VICTORIA PRESERVATION SOCIETY ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
INTERVIEW WITH: Minnie Lee Pritchard (Mrs. Gilbert)
DATE: April 14, 1993
PLACE: Victoria, Texas
INTERVIEWER: Betsy Kopecky
BK: This is April the 12th 1993, interview with Minnie Lee Pritchard, and interviewer Betsy Kopecky. We are interviewing in Mrs. Pritchard's home.
Mrs. Pritchard, tell me, bring us up ... sort of as a beginning, did you grow up in Victoria?
MP: No. No.
BK: Where did you grow up?
MP: Hopkins County.
BK: Hopkins County. What ....
MP: A little town, Como. Called Como.
BK: Well, and how did you happen to come to Victoria? Tell us about it.
MP: To teach school! (laughter)
BK: To teach school.
BK: What ... ?
MP: Oh, I came ... I was first at Mitchell School, old MItchell School, ...
BK: Oh. Okay.
MP: And I taught penmanship and art.
BK: Penmanship and art.Minnie Lee Pritchard
MP: For about four years and then I married my principal, Gilbert Pritchard.
BK: Okay. And when was this approximately that you came to Victoria?
MP: Oh, that's what I was trying to think of! It ... I'd say around '31, 1931.
BK: 1931. What was it like at Mitchell in 1931?
MP: Well, ....
BK: What was it like to teach there and what sort of students did you have?
MP: We had, oh, we had the dearest students, and the parents, the dearest parents. They really did stay behind the teachers. And were so cooperative, you know.
Let's see, we had eight rooms downstairs and I think about six rooms upstairs. And the children downstairs were in grades, I think I'm right, 4th, 5th and 6th. Or maybe ... let me go back ... 3rd, 4th and 5th, I believe. The children upstairs were 1st and 2nd. No, I'm wrong, 1st, 2nd, 3rd upstairs, 4th, 5th and 6th downstairs. And we taught ... we'd go ... the teachers would change rooms, go from room to room, rather than the children to change rooms.
MP: And we had about 20 teachers, I think, something like that. Oh, and we had so many ... in my homeroom, now each teacher's room was called the homeroom, my homeroom had 52 children in Minnie Lee Pritchard
MP: 52. And most of the other rooms, you know, were as crowded. And the rooms were rather small. And the desks went almost from back wall to front wall and the two side walls and if you wanted to get to a child over in kinda the corner, children had to get up, let you get through and get to their desk and help them. For instance, I was teaching writing and I would need to see, you know, go ... I like to go up and down the aisles, seeing what they were doing as they were writing. And that's the way I'd get to the back rows. Somebody would have to stop work and stand up ... we had those little flip seat desk ... do you remember those?
BK: Oh, yes. Uh-huh.
MP: And let me through, you know. It was that crowded.
BK: And you went from room to room?
MP: I went from room to room.
BK: And they had penmanship and art for all the classes?
MP: Those classes downstairs. Children downstairs. Eight rooms.
BK: Eight rooms. And what all did they do? What all did they study beside penmanship and art, beside reading and writing, anything ... I'm surprised that they had art.
MP: Music. We had a music teacher and we had a geography teacher and reading teachers. See, they just went from room Minnie Lee Pritchard
to room and taught their subject. And I went from room to room and taught art and penmanship.
BK: How many elementary schools were there back then? Because it sounds like the schools were crowded?
MP: Three. Mitchell and then Bronson, a small school, and they taught three grades only, then the children came to Mitchell for the 4th, 5th and 6th. And then, what we called old Juan Linn, it was a tiny little building, and in fact, it was about the same as Bronson, they were about the same. Isn't Bronson School still there?
BK: Bronson ... it's an orphanage now.
MP: Okay, it was the same style, the same size.
BK: Where was it?
BK: No, the old Juan Linn.
MP: Over here where Juan Linn School is.
BK: Oh, in the same location?
MP: Yes. Now, it was a little school, now let me see ... and I taught there, too.
MP: Yeah. After I married. Okay, after I married, married teachers could not teach in Victoria public schools.
BK: A married teacher?
MP: A married teacher could not. That was just after the Depression and I think they did it because of jobs, you know, Minnie Lee Pritchard
MP: ... men with families. We didn't have many men teachers at the time, in those lower grades. Anyway, after I married, then I taught two or three years at Guadalupe, the old Guadalupe School. It's not there anymore. It used to be on the highway. And it was just a little building there. It had two classrooms downstairs, one classroom upstairs and a small auditorium. And I taught 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade there. In the same room. And I had around 12 or 15 children. Which made it easy enough, you know, that you could almost teach one to one. Just keep your eye on 15 children wasn't so bad. Though it was three grades. But that gave the children a chance to kind of move along, you know, at their own rate of speed.
