f/8 and Be There
Fred Lynch

Miss Nell Holcomb

Posted Monday, January 31, 2011, at 7:30 AM

Southeast Missourian Jan. 30, 1960

As she will be remembered by hundreds whom she taught in the rural schools over a period of 44 years, Miss Nell Holcomb is shown seated at the desk she once occupied at Juden School. (G.D. Fronabarger photo)

Here is a picture of Juden School.

School to be Named After Long-Time Rural Teacher

The Nell Holcomb Elementary School, R-4 District, which is going up north of Cape Girardeau, bears a name synonymous with rural education in this area. Named for a long-time rural school teacher, Miss Nell Holcomb, the modern building will be bringing to rural school children in this district the very finest in equipment and building.

"The very finest" in teaching techniques, classroom decorum and teacher-pupil relationship has been Miss Holcomb's contribution in the various schools