HISTORY OF EDUCATION IN PASCO COUNTY, FLORIDA

Recollections of Clarence Walter Martin Sr.
(1886-1964)

Mr. Martin tells an interesting story about being hired to teach at the Prospect school in 1913. He calls it Prospect Point, although school board records call it Prospect. At the end of the document, he tells of being offered the principalship at what is presumably the Zephyrhills school. He did not serve in that capacity (although his father did). More biographical information about Mr. Martin is here. This document was contributed by Laveda Martin Rogers, daughter of Clarence Walter Martin.

By CLARENCE WALTER MARTIN

Clarence Walter Martin C. W. Martin, Sr. born 10/30/1886 at Appanoose in Douglas County, Kansas. Married Mary Evella Tanner on 12/22/1912; nine children: Alice Antoinette, Marguerite Lucille, Clarence W., Jr., Gayln Earl, Nolan Lavelle, Melvin Merrill, Doris Vanita, Ramona Evella and Laveda Gaynelle.

I graduated from High School in 1900, attended Washburn College (Topeka, Kansas) from 1903 until 1907 when the panic of that year forced me to quit for financial reasons. I went to work as a floor hand at the H. H. Hackney Flour Mill in Topeka. In 1908 I learned to be a “flour packer.” At the end of that year, I was transferred to the Cereal Division as night foreman and in the spring of 1909 became day foreman.

In July of 1910 I resigned to be a farmer. (In the Cereal Division, the Mill employed up to 100 girls on the several floors and I met the girl who later became my wife.) I rented 160 acres of land near Tecumsey, Kansas and bought machinery and stock on credit.

I put out 72 acres of corn, 10 acres of alfalfa and 60 acres of prairie hay. Everything worked fine until corn gathering time when it started to rain for several days, then November 10th it turned cold and started to snow — 14 inches fell and from that time until the middle of February, we did not see the ground. I gathered the corn by kicking it out of the snow. I HAD ENOUGH! I sold all of the corn, 10 tons of tame hay, 30 tons of wild hay, had a sale and sold everything. After I paid off my debts, I had about $400.00 left. I took the train to Florida and this has been my home nearly ever since.

While living in Topeka, I joined (on May 6, 1905) the Kansas National Guard, the Topeka unit being at that time Battery B - Light Artillery. Later it became Battery A, First Field Artillery. I got several promotions until June 15, 1912, when I was discharged from the organization as First Duty Sergeant.

Father had a heart attack and the doctor had ordered him to go to a warmer climate. He had traded for 200 acres near Dade City, Florida and asked me to look it over, as the rest of the family would soon start for Florida. I went there and sold trees off 40 acres which gave him a little money to move with. When he arrived, he felt much better so decided to try teaching again. As he had a State Certificate, he felt sure that a Kansas Teaching Certificate, as well as a College Graduate Certificate from Ottawa would be accepted in Florida, but that counted for nothing there at that time, so he took the examination, which of course, he passed.

We talked it over and I thought I would try too. I had never taught, but both Mother and Father had taught for years in Kansas, and I felt they could help me get off to a start. We took the examinations and all got certificates, but of course, mine was a lower one. As teachers were scarce then, we soon had schools signed up. Mine was a one-room school paying $45 a month with a 6-month appointment, at Emmaus, which was southwest of San Antonio, Florida.

The next thing was to make arrangements to get my girl down and find a place to live. Father lined up an old empty settler’s house about 6 miles out of Dade City and we set up housekeeping. The old place was crawling with roaches and bed-bugs, but it seemed to be the only place we could get.

There was a car load of horses that had been shipped in from Texas to sell, claimed to be broken. As I had ridden horses since a boy, that didn't worry me too much. I got one that looked very good and priced for $50 and brought him home, also purchased a saddle on time, and laid a plan for riding him to school every day, as the school was eight miles south of where we lived.

When I found that we were going to stay, I joined a new company of National Guards that was being organized at Dade City - this was May 22, 1912. They saw on my application blank that I had about eight years in the Kansas National Guards, so the Captain made me a First Sergeant even though I had served in the Artillery, rather than Infantry. This meant that I sure had to study and I did. Soon there were 60 men in the Company, to equip, train, and organize. Talk about problems! There were many problems, and, as there was no 2nd Lt., I was elected to try for this rank. More study!! I took the Military examinations on June 26, 1912, and was appointed 2nd Lt. and assigned to Company D, 2nd Infantry, Florida National Guards.

