THE INSTITUTE OF TEXAN CULTURES
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
INTERVIEW WITH : Mrs . Bess Seale Nash, Educator
DATE: June 18 , 1990
PLACE : at her home, 423 W. Hollywood ,
San Anton i o, Texas , 78212
INTERVIEWER : Nora Olivares
0: Mrs. Bess Seale Nash has been selected for this
interview be cause of her contributions to education dur ing
the major part of this century. Her comments on her li f e as
an educator and the educational system from the time she was
a student thru her years as a teacher and later her years as
an administrator will contribute significantly to our
his t or i cal data . Mrs. Nash has prepared some remarks and I
wi ll now let Mrs . Nash read the information .
N: r was born in the l i ttle town of He l ena, Texas, Karnes
County , on February 17 , 18 and 90. My parents were Mr . and
Mrs. John J . Seale. r went to the Karnes City Public Schools
when r was s i x years old. I don't think I was especially
interested in gar deni ng , as such , in that day tho I did love
flowers and was a member of the University Garden Club . I
was especially interested in arranging flowers . I loved
school; liked to take part in spe l li ng matches which our
Literary Society held every few weeks . I think it quite
normal that I went into the field o f education when that had
been my interest from early chi l dhood .
N: My parents took a special interest in all my school
activities and I loved bringing home good reports. They
encouraged me to go on to college and helped me to make that
possible. I went to San Marcos College and got my first
grade certificate and later went to the University of Texas
where I received my bachelors degree and then later went to
Columbia University to get my masters degree. I taught in
Karnes City, my home town, for 4 years and then I went out
to Matador which is in the Panhandle of Texas. I traveled by
train to Paducah where we were to take the TM&H. We saw a
long hack vehicle there, with 3 horizontal seats behind the
driver'S seat. Hitched to the hack were two husky mules, now
I knew that TM&H stood for 2 mules and a hack.
And when the mules needed urging to quicken their pace
the driver would reach out and twirl a long whip .• quirt,
hitting the back with a thundering noise and this made the
mules quicken their pace .
. . . . .
N: I spent an interesting year in Matador.
San Antonio schools 75 years ago were probably very
different from those of today. I know teachers in that day
were teaching children to read, write, spell correctly, add
and subtract correctly. From the news I hear on radio and
television today, and I read in the newspapers, I am not
sure what the children are learning in schools of today.
N: Mrs. Elma Neal, supervisor in the elementary schools,
after knowing my work in the schools, advised me to become
an administrator. I may not be qualified to have a correct
opinion about education of our children today, at least what
they are getting in the schools today. But from what I hear
on radio and read in the newspapers and in some magazines, I
believe some important improvements must be made for our
American children to be good citizens of tomorrow.
I am grateful that many children in the schools had
parents who were interested in their children's education. I
have received a letter from one of the parents today, which
I received on my lOath birthday, in which this mother says,
"How grateful we have always been that you guided our sons
through those early years at Woodlawn School. Your school
afforded them the educational foundation so that the older
one attained an executve masters degree in business and the
second one attained a phD in math and physics. So, many
thanks to you. We love you and wish for your continued
reward." Your friend, Mary Louis and JD Cobb.
At the same time I had the letter from Mrs. Cobb, Mr. &
Mrs. Cobb rather, I also received a letter from a young man
who went to school in Woodlawn and is now living in
Marietta, Ga. He sent pictures of himself and his family and
expressed his joy at remembering the years that he went to
school in Woodlawn, when I was the principal.
0: Mrs. Nash, can we go back and talk about your first
years as a student?
N: My first years teaching, of course, was in the little
town of Karnes City, and •..
0: Mrs. Nash, what I want to hear about is your
experiences as a student in the early years in Karnes City.
N: I had about 30 pupils and they all knew me because I
was only 17 years old when I began and they all knew me
very, very well and I had no disciplinary problems
whatsoever and I enjoyed teaching them games out on the
playground and they .. it was a joy to teach. And there I
taught 4 years before I went to Matador. And in Matador I
had the same enjoyable experience at second grade of 30
0: Did you keep the same children all day long?
N: Yes. We never .• Sure, we had the same children all
day. We didn't ...• we didn't have division of ..• different
0: What time of day did you start classes?
N: We began at 9 o'clock. Of course, we really began at
8:30, but the classes were not started until 9. And lunch
time at the regular 12 o'clock period and then at 1 we came
back in to classroom and we were out though at 4 o'clock. We
went to 4.
