The Muriel Currey Story
Muriel in 1995 in her latest outfit from Terri Ann's Store; photo taken by Cecil Johnson.
by: Patty Floyd Johnson
This summer we buried Muriel Garrett McGinnis Currey. Before passing from this world into the heaven prepared for her by our heavenly Father, she had succumbed to Alzheimers. This seems especially ironic since Muriel possessed one of the best minds, one of the best wits and was one of the best secondary school teachers ever to pass my way.
Muriel was born, a daughter of John and Daisy Snyder Garrett, on Sliding Run in Gilmer County, West Virginia and darned proud of it. She delighted in telling of her exploits while growing up on the family farm. She often told me her mother declared that her feet never touched the ground unless they made her come in for supper or to go to school. Muriel was a Tom Boy. Not that that was such an unusual thing in that time. But, Muriel stood out from all the rest.
The first time I remember setting eyes on Mrs. Currey I was a little past ten years old and she had invited our family to her home for Sunday dinner, which was no small feat, since, at the time we numbered seven; three boys, two girls and Mom and Dad. Her home was the big two story Victorian house on the left traveling toward Glenville on what was known as McGinnis Hill.
We had all just come from church. She greeted us at the door, sat in the living room for conversation and announced she had "turned the meal over to the stove and, if the meal was not good, it was the stoves fault." I was amazed at her equanimity. I think the meal was good although, honestly, I don't remember. I was so fascinated by her conversation. She totally distracted me from the food.
We used to love following her to church on Sunday mornings because she kept up a steady flow of conversation to the passenger on her right and only barely took momentary glances at the road. To my knowledge she never had a wreck and was not a reckless person she was just very adept at doing many things at once. I suppose that was one of the things that made her such a superb teacher. She knew at a glance what everyone in the room was doing, or not doing and masterfully taught the lesson at the same time.
It was not the first time she had set eyes on me. She was friends with my parents, Jesse and Pauline Yerkey Floyd. They had gone to high school together in the 20's at Sand Fork, the one and only high school in the county at that time, and she and my mother played on the girl's basketball team. They also attended the Coal Valley Church of Christ together. It has always been my understanding that the Garretts (Her branch of Garretts anyway.) had started that church and convinced my Dad of the rightness of their beliefs and to start attending there.
She and my mother both had a good sense of humor and they loved talking about their exploits when they got together, especially they talked a lot about the satin bloomers Daisy had made for Muriel to play basketball in. The bloomers, also, made her stand out from all the rest. But, being good humored and good-natured, they had a lark teasing her and Daisy about the bloomers. They talked about riding a gasoline boat down river to Grantsville, playing ball and returning next day. Then they would ride a gasoline boat up river to Burnsville, play a ball game and return the next day. They stayed overnight at the opposing girl's homes.
Muriel married for the first time Carl McGinnis the Gilmer County Superintendent of Schools. She told me one time his pet name for her was "Son." She said he was leaving for a meeting of educators in Wood County and told her he would "bring her a pretty" when he came home. She was working at Midland's Department Store in Glenville. Carl suddenly succumbed to a massive heart attack leaving her totally alone, no pretty and no child. She was totally stunned, but Muriel being Muriel she "picked herself up, brushed herself off and started all over again."
Afterward she married "Bud" Currey a man who, except for his red hair, reminded me of Harry Truman. "Bud" was always busy, had Truman's build, always with a broad smile on his face and always had a good word for everybody. Muriel and "Bud" had one child, a son, John. He was, of course, their pride and joy. John inherited both their genes for red hair, intelligence and playfulness. But, "Bud" and Muriel, as she often said, "Got along like matches and dynamite." Their marriage, though not divorced, lived separately for many years. Muriel, being of high character, never consorted with any other man that I know of until after "Bud's" death. Then, in what many would consider advanced years, she had a romantic encounter with Jarrett Cottrill, but nothing came of it. For one thing, what was "advanced years" for some was not "advanced years" for Muriel.
She moved to Williamstown, in Wood County to teach Math at Williamstown High School. She also, in what many would consider "advanced years," took up golf. She told me all the "girls" she played golf with in Parkersburg pronounced her name Muriel, like the cigar. In Gilmer County it was Mer'al. She was so proud of her Johnny and took it as a point of pride that all of the Nocida's; Frances' family, called her, Mrs. Currey. Of course, she had had them all in school and those Nocida's treated everyone with grace, dignity and politeness. There she was with her Johnny and that great big successful family she could call her own, not to mention those two beloved grandchildren. She just about burst her buttons.
The first class I had to her was plain old Mathematics at Glenville High School. They may even have called it Arithmetic back then, I'm not sure. I was a very good student except for Math. I struggled; especially with those reading problems, (Remember the ones where the train starts from the West Coast going 60 miles an hour and a train starts from the East Coast going 80 miles an hour...........oh! It drove me crazy!), but I made it and decided emphatically that I would never take another Math class.
You know what they say about "never saying never" and peer pressure, well I signed up for Algebra. There was Mrs. Currey always standing outside her door waiting for us. As I remember it, she favored suits and blouses with lacy peter pan collars and I especially remember a rather large brooch at her throat. We filed in the room and all of us knew what was expected of us. Mrs. Currey ran a taut ship and I don't remember anyone getting out of line. She would give you a break, though, if you behaved as though you deserved a break.
