Stephen Broyles’s Personal Pages

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Me, selling violets as a boy.



1. I Am Born
2. Growing Up
3. Into the Work Force
4. Marriage and Family
5. Single Daddy Years
6. A Second Marriage Begins and Ends
7. Where I Live and What I Do
Selling violets in the front yard.


Likely Stories:

My Life and How It Got That Way


1. I Am Born

I was born in Florence, Alabama. It was a small town then. I have a phone book from when I was ten years old, and all the telephones in town could be listed on twenty-nine pages.

Florence was more a Tennessee than an Alabama town. It was north of the Tennessee River and only a few miles from the state line. In its early days it was a stage coach stop on the road to Nashville, and even now, it is more akin culturally to Nashville than to Montgomery.

I went to school in a brick schoolhouse which everyone in town loved and which has since been torn down to make room for a tennis court. I had Mrs. Pollard for fourth grade. I believe it was she, more than anyone else, who made me a teacher. She retired shortly after I was in her class, at age seventy or thereabouts. That means that she must have come out of teacher training college early in the 1900s. She was therefore Old School.

Mrs. Pollard lived across the street from the schoolhouse. She had us memorize poetry from the blackboard: “October’s Bright Blue Weather” and “I Think That I Shall Never See a Poem As Lovely As a Tree” and something about the Pilgrims.

Mrs. Pollard taught us with a minimum of resources. Each of us had a small box of colors that had to last us the school year. Mrs. Pollard sent a knife around the room (not a sharp one), and we cut off a small segment of each color, a tablet the size of an aspirin. The rest of the colors went back into the box, and we used the tiny segments to color with. Every two weeks we had art, and we used our aspirin tablets to follow Mrs. Pollard’s demonstration of how to draw an oak tree in autumn or goldenrod in spring. Goldenrod was at that time the state flower of Alabama. Mrs. Pollard used a pointillist technique. I can still hear, in my mind, the sound of twenty school children bending over their work as they hammered out golden rods: tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat.

Mrs. Pollard wore a purple dress, pinned a silver brooch to her bosom, and pulled her white hair into a bun in back. She spoke of herself in the third person: “Steve, my boy, would you go across the street and bring Mrs. Pollard her mail?” We all loved her.

I became a teacher myself when I was grown, and I wanted to be as good a one as Mrs. Pollard. Somewhere along the line I heard what James A. Garfield had said about Mark Hopkins. Garfield was a Church of Christ elder, a Congressman, and President of the United States; Mark Hopkins was the president of Williams College in northwestern Massachusetts, from which Garfield had graduated in 1856. This is what Garfield said: “Give me a log hut, with only a simple bench, Mark Hopkins on one end and I on the other, and you may have all the buildings, apparatus and libraries without him.”

That is approximately what I had in the fourth grade, and it was enough.


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    Copyright © 2002, 2007 by Stephen E. Broyles. All rights reserved.
    Created November 5, 2002. Last updated January 6, 2009.