commercial Course (that would teach you the basics for the business world, i.e., shorthand, typing, bookkeeping, economics, etc.); and (3) The College Course (which would prepare you for your college entry). I chose the Commercial Course because I was interested in the subjects and that gave me the ability to work 46 years (mostly in the legal field) and more than a few people thought that I had been through college. I had to put this in here because I am so proud of my education received at Hazard High School where you were taught by the "cream of the crop". The roster of teachers far excelled anything in the Bluegrass Area of our fair state.
Mrs. Ross manned the hallway, which means she was always standing outside her classroom where she could view the coming and going of the students or walking up and down to make sure no one was up to "hanky panky" (oh, no, not in our halls of ivy). She was a private person, leaned toward the male gender. Her glance was off a little and you could not tell if she was looking at you or somewhere else. As a Freshman I heard all the bad things they said about her, not bad things but stuff like, "her husband died on their honeymoon, that is why she bears scars and all and she seems angry all the time..." I always made sure that when I passed her that I was watching my step so she would not pull me aside.
Time went on and I became a Junior and my love was Literature (remains so today) and I learned that I had to take Junior and Senior English. My skill was not that good in English but good enough, I suppose. I was seated near her desk right beside Wally McDaniel. She loved Wally (Wally was loved by all the girls). One of her strong things was to prepare you to talk in front of the class. Oh, I hated this to the 9th degree but I knew it had to be done. She gave me my assignment and it was something about dating and the taboos, etc. Well, I was ashamed to get up there and speak on this subject. Uncle Matt let me use him as a sounding board and my first speaking assignment was ready. I was told not to memorize but I found early on that memorizing was one of my main qualities. I went over it enough and of course got it down pat. I stood up there right by her desk. I began to speak and was so scared that I thought I was going to wet my pants right there. I looked at Wally and he was grinning. I looked at others who seemed to be watching Mrs. Ross more than myself, and hating the time my talk was up and theirs would start. Uncle Matt told me to put emphasis here and there and not to let it sound like it was memorized. I did that and she was up out of her chair and pointed at me, "You can now take your seat." I just knew I had failed my speaking assignment. She walked in between the seats and stood there and praised my efforts and from that time on she knew me and my love for her subjects.
I did not join clubs in High School, only the Glee Club and FHA because I committed myself to read about 7 books a week and then I skated pair skating with my Dad, so I didn't have interest in the Clubs. I loved watching the dramas she would put on and I missed that chance I suppose but I doubt she would have called on my anyhow.
She lived in an apartment down below the High School and I saw her coming and going a lot, to and from school, and then just going home up Baker Hill. She always appeared lonely to me, very seldom smiling, or I didn't see her smiling too much. She was a dedicated teacher and I guess her teaching gave her comfort and the papers she would have to grade, etc. would take some of her time at night, or I always hoped she would keep herself busy grading papers and preparing the next day's activities. She loved to read out loud and she would call on us to read out loud also.
I would sit in awe of her when she would begin to read from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. She was on top of the old English and she could spout it out fluently. Her eyes would wander even when she read to see if her class was listening. There were times that I saw the makings of a smile on her lips when she was deep into reading one of the stanzas. She wanted her class to learn English Literature and she instilled it in me. I became engrossed in English Literature and she saw I loved the subject. I knew when she called me down while reading aloud that it was for my own good, not hers. I wish I could have thanked her more because my love for her and her subjects led me toward my favorite hobby, the writing of short stories and poetry. I would have loved for her to have critiqued some of my work but she was gone by then.
Mrs. Ross was one of a kind. Her ability to manage a classroom to the hilt was beyond comparison. Her ambition for the girls and boys in her class was very evident in the way she prepared us. I know the boys and girls who joined her Club (she was very picky whom she let into her Club) got an education in high school acting (which excelled in my book beyond high school), speaking, drams, etc. through the efforts of Mrs. Emma B. Ross. I give her the credit for my love of literature and books in general. She was the force behind us all. Some loved it, others hated the sight of that room.
I wish I could read to her as she read to me. Her memory is etched in my "archives" and I can see her face as I type this. She left her mark on me and so many others. I never could erase the thought of her losing her husband on their honeymoon and that she was so alone. She handled it and her life centered around Hazard High School and I wish all the teens could have walked those hallowed "Halls of Ivy" when she was doing the monitoring.
Mrs. Emma B. was special in so many ways. I guess the way I imagine I can smile as I finish this thinking she might be walking the streets of gold hand in hand with her young husband.