THROWBACK THURSDAY: Former student shares memories of school days

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Members of a Lady Panther varsity basketball team from the late 1960’s. Top row from left are Coach Cadmus Brown, Carolyn Ross, Paula Lane, Lori Lay, Carleene Wright, Sarah Jones and Connie Sue Foust. Second row from left are Bertha Reed, Teresa Williams, Denise Williams, Mary Parker, Sue Williams, Pam Williams, Debbie Mather and Effie Montgomery. Front row are Margot Lynn Wetzel, Donna Jay, Wanda Johnson and Sybil Brown. (Courtesy Photo)

Members of a Lady Panther varsity basketball team from the late 1960’s. Top row from left are Coach Cadmus Brown, Carolyn Ross, Paula Lane, Lori Lay, Carleene Wright, Sarah Jones and Connie Sue Foust. Second row from left are Bertha Reed, Teresa Williams, Denise Williams, Mary Parker, Sue Williams, Pam Williams, Debbie Mather and Effie Montgomery. Front row are Margot Lynn Wetzel, Donna Jay, Wanda Johnson and Sybil Brown. (Courtesy Photo)

By JAMES WEAR

I’d just completed my last column when I mentioned to my wife one of the stories Billy Ray Guerin told me about students climbing out of windows for a ride down the fire escape.

“Oh, yeah,” she said, “Those windows were open a lot, and sometimes the milkman, after making a delivery to the cafeteria, would hand ice cream to us through those windows,” Paula Wear said. “Corky was his name.”

She got to talking, and shared other memories of her days as a Liberty Hill student, and later as a bus driver and mother of a student.

Paula began attending school in Liberty Hill around 1965. She was in the seventh grade, while her younger brother, Johnny (Bud) was in the second grade.

“We had a lot of the same teachers our father had,” she recalls.

Their father, as we noted in our last column, attended Liberty Hill schools in the 1940’s.

Paula and Bud rode the school bus, and she says discipline was pretty strict.

“Cadmus Brown was the driver, and if you didn’t mind, he’d put you off — it didn’t matter if you were 30 miles from your house.”

Brown wasn’t driving the bus the day that Paula received an invite from a friend to get off at the friend’s house.

“She said we could get off at her house and then she’d drive us home,” says Paula. “Only problem was we found that her dad hadn’t left the keys in the car, so we took off running, trying to beat my parents home. I made Bud promise not to tell Daddy we’d gotten off the bus, and of course, when Daddy got home the first thing Bud blurted out was I’d made him get off the bus and we had to run. I tried to get out of trouble by saying I was scared of the bus driver, but when Daddy found out it was Nathan Wetzel, I got in big trouble. Got a whippin’ and was grounded.”

Wetzel at the time taught vocational agriculture and was a widely-respected member of the Liberty Hill faculty. He later was elected as Liberty Hill’s first mayor after the voters approved incorporation in 1999.

Agriculture entered the picture once when Paula said she asked the homemaking teacher if she would show the students how to cut up a chicken. The teacher, Frances Thompson, responded by having several of Paula’s classmates, including Glen Sims and his brother, Lynn, go out and bring back some live chickens, which they slaughtered.

“I thought she was going to bring a chicken from the store,” recalls Paula.

She was among the first group of local students to finish their high school career elsewhere after Liberty Hill lost its accreditation. Paula and a few others opted to go to Leander.

Paula says she wasn’t interested much in sports, although she said she did play one year of basketball. Brother Bud, however, played football and although he attended Georgetown High School, he and other Liberty Hill boys, including Travis Lackey, proved to be standouts on the Eagles’ varsity squad. Paula and Bud’s younger brother, James, was a member of Coach Charlie Braun’s team that won Liberty Hill’s first ever district title in football in the late 1980’s with James being named the district’s most valuable player that year.

After graduating, Paula and her first husband, Jimmy Spivey, who later served on the Liberty Hill school board, began a family. Jimmy worked for IBM while Paula took a job as a bus driver for the school district. She remembers carrying 72 students on a bus designed to hold 50, and enforcing her own brand of discipline.

“I carried a big stick,” she says.

If her riders displayed good behavior, she says she would pull the bus over at Allman’s Grocery and let the kids go inside and buy a snack. Other times, while out in the Hopewell area, she remembers stopping the bus at a creek and let the students get out and get a drink.

Riding with her and her students was Paula’s oldest son John, two years old at the time.

“He’d sit up on the heater at the front of bus,” she says.

As John grew older and began attending school, he didn’t always want to go to school, and Paula recalls once, when she had just gotten out of the hospital after a bout with pneumonia, calling Louine Noble, principal of the elementary at the time, to come and get him.

Paula and Ms. Noble still laugh today when they talk about the time Paula chased John around the school yard, spanking him with her hairbrush as she attempted to corral him and get him into the classroom.

Noble, who is perhaps one of the most beloved teachers to have taught in Liberty Hill schools, went on to serve as superintendent during the late 1980’s before retiring from public education.

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