BK: And then what happened after Guadalupe?
MP: Okay. Then the war, war was declared and they needed teachers in Victoria. So they let marrried teachers come in and I came back to Victoria and that's when I went to Juan Linn. The old building. And there was three classrooms downstairs and three classrooms upstairs. At Juan Linn. And we taught, I think, 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades.
BK: 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades. What ... where did they go after Mitchell and Juan Linn?
MP: Then they went out to Patti Welder.
BK: To Patti Welder.Minnie Lee Pritchard
BK: Patti Welder was not a high school then?
MP: No. Patti Welder was ....
BK: What happened to 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th graders?
MP: I'm talking about Patti Welder now. It was called something else. It was ... let me see, they had the high school and then had Patti Welder Intermediate.
MP: Uh-huh. Okay, they would leave, the children would leave Bronson and Juan Linn and go to Mitchell.
BK: Oh. Okay.
MP: Then they ... 4th, 5th and 6th grades. Okay, then they would go and I'm sure they called it ... no, they didn't call it Patti Welder ... what did they call that school? That intermediate school. Then they'd go there for about three grades and then to Patti Welder High School. But now we call this intermediate school Patti Welder, don't we?
BK: Uh-huh. Yes, Patti Welder is one of the intermediate schools now.
MP: Yeah. Okay, now what did we call that school? (laughter) I don't know!
BK: I don't know. We'll have to ask one of our local historians and see what.
MP: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
BK: Well then, after you came back to Victoria and then what Minnie Lee Pritchard
did you do?
MP: Okay. Then I taught 2nd grade at Juan Linn. And long ago, before that, Juan Linn was called North Heights.
BK: North Heights.
MP: Uh-huh. That was the name of that school.
BK: Well, that must have been sort of a northern boundary in Victoria in those days?
MP: Uh-huh. It was.
BK: What was the location like around Juan Linn? When the old building was there.
MP: Well, it was just kind of a low ... what do you call it? ... small houses.
BK: Well, the streets weren't paved in that area, were they then?
MP: No, I think they were gravelled.
BK: I seem to remember gravel streets.
MP: No, Victoria didn't have much pavement. When I came to Victoria in about 1931, they had just finished sort of a loop around downtown and everytime somebody would take you for a drive or to show you the town or something, we'd make that loop, they'd go that loop with me, you know, to show me.
BK: This was a paved loop?
BK: Oh, I guess that was ...
MP: That was about all the pavement they had, Victoria had.Minnie Lee Pritchard
BK: Where did you live?
MP: I lived on De Leon in an apartment and then I moved over on Juan Linn for awhile, and then I stayed at a boarding house two or three years, a year or two.
BK: Well, now, you eventually were principal at William Offer. How did that come about?
MP: Okay. When I was at Juan Linn, our principal there, our teaching principal, she taught and was principal, you know, looked after the reports and things. Okay, she retired, Mrs. Slacker, and I took her job, took over her job. I was called the "teaching principal." Then they started William Offer, building it, and they got the foundation up and about that time the United States declared war. Okay, they could no longer get the steel, you know, that ... the equipment and ... I mean ... materials and things that they needed for the building so it just had to sit there during the war.
BK: The whole time during the war?
MP: The whole time during the war. Just the foundation and it was up so far from the ... the foundation was built up about that high ... a step or two. And evidently, soil ... they'd put soil in there ... weeds and things grew up on it and in it. And then after the war they started right away to build it, finish it. And then I went there. I left Juan Linn and went to William Offer. And I stayed there until I quit. I call it retiring, but I quit. When I was 51. I didn't teach Minnie Lee Pritchard
long enough, you know, to really retire, I guess. Or call it retirement. But anyway, I quit. And that's how I was ...
BK: Your husband was involved with the school system, too.
MP Okay, yeah. When I came here he was principal at Mitchell. Then he went to the high school and was principal there and then the school began ... the system began to grow and got large enough for a business manager, so he went into that office.
BK: He didn't teach anywhere?
BK: What sort of things were different then than they are now as far as the activities of the children, or after school activities or things that they participate in? Would be interested in what you see the differences are from then til now.
MP: Okay. We had what we called recess. Each teacher would go out with her group on the playground. And they would organize little games and some of the children liked to play baseball and things like that. And we'd have, say about a 15 minute recess period in the morning, then the lunch period one hour and then about a 15 ... 10 or 15 minute recess period in the afternoon.
BK: And did they have any activities after school?
MP: No, I'm afraid they didn't. Not that small a child.
