Monday, May 23, 2005


(Originally run 11/22/03 on the old site)

Ernest Simpson

There’s tribute we should pay to those who watched out for us during high school days and, many times, we didn’t realize they were looking out for us. Now, thankfully, we are old enough, or at least mature enough, to look back and realize what was going on. I believe in Angels, and there have been many in my life. Sometimes they are difficult to recognize, however, and when we don’t know, we should do all we can to try to acknowledge and be aware of their presence. Two of those in my life have reminded me to try to remember the importance of the following scripture:

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers,
For thereby some have
Entertained Angels unawares.
(Hebrews 13:2)

In high school days, I had some slight talent for music, and had an appreciation for art and drama, but was no match for the analytical skills, namely mathematics. I really struggled with all math courses and, after Plane Geometry and Algebra I, came the task of trying for Algebra II. That was a real mistake. My little brain was on overload from day one, and Mrs. Forrest, although bright, couldn’t penetrate the wall to my brain with the understanding of this technical subject.

Beginning my senior year was the telling place, and Algebra was going to be my undoing. Sure enough, through struggle and trial, it was to no avail and the academic half-unit I needed to add up to graduation credits was going down the tube. I went to Lee Yarbrough, and posed the dreadful question, ‘Mr. Yarbrough, what the heck am I going to do?’ He said to give him some time and he’d try to come up with an idea. There was only one solution to this dilemma, and Mr. Yarbrough found it.

Mr. Luther Hardin, a legend at Searcy High, taught the agriculture courses. The counterpart to this course was Home Economics I and II for the girls, taught by another legend, Mrs. Morgan. The boys and girls were segregated in these two courses. Boys did not take Home Economics, and girls didn’t take Agri. Despite this, unbeknownst to me, Lee Yarbrough had talked to Mrs. Morgan, and posed a hypothetical question. Then he called me into conference with her, him and me, and asked Mrs. Morgan about the possibility of me taking one of her Home Ec. Classes. I stammered, but said sure, it would be fine with me. He dismissed me, and continued to talk with her a few minutes in private. Soon after, I found myself enrolled in Home Ec. I. I was the only boy, a senior at that, among twenty freshmen girls.

The news of this spread like wildfire throughout the high school and, by the next day, at least a half-dozen boys were at Mr. Yarbrough’s office attempting to enroll in Home Ec. The invisible macho barrier had been broken, and there was a senior boy enrolled in Home Ec. I did not fit what some might have profiled as a guy who would want to be in a this particular class, and the ramifications of that created some small problems for Mr. Yarbrough, since the others who wanted in the class did not fit that profile, either. He held his ground, and I stayed what I would call a “unique” student in the class.

All the freshmen girls in the class looked at me like a big brother, and Mrs. Morgan, being creative, outlined classes that would make the most of having a boy in the class. We talked about dating, manners in dating; opening the car door for the girl, walking her to the door after a date, the unforgivable: never honking when picking up a girl for a date, and many other things which helped both the girls and me.

We had classes on cooking, table setting, running a proper household, cleaning, and decorating. We did design and prepare two meals, and the class participated in the meals, which were a lot of fun for the whole class.

The class was great from the standpoint of my having a lot of attention, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I was mindful of being respectful to the girls in the class. Of course, I appreciated Mrs. Morgan and how she handled the class to obtain the best educational experience for each student in the room.

So for me here, in the spring of the year 1957, were a couple of Angels: Mrs. Cecil Morgan and Mr. Lee Yarbrough. They would not have considered themselves as such and, until now, I would have agreed. However, at the end of the day, they were angels, and had to be for looking out for me and the many other kids that passed under their guidance during those years. I truly believe there are many more who, upon reflection, would agree.

(P. S. Elois Bleidt confirmed my esteem for and opinion of Mrs. Morgan, with a note and a couple of great stories about her own personal obstacles and pitfalls in the class.)


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