Miss Maymie#039;: Teaching was her life

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 24, 2002

BRUSHEY CREEK, Ala.

There's a remarkable lady, pioneer variety, living in this vicinity.

Her life story should be required reading.

Maymie Shell Chambliss was born on a one-horse farm here on February 14, 1907, as one of six children, four girls and two boys.

Her father, Clifford Shell, worked hard to provide an education for his offspring, three of whom finished college and taught school in Butler County.

Miss Maymie completed one year at Troy Normal Teachers College and was employed in 1929 as a teacher in a one-teacher school, instructing 21 pupils through six grades.

The school was located at "Newtonville," so-named for the many Newton families of the area. The school building itself was a two-storied house with a Masonic Lodge upstairs.

Her starting monthly salary was $50 and she found a boarding house nearby at $15 a month. Times were hard, obviously, at that time with the dark cloud of the Great Depression hovering over the land.

She later finished college at Troy State and continued to pursue her chosen profession.

Scholarships had been offered to her at five other colleges, including Auburn and Montevallo.

The early years of Miss Maymie's teaching career were Spartan, indeed, with the state furnishing only a roll book and a list of state-required textbooks. The blackboard was simple, a black painted spot on the wall and the desks were homemade.

She recalled recently that in the late 1920s and early 1930s there were no library books, no blackboard chalk nor anything furnished for art or other extracurricular activities.

Miss Maymie, out of her meager salary, furnished everything, with the exception of textbooks, that was used for instructional purposes.

All janitorial work was performed by the students who also tended the outdoor toilets that featured Sears catalogue toilet paper.

During her three-year stint at Newtonville there were no fees and no P.T.A., but "we learned" says the retired teacher.

Supervisory personnel never found it necessary to visit and inspect the school during that period.

"They probably didn't want to walk that last mile," she noted, as no car could negotiate that rough terrain.

Surprisingly, attendance was almost perfect during her tenure there, thanks to the perserverance of the pupils and their thirst for learning.

The Newtonville school was closed at the end of those three years, and Miss Maymie was transferred to Waller-Grand just four miles away.

Following is her verbatim report on "The Rest of the Story":

"I moved from school to school as consolidation took place in Butler County; to Bellview, to Brushey Creek, to East Chapman and to Chapman, where I taught for 20 years.

"This place (Chapman) was the most ideal in the county. The W.T. Smith Lumber Co. built the school, furnished all utilities. The P.T.A. was very active. We had a library equal to some high schools(although Chapman was classed as junior high school).

"When the lumber company sold out, I moved to Georgiana High for 20 years. I've seen children that had little to wear, undernourished and sick. I've rejoiced in seeing my students become doctors, heads of college departments, preachers and many other highly recognized employees and service men and women.

"Teaching was my life.

"My last salary, in 1970, was $7,000 for the year."

There is much more to Miss Maymie's life's work that may be related at a later date.

Suffice it to say for now that she qualifies on the three points mentioned earlier: she's remarkable, she's a pioneer, and certainly, not last or least, she's a lady.

(Note: Efforts to get an exact geographical "fix" on Newtonville's location have been unavailing, but the Waller-Grand school, within four miles of Newtonville, was a short distance east of U.S. 31 near the Wald community.)