Algebra was Greek to me. But, somehow, maybe at her suggestion, I'm not sure, I knew Mrs. Currey would be in her classroom early. I would go there early and God bless her, she would take me to the blackboard, chalk in hand and very patiently explain the day's assignment. I would then go to my homeroom and do the days assignment. I truly did love Mrs. Currey. I held a lot of my teachers in high esteem, but Mrs. Currey saved me from failure and disgrace. I loved her.
Then, as if she hadn't done enough, she asked me if I would sing in a Math program she was preparing for the school. Being the intelligent, educated woman she was she knew the very distinct relationship between Math and Music. She had heard me sing at church, knew I was taking lessons from Dr. Harold S. Orendorf at Glenville State College and she fitted me right into the program that not only showed off her program, but showed off my singing ability. That was the start of my singing career in Glenville. If anyone ever owed a teacher, I owed Muriel Currey everything and my appreciation of her has carried on to the present day.
When Mrs. Currey retired she went to Jekyll Island, Georgia, rented an apartment and started playing golf all day every day and no one could believe her age. She developed a relationship with Tom and her character did not permit them to live together, but they spent most of their time together. He was a charming man, of course, and they went together like ham and eggs.
When she would come back to a rented apartment in Williamstown, WV for the summer sometimes Tom would come along sometimes he didn't. Her former students, Bill Gainer for one and others took her out to dinner, as did Cec and I. She told me her favorite store was Terri Ann's in Marietta, Ohio. Terri Ann's is a young woman's store. I couldn't buy clothes there, but by golly she could and did. She looked great, too.
She and I corresponded as often as time and tide would allow. When Tom died she called me bereft. I had never heard her so woebegone. Johnny moved her back to Glenville and she lived in the Hardman house beside her sister, Ruby Coberly for a time, but finally; being unable to care for herself, they put her in a nursing home. Cec and I visited her a couple of times in the Hardman house. I had sent her a box of note cards featuring a woman in circa 1930's golfing attire and clubs on a golf course. She had never mentioned getting them, so I asked about them. She pointed to her head and said, "This doesn't work too well these days. I just don't remember."
I never saw her after that day. But, she lives in my memory just as surely as do all those who peopled my life in a rich and rewarding way. Muriel Currey was a teacher who made school a pleasant and enriching experience. I know many who owe a lot to her not only as a teacher but as a friend and person. It is one thing to know a subject, but it is quite another thing to be able to teach that subject to someone else. Muriel Currey made what sounded like Greek to me as clear as crystal and I would go away from her room wondering why I hadn't been able to figure that out for myself. That, my friends, is a teacher. Muriel Currey was teacher of the highest rank and order. My gratitude and admiration for her has never wavered, never waned, and never will. She will go down in the annals of education as a teacher who fulfilled her duties admirably.
Patty Floyd Johnson
We would like for anyone with memories of Mrs. Currey to send them to us. We will post them as well. We know Mrs. Currey touched many of our lives, so please share your recollections of this very special lady with us all. Send your comments to email@example.com
Memories of Muriel Currey by William
"Bill" Gainer, Class of 1959
My memories of Mrs. Muriel Currey are of a teacher who was very dedicated and had very high expectations for her students which was not always what they desired.
She was friendly but very business-like in her approach to her teaching and she undoubtedly had a positive effect on the lives of thousands of students she taught.
She was always prepared for her classes and expected her students to be ready to learn and if they weren't she was not bashful about letting them know how disappointed she was-she did this in a very direct and unmistakable way so students were usually well-prepared for her class.
I have personal memories of a couple of incidents that involved Mrs. Currey that were very humorous, at least they are now.
We were carted off to the "Poor Farm" for classes when the high school was condemned in the mid-1950's and to say this was a very poor learning environment would be a gross understatement. Regardless of the lack of facilities, etc., Mrs. Currey continued her high expectations for her students.
One morning in Algebra I we heard a terrific noise above us in her classroom which was on the second floor of the old frame building that still stands at the "Poor Farm", now the Recreation Center. When we looked up there was a male leg hanging from the classroom ceiling and we were all in shock but were not about to laugh, at least until Mrs. Currey left the room, which she did immediately. She proceeded to go up in the attic where the leg came from and brought the two culprits down the steps with some very unhappy rhetoric and on to the principal's office they went. We laughed while she was gone but when she returned, it was back to work
We later discovered the two (who shall remain nameless) were helping themselves to fresh apples that were stored in the attic for the hot lunch program.
The other incident occurred after we had moved into the "new" high school that is now Gilmer County High. Two boys were throwing water on each other in the hallway at lunchtime and when Mrs. Currey came by they ran into the boys' restroom and she, without hesitation, followed them in and brought them out and escorted them for a visit to the Principal's Office.
She was indeed a memorable character as well as an excellent teacher and I and many others will always remember her and we are not likely to see the likes of her again. We are all better for having passed her way and certainly know more Math than if we had not had the opportunity!
She remains in my thoughts and will always be a part of my best memories of Glenville High School.