BK: Not the small ones. I guess the older ones had all the standard things.Minnie Lee Pritchard
MP: Yeah. Ball, different ball games, different types of ball games.
BK: Can you remember any particular events that were of interest or outstanding, things that you remember that happened, either in the schools or associated with the schools? Or the educational system?
MP: No, it just kind of went along. No, not anything in particular.
BK: Or any events ... in Victoria, things ... besides the war ... but besides that?
MP: No, I don't think so.
BK: Any other rememberances of Victoria? Of living here?
MP: Well, I don't know ... an awful lot of rememberances, but just ... I guess like anybody else you just went along. BK: Well, education has changed so much, I guess, ...
MP: Well, see, I haven't been in the schoolroom ... oh, it's been over 30 years, and I just don't know much about what they do now. Yeah, it's very different. But I just don't know ... I didn't keep up, you know.
BK: Well, of course, we're mostly interested in what you did then. Did most of the children ... did they go home for lunch? Or was there a cafeteria? What did they do?
MP: Those that could went home for lunch and then they brought sack lunches.
BK: Brought sack lunches.Minnie Lee Pritchard
MP: For a long time after we moved into William Offer and they established the kitchens.
BK: So when William Offer was built it took the place of Bronson School?
MP: No, they continued Bronson and Juan Linn.
BK: Because they are all so ... Bronson in so close to William Offer.
MP: Um-hm. It stayed.
BK: It stayed.
MP: They stayed. .... used that building, I don't know how long, but a number of years after I went to William Offer. Can you think of anything else that you could ask me?
BK: Well, I just, you know, things that you did and remembered. Any particular children that you remember that you had as students that grew up to do interesting things?
MP: Yes. ...
BK: Any interesting events or any interesting things that the kids did?
MP: Oh, that the kids ... No. Now like William Fly and Frank Crane, here in the neighborhood, they were little boys at Mitchell. And oh, a bunch, I just have to think! I just don't remember the names, you know, ... that's a long time ago!
BK: It is.
MP: Eleanor Ann was one of them. And ... had I thought about this coming up, maybe I could have sat down and thought of some Minnie Lee Pritchard
names. We were real fond of the children. They were such nice, well-behaved, well-mannered children. Very little trouble.
BK: They'll be happy to hear that you remember them that way.
MP: Very little. Just real nice children. At Mitchell and at William Offer. Juan Linn. And I'm sure at Bronson. I just didn't teach there.
BK: What were the children like when you were at Guadalupe?
MP: Oh, they were real nice children. Most of their parents were farmers and the parents were real cooperative. I was real fond of all those parents out there. 'Course the children are grown now and have children and grandchildren. And so many of their parents have gone on. But it was real pleasant teaching out there. And with no more children than that you know it was just real interesting to work with them.
Oh, I do remember ... I had one little feller, he started to school before he was quite six and he was just almost a baby. And when I would be teaching, or if I was sitting in my chair, he would leave his desk and come up and root me over, you know, and he would sit there with me (laughter) ... just real young child. And then they would let them start, if the classroom was not crowded, they would let them start, say if their birthday came like in September, see September 1st, they should be six by September 1st, or they'd have to wait another year and if the ... I'm talking about Guadalupe now, they did, they let this little feller start to school before he was six because Minnie Lee Pritchard
his birthday came like in September or October. I remember that little boy. I loved him.
BK: Don't you think the atmosphere of the classroom was different then because you had the pledge of allegiance and I'm sure you had some sort of morning prayers and things that we don't have now.
MP: Uh-huh. We had that.
BK: Did it make for a more family oriented atmosphere?
MP: No, I wouldn't say family, it was just a pleasant atmosphere?
BK: Well, were you still teaching when all the upheaval came in the schools and they started busing and those sort of things, were you still teaching then?
BK: Were you affected by that at all?
MP: No. No. I can't remember any bus children.
BK: Well, no, actually I guess we didn't ... probably didn't have busing in Victoria, but when they started, you know, worrying about ethnic balance in the schools.
MP: Okay. Well ....
BK: Well, you were ... that probably came after you retired. The primary part of that. Can you remember ... are there any other problems that came up along the way that were difficult that the school had to manage? Anything that you ...
MP: I think I had one ... I can remember one child that I would Minnie Lee Pritchard
call incorrigible. Out of all those children, all those years. See, I taught 31 years. And I think I could name one child, two, two, two children, two little boys that you would call incorrigible.
BK: That's a good record.
MP: Oh ... it sure is. .....
BK: Thank you, Mrs. Pritchard.
END OF TAPE 1, SIDE 1, ABOUT .. MINUTES.
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