In August, the streetcar motormen and conductors of the streetcar lines in Jacksonville, Tampa, and Key West, went on strike. Soon strike-breakers were called in by the company and things got rough, car workers were beaten up, even killed and both Regiments of the National Guards were called out and all Companies in the state were sent to Jacksonville except the Companies in Tampa and Key West, who were kept in those towns to handle any disorders there. The Companies of Guardsmen were bunked in unfinished store buildings, halls, etc. Orders went out to issue 60 rounds of ammunition and guardsmen were assigned certain streets to patrol and as the streetcars were started, it certainly was a mess. Orders went out from headquarters that all pedestrians were to keep on the move, and no groups to be allowed to talk. The first day whole Companies were kept in one block on Bay Street, then a day or so later, it was stretched and just Platoons were on one block, then to Squads. This lasted until the lines were mostly running. After a while the strike was settled and we went home. I had my hands full! We were on duty 30 days. Our Captain went on a drunk after 12 days; the only 1st Lt. we had was a banker who had been called home; and since the Captain had been relieved, I had to command the Company and bring it home. If I had not had some non-coms, who were solid men, I would never have made it! Some of our men got on a drunk, had to be put under guard etc., etc. We got back to Dade City, no serious trouble that couldn't be handled. But for me, no more strike duty!!

That Fall, plans were perfected that Evella and I would get married on December 22nd. With my Mother and Sister (who is 14 years younger than I) we laid the plans for action at this end of the line.

We thought it would be brilliant to have a surprise wedding arrangement. We arranged with the pastor and a friend of mine that on that Sunday, we would attend church in the evening, Evella wearing a light coat to hide her wedding gown, and after the services, we would march down to the front and then all would take their appointed places. SECRET was to be the byword to all the principals. So, Evella came in on the morning train. I met her, but of course, was seen by friends. We went to the hotel where she was to rest until evening. Mother and my sister were to help when the time came. We were going to walk the three blocks to church in order to dodge notice. We arrived at the church, listened to the sermon (though what he preached about, I never knew), and at the close, started down the aisle. By that time, a large number of people began coming into the church. The ceremonies completed, we hurried to the front door and there at the entrance was a long line of soldiers drawn up in double line, and as we walked down the walk, the trumpeter fell in behind with the soldiers following and that fool bugle blew every step of the way back to the hotel. Somewhere the secret had been leaked, but we never could find out by whom. Some of the other churches had made the announcement and let out a few minutes earlier, which explained the arrival of the extra people. There was enough rice scattered all the way to the hotel to feed flocks of chickens. We decided to get out of town as soon as possible, so left for the farm, thus dodging any other pranks.

It was quite a come-down for a city girl to go miles from her home to rough it in a backwoods country with no modern conveniences, but to her credit, she took it in stride, complaining very little and accepting it as the best we could do.

Teaching school was quite a new adventure for me, and I, of course, had my problems, teaching seven grades of one of more in each grade and trying to teach all the required subjects while giving equal advantages to each child. In addition, teaching in a school that was run down, part of the window panes were missing, seats were falling down at the most inopportune times, and teaching real “cracker” children.

My biggest problem was a 7-year-old Spanish girl, Vera Dedine, as pretty as a picture, with winning ways, but able to lead you on a merry chase, seemingly going just as far in her mischievousness as she dared. To illustrate: she tried me a little too much one day and I shook her up very roughly one evening. Her eyes really flashed fire, but the next morning, she came to school with a cheery “Good morning, Mr. Martin” and handing me a large red apple. Her Uncle said she was devil-possessed and sometimes I really wondered.

My oldest pupil was French-Canadian, Gerald Equaway, and after we became really acquainted and he understood that there were some school rules he must obey, I never had any more trouble with him; he was a good scholar. (The following year, he had a man teacher about to whip him when he stabbed him with a knife. I never learned how it was settled, but I was certainly surprised).

In February of 1913, I became very sick and my sister, then 13, rode my bronc to school and supplied for me for a week. The boys at school helped take care of the horse and she got along very well. In a couple of years, she was teaching in a regular school under a Special Certificate. As for riding my horse, she and I had been riding and racing horses a good many years in Kansas. After my six-month teaching appointment was up, the patrons of the school got together and by popular subscription, extended the school term two more months. (January-June, 1913?)

That summer, the County Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Saunders, called me to tell me the school board of Prospect Point (a community about 20 miles southeast [should be southwest -jm] of Dade City) had asked that I come out to a Board Meeting at the home of a Mr. Gaskins. He advised that I go and talk with them on a certain date, so I did.

I rode out horseback and met Mr. Gaskins, his brother-in-law, Mr. Miller, and another brother-in-law, Mr. Lyons. After we sat down, Mr. Gaskins told me they would like to have me teach at their two-teacher school and me as principal. I told them I had been offered another teaching term at Emmaus, but had not signed the contract. They offered me $15 more a month, and the use of a one-room house, over the Emmaus offer. (A picture of the house is here.) I signed for the position. After signing, Mr. Gaskins told me that I had agreed to teach the school and if I got into trouble doing it, I was not to look to them to get me out. For a moment, I was “stumped,” then I told the Board if that was the way they wanted it, then if I did have trouble, it was understood that the Board was not to interfere in any way. That was the way we left it.

When I got back to Mr. Saunders’ office, I asked him to tell me what I had gotten into. At first he said he would rather not get into it, but I told him that he had sent me there and must know of their trouble out there. Finally he told me there were five big boys there who ran the school, that of the 55 pupils going to the school, all but 8 were related, and furthermore, the teacher there the previous year had been soaked with water on a chilly evening and left locked overnight in the hall to the school. The next morning he had left and they had had no regular school the rest of that year.

