Teacher - Student Reunion
How often do you see a 96 year old teacher visiting with three of his students from 73 years ago? Ralph Edrington was the teacher. Rubert (Bob) Samples, age 91, Jimmie Carter, age 89, and James M. (Melvin) Jackson, age 91, were the students. Edrington taught vocational agriculture at Milburn High School half of the day and Arlington High School the other half. Samples and Jackson went to Milburn and Carter went to Arlington.
After over two months of planning the four men finally got together at Ruby Faye’s BBQ Restaurant on Saturday, March 1. Memories flowed as the four talked together. There was catching up to do especially about family and gardening.
Edrington graduated with David Hilliard from University of Kentucky in 1938 with a degree in Vocational Agriculture and was the best man at David and Julia’s wedding. Edrington’s first teaching years were in Floyd and Boyd counties. In 1940 agricultural departments were opened in Milburn, Arlington, Bardwell, and Cunningham.
Edrington came home to the Milburn and Arlington schools, teaching livestock and crops in an old farm shop. His welding and woodworking classes were part of the country’s war training program so the government provided the equipment and teachers. Each of the ten to twelve students in the schools had his own study focus.
Samples had Edrington for his agriculture and shop teacher in Milburn his junior and senior years. Samples said, “As a result of the agricultural class, we improved the feeding and management of the Samples dairy. As a result of the shop class, I was able to use woodworking and built my parents a bathroom in 1946 after I got out of the army, built several barns throughout the years, and later took up building furniture and other things as a hobby.”
After serving in the army in World War 2, Samples graduated from University of Kentucky in agriculture and has been connected with agriculture throughout his life. That start in high school gave him a strong foundation in his own farming, various jobs, and selling farm equipment. Edrington’s tip about a job at the Clinton Milling Company in 1955 brought Samples to Hickman County. He has enjoyed Edrington’s friendship throughout the years.
Jackson also was in Edrington’s Milburn class. “The project I remember most was how to cure meat. Mr. Edrington showed us how to make a sturdy box approximately 2 x 1½ x 1 foot deep. In the winter when our hogs were butchered for our yearly supply of meat, I put four slabs of bacon in the box and covered each with a mixture of sugar, salt and pepper, (hams and bacon sides were normally placed in a very large box and covered with salt). A press board was then placed on the bacon and a log chain wrapped around the box with a car jack on top to press liquid from the bacon.”
“After a few weeks of curing, the meat was ready to eat. I’ll never forget the breakfasts Mama served with the bacon, eggs, gravy, and biscuits. It was the best bacon we had ever eaten,” he said.
Jackson said that Edrington’s agricultural classes were a new experience that they enjoyed. While studying agriculture at the University of Kentucky, he became interested in soils and obtained a Masters in Soil Science. Unable to find a job near home in his area of training, he took what he planned to be a temporary job with Union Carbide in West McCracken County and stayed 43 years.
Eventually Jackson used his science training as a laboratory supervisor, but always enjoyed farm projects. He has appreciated Edrington’s friendship throughout the years and called Edrington a “Master Gardener” for his choice fruits, melons, and vegetables.
The third of Edrington’s students at the reunion was Carter. He said that Edrington was a pioneer in agriculture and preserving the land. “The old farms were washing away. Ralph used us younger kids to help change it, like having a cover crop in the winter.”
“Having Ralph in school was a lot of fun and also serious. One time we built a chicken house on school grounds. We had no way to get it to Mr. Alvin Burgess’ farm so Ralph hooked it to the back of his truck and dragged it there.”
“We also did woodworking and my woodworking project was to cut a square block with a hand saw. Of course it is impossible but we learned the basics of agriculture and carpentry which we have used throughout our lives. Ralph taught a pretty good class.” Carter said that Edrington is still teaching him while he helps Edrington get his garden out.
In 1942, Edrington went into the Air Force and brought his bride, Beatrice, home with him from Great Britain. After the war he worked for Allied Mills as a feed salesman.
Edrington fondly remembers that the kids were good and the people nice.
The meal was delicious and the conversation enjoyable so reuniting with his students has been one of the highlights of this year.