100 years of memories

Photo by Shari Harris
Clara Mae Black celebrated her 100th birthday Dec. 15.

By Shari Harris,

  December 15 marked a century of life for Clara Mae (Dye) Black of Edgar Springs. More than one hundred well-wishers gathered at the First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall in Edgar Springs. It was a day of celebration and a day of reflection spanning 100 years of her life as a daughter, sister, mother, aunt, grandmother, great-grandmother, teacher and friend.
Photo by Shari Harris
Well-wishers filled the fellowship hall at the First Baptist Church.
  She was born in Hanna, south of Buckhorn, in her family’s home. She was the fourth of eight children born to Harvey “Whis” and Stella (Helton) Dye. Her mother was a schoolteacher and her father had a merchandise store, post office, cream station, feed mill and blacksmith shop.
  Black was a member of the Waynesville High School class of 1937, but her education began at Cave Spring School, the same type of small school she taught at for many years in southern Pulaski and southern Phelps County. She wanted to train to be a beauty operator, but the closest school was in St. Louis and her father wouldn’t allow her to go that far from home alone. He found her a teaching job right after high school, and at 18 years of age, she began what would become 39 years of teaching.
  Teaching was a common occupation in Black’s family. In addition to her mother, her mother’s brother and his wife were also teachers. Her father’s side of the family included three uncles and their wives as teachers. The combination of Dye and Helton blood must have created a strong predilection for teaching. Black’s sister Georgia (Dye) Primus, brother Harvey Dye, and brother Chester Dye were classroom teachers. Her brother Roy Dye taught a vocational agriculture class, which at that time was taught on the farm as opposed to in the classroom. Future generations also include teachers, and the Dye influence on the education of generations in Pulaski County, southern Phelps County and northwestern Texas County is unquestionable.
  Black rode a horse to her first teaching assignment at Fairview School, where she taught first through eighth grades and gave a first-year boy a lift to school every day on the back of her mount. Her “bus driver” role was limited, however - the boy’s fifth-grade sister had to walk, as there was no room on the “bus” for her. She taught there for two to three years, and in other small first to eighth grade schools in Pulaski County for 11 years. Black continued her education on Saturdays and during summers until she earned her college degree.
  At the age of 23, Clara Mae Dye became Clara Mae Black when she married George Black. They lived on the McDonald Farm on the east side of Big Piney River near the community of Big Piney, where George Black farmed. When she had their only child, Doug, she stopped teaching for a few years, but resumed when he was four or five-years-old.
  When she moved to Phelps County, Black taught one year at West Point School, one year at Yancey, then three years at Relfe. She consolidated Elm Springs School with Relfe by doubling as bus driver, using her car to transport many of the Elm Springs children to the Relfe School. She had to put a flashing red light on top of her car in order to legally drive the children to school.
Submitted Photo
Relfe School - 1955. Photo from Flat, Missouri and the History of the Melton Family, by Wanda Melton Fields.
   In Edgar Springs, she taught seventh and eighth grade one year before the newly built school opened at its current location in the mid to late 1960’s. The new building and consolidated school meant bigger classes, and Black taught sixth grade, where she remained until her retirement in the 1980-81 school year.
  After retiring from teaching, she enjoyed the Homemaker’s Club in Edgar Springs, where she made quilts and took bus tours with her friends. She also took bus tours with her husband, seeing Washington, D.C., Mackinaw Island, and California among other destinations.
  Black has two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She continues to live on her farm in Edgar Springs. Of her eight siblings, she and her younger sister, Georgia Primus survive. Primus will be 98 in March and lives in Waynesville. Black and Primus have longevity in their family, with their maternal grandfather living 98 years and a maternal uncle living 99 years. With this history, many more birthdays may be possible for Black and Primus.
  When asked whether she would change anything, Black shook her head. She stated, “I had a good time while I was going through all those years.”
Photos by Shari Harris
Cathy Blake and Betty Miller served cake, and Sue McFarland and Caroline Bradford kept the punch bowl full.



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