Stuck at School

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Teacher Jackie Hayes in the fall of 1952 with students in on the front steps of the Higgerson School.

In the 1940s, teaching in a rural school didn't pay much, only about $200 per month. Jackie Hayes took a job teaching at Higgerson School near New Madrid for the fall semester of 1952. Besides the low pay, there were the children.

The one-room school had 20 students that year in grades one through eight. Hayes didn't live in the Higgerson Landing community and had to drive back and forth from home each day. She parked her car, a 1946 or '47 black Ford, in front on the school on the levee road. The Mississippi River levee sat just in front of the school.

Among her students that year were cousins Bud Henry and William Henry. Both boys were in the 8th grade. They were looking for something to do besides studying, and they were very interested in automobiles.

They knew that the Ford their teacher was driving only pulled on one rear wheel.

During recess one afternoon while the other children were playing on the school grounds, they snuck up to Hayes' car, removed the jack from inside, and jacked up the left rear wheel just barely off the ground. The jack fit under the axel, and, unless you bent down to look, it could not be seen.

"If you gave it gas, the wheel off the ground would spin and the other one would hold," explained Bud Henry.

Soon, school ended for the day and the children started walking home. The Henry boys pretended to walk toward their homes, but soon doubled back behind the levee to watch what happened.

Hayes came out of the school, climbed in her car, started it and put it in gear.

There she sat.

She climbed out, looked at the car, and then climbed back in.

Again she put the car in gear and pushed the accelerator.

The car didn't move.

While she repeated this scenario several more times, the boys were up on the levee having the time of their life laughing.

But they eventually noticed the frustration in their teacher's face and decided that she would probably start walking home. They hadn't anticipated this.

Finally, they felt guilty enough to come over the levee and take the car off of the jack as Hayes watched.

"Well, at the time, we thought she saw the humor in our prank as she sort-of smiled," recalls Bud, "but the more we thought of it while we were walking home, we were just sure we were going to really get it in the morning."

However, Hayes said nothing to the incident the next day. The silent treatment. The boys wiped their brows and applied their automobile knowledge to safer things for the balance of the semester.

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