0: Did the classes begin in the early part of September
and go through June?
N: Yes. We had . . . in most instances we had 9 months but
N: the year that I taught in Matador they ran out of money
and so the school had to close after 8 months. Much to our
sorrow. In San Antonio we've always had 9 months of school.
0: What did you do about the heat in the sum •..• , the
months close to summer? Did you have air conditioning?
N: Air conditioning is a dream. We didn't think of having
air conditioning in that day. We didn't eveD have fans.
N: We just had great big windows and I opened my windows
0: What did you have in the way of visual aids?
N: Had no visual aids in that day. We had a wonderful
blackboard and I really did, I think, I wrote with my left
hand and had, if I do say it myself, I had a lot of
compliments on my writing.
0: How did the children get to school during those early
N: The parents brought the children to school. Of course,
in most instances they lived not too far away and so many
children could walk and those who lived too far away the
parents brought them in a car.
And some came on the bus. The bus stopped at the school
and let the children get off. I suppose half of the
children, maybe, rode on the bus.
0: Mrs. Nash, will you tell us something about the books
that were used during your first years of teaching?
N: After I went into the downtown schools where many
Spanish children were going to school the Neal Storm books
were used and they are a wonderful series because they have
stories that portray the children's playground activities
and those activities which children like to engage in. And
in that way those books were wonderful for those children to
learn to read in.
You've never seen them have you?
0: No mam.
N: They were Too bad that they were ..• but they were
you know, used here in the state for sometime. Series of
Neal Storm reading material was excellent for at the end of
the year my first grade children could read and write and
could talk good English.
0: Will you tell us about the physical education period?
N: Well, we had a physical education director and she
would come and give the teachers directions about games that
we were to teach the children. And then one teacher would
have charge of taking the children out on the playground at
a certain time each morning and one teacher would have them
one week another teacher would have them another week so in
that way every teacher was involved in teaching those games.
And the children learned to play games.
0: What were some of the games that you remember?
N: Oh, my goodness. I'm afraid I ..... many of the
exercises were just exercises and not the name of any
particular game .
... children did so well when I was teaching because
N: they came from homes where both parents were interested
in their children. very few divorced couples were involved
in my day of teaching, •..• really, really make children
have an unhappy childhood.
0: Mrs. Nash, you have shown a special interest in
gardening, you have joined the University Women's Garden
Club, can you tell us about this special interest?
N: I was so interested in flowers and in flower
arrangements that I enjoyed going to Garden Club meetings
but as for doing the ... getting into the yard and doing
gardening I didn't have time when I came home from school.
But I did enjoy flower arrangement and always enjoyed going
to Garden Club meetings and to any other Garden Club studies
that our University Women had.
0: \~ere you active with the San Antonio Retired Teachers'
N: Yes, I was. I was president. But I can't remember the
year I was president of the Retired Teachers Association one
0: What was some of your activities with that group?
N: Well, ..• it was a continual activity with the retired
teachers .... it's a retired teachers group.
0: This article appeared in the newsletter of the San
Antonio area Retired Teachers' Association. Milestones and
Achievements. 'When a very special person celebrates her
lOath birthday and that person is Mrs. Bess Nash, greetings ,
0: To commemorate her birthday on February 17, Mrs. Nash
received countless greetings. Birthday letters included one
from Governor Clements and one from Senator Cindi Krier.'
Earlier this year TREDDA (Texas Retired Educators
Deferred Dividend Association) payed tribute to her in a
feature newsletter article. She was also honored by the
First Baptist Church of San Antonio and a host of other
organizations and individuals.
Mrs. Nash began her teaching career in 1907 at Karnes
City, Texas, for $50 per .month. Other assignments included
Matador, Runge, Kenedy, Dallas and San Antonio. She was a
teacher and a principal in San Antonio Independent School
District at Ogden, Lamar, Graebner, Burnet, Woodlawn,
Cotton, Steele, and Baskin.
She retired in 1955 only to be recalled until 1966.
Mrs. Nash served as president of SAARTA (San Antonio Retired
Teachers Association) in 1963 through 1964. What a privilege
for SAARTA members to have her as an inspiration.
Mrs. Nash, is there anything else you would like to
N: Well, we've heard all year a great deal about the new
education plans for Texas schools. How great it would be if
all our young people will have the opportunity of receiving
a first class education in Texas.
0: Thank you very much, Mrs. Nash, for your time and the
most valuable information you have shared with us.
END OF TAPE I, SIDE 1, ABOUT 20 MINUTES.
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.