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Sixty years later and I'm still his student

“It’s Col-er-ridge, not Cole-ridge.”


That’s one of my major takeaways from junior English at Franklinville High School. The last name of English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge has three syllables, not two, such as in the name of the rival school down the road.


I learned the correct pronunciation of Coleridge from Mr. Stout, our youthful English teacher. He was only with us one year but that was enough to gain the favor of some, if not most, of us in the class.


Maybe it was because he was just seven or eight years older and only three years out of college that we tended to embrace him. And when we weren’t absorbed in English grammar or classic literature, he was often telling us stories of his own not-so-far-away youth.


To much doubt on the part of some of us, Mr. Stout talked about having fun in a mixed-gender group in high school, the clincher being that none of the boys and girls ever dated each other. “We were just friends having a good time,” he insisted. “Yeah, right,” was our kidding response.


For me, maybe I liked Mr. Stout because after giving out our graded papers for a particular grammar test, he admitted to the class that he couldn’t come up with questions to challenge me. I literally glowed in his esteem.


So, imagine my great delight when I received an email the other day responding to a recent column I wrote. It was from Charles W. Stout and he ended his comments with “Your name rings a bell with me. Did you attend school at either Franklinville or Grays Chapel?”


To which I replied, “I attended Franklinville High School and my junior English teacher was named Charles Stout. Could that be you?”


“Yes! I taught one year at Franklinville and three years at Grays Chapel,” was his response.


Mr. Stout went on to say that he had taught a couple of years in Virginia before coming back to Randolph County. He applied with Randolph County Schools for a teacher job and there happened to be an opening for an English teacher at Franklinville.


At the time, Franklinville had qualified for another teacher based on the average daily attendance the year before. In a twist of fate, after his one year with us, the average daily attendance dropped and he wound up going to Grays Chapel for the next three years. 


From there, he got a job with the NC Association of Educators in Raleigh. He’s still in Raleigh but returns to Asheboro occasionally, such as for his Asheboro High School class’ reunions.


“I enjoyed my year at Franklinville,” Mr. Stout said. “I also taught a class in civics and geography. I was teaching that class the day Kennedy was shot. It was so far out of my comprehension, I just couldn’t believe it.”


My new old friend Mr. Stout — I still can’t call him Charles — does have some memories of that one year at Franklinville. He recalled the senior English teacher was older and braided her hair on top of her head. “Mrs. Montgomery,” I said.


“I remember the lady who taught home economics and the one who taught biology.”


“Ah, Mrs. Powell taught home ec and Mrs. Shaw was the biology teacher.”


Mr. Stout said he also recalled some of the students’ names and my name seemed familiar. Probably because it’s unusual, I thought.


I asked Mr. Stout how he came to read my column. 


“Do you know Lillian O’Briant? Her husband died and she remarried a Jordan.” Yes, I knew of Lillian.


“Well, she sends me emails of Randolph Hub,” he said. “That’s how I get it.”


Mr. Stout talked about growing up in a house off Sunset Avenue that the 220 bypass took when it came through in the early ’60s. Somebody moved that house to Old Farmer Road, across from Rushwood Church.


As a boy, he delivered the Greensboro Daily News to neighborhoods on either side of Sunset Avenue. Meanwhile, his father bought another house off Presnell Street. “I got to name the new street Pennwood Drive.”


He said in high school his favorite subject was biology. But he knew if he majored in biology, he would be required to take chemistry, which he didn’t like. So he decided to major in English instead.


What luck for those of us in junior English. 


Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189, larrypenkava@gmail.com.