I thanked him and returned home to talk it over with Evella. We decided to see it through. The first of September, the school started, and we had a very good turnout. (I knew nothing would happen for a couple of weeks, as it generally takes them that long to size the teacher up.)

During intermission, I generally am in the habit of strolling around the yard until time to take in. (I have had four years training in a gymnasium at Topeka and had advanced to the Senior Class. This training included working out on bars, rings, etc., as well as wrestling.)

I felt that the time had arrived to try something. Of these five troublemakers, one was a tall gangling boy, two were sturdy but small, and the other two were really men, in build. I told the boys that we had a little time and since it was all in fun, how would they like to wrestle. I turned to the tall boy and told him I would take him, two out of three falls. He said “O.K.” We squared off and as he came forward, I was lucky to twist his foot out from under him with my foot and give him a shove that set him down. He got up all determined then, and I got a flying mare on him and set him down again. I told him that was the best two, and then turned to the biggest boy and told him it was his turn. He looked at me a little while and said he was not feeling up to it. I invited each one for a try, but never got a bid. I taught the 8 months that year with no serious trouble.

I got it back on the County Superintendent, though. The two-room school was built on high stumps which held it about three feet off the ground and all summer and nights, wild hogs made their home under the school, so that fleas fairly swarmed in the school and yards. I had been to the Superintendent’s office asking for a couple of barrels of lime to scatter around, but got nothing but promises. One day I asked him to come out for a visit with the school saying the Board would like to see him. Then I told the Board that he promised to come a certain day about repairs for the school. (They had been talking about the repairs and I only made it more definite.) He came out that day, but the Board had not arrived yet, so I asked him to come around to a certain corner (where I knew the fleas abounded) and engaged him in conversation a few minutes. Soon his pants were rather black with fleas; then he was slapping his pants and getting out of there. I noticed he kept scratching the whole time he talked to the Board. The next morning a car came out from Dade City with three barrels of lime and spread it all around so the school and grounds became livable around there.

On October 4th, 1913, a baby was born in our one room home, which we named Alice Antoinette after the two grandmothers.

The whole year previous to this, we had been living out at Prospect Point we had lots of fun hunting. Whenever we could, we were out each night rambling over much of the area hunting. Evella was a pretty good sport, wanting to tag along, just to see what we could get, willing to help carry the game we could bag. We both liked rabbit and squirrel which was quite plentiful, but she would never shoot either the rifle or the 12-gauge shotgun I had.

One night we were hunting a new territory a few miles from the house (I had purchased a new Carbide hunting light, which I liked best because it gave a dull light which was better than a bright light. The bright light scared animals, while the dull one excited their curiosity, as we passed through a swampy place. I saw an eye, which I took for a rabbit. I shot and we couldn't find anything, no matter how we searched. I don't miss very often in that kind of shooting, and I couldn't get over it. After we left, a few hundred feet away, I got to thinking that there were a few small pools of water there, so I said “Let’s go back.” When we got there, I looked in one of the larger pools and there on the bottom, was the largest bullfrog that I guess I have ever seen. Then we shot another one close by and she said she had never eaten the meat but would like to try them. We had five rabbits and the problem now was how to carry them and still let me be free to shoot again if I had a chance on the road home. I tied two on my belt, gave her one for each hand, and the two bullfrogs, so we started but after a few steps when she gave a yell, I looked back to see all her game on the ground. She said those bullfrogs were still alive. I told her of the reaction of the frog’s muscles. Well, we finally got home after dropping the game every 10 minutes or so. After cleaning the kill, she started frying the frogs and every little bit, they would draw up in the hot skillet. I had to finish frying them, and to top it all, she couldn't even eat any, said she could see those legs in the skillet moving as if alive.

That Christmas I got her a light shotgun, thinking she could have more fun that way. We found a rabbit the next day in a clump of grass. He did not move, even when we got within 20 ft. I told her how to aim and shoot and asked her to shoot at his head, as I knew she would tear it to pieces being that close. She shot, but tore its hindquarters to bits and I had to finish killing it with a club. She never pulled another trigger to this day.

After the baby came, whenever she felt she could, she would dress the baby real cute and walk the quarter mile to the school during recess or noon at the school, and the children, boys or girls, would run to meet her, just to carry the baby the rest of the way. It seemed that the baby pleased all.

I taught the second year there with another $15 per month, if I would take the ones that graduated and teach them 9th grade subjects. I did.

On November 24th, 1914, the baby took violently sick and the next day, Mr. Gaskin took her to the doctor but she died on the 26th, of Colitis, a disease the doctors had not learned how to cure at that time. This was by Dr. Rice of Zephyrhills.

Of course, it was hard for Evella to come back and finish out the school term, but such is life.

The next school year, (1915) a new four-teacher school had just been completed with a large auditorium on the second floor. A very beautiful building and I had been recommended for the place at $90 per month, which I signed up to teach. (I was asked to be the Principal at $90 per month, which I accepted.)

Original written and typed on tissue 10-1-63 by Clarence W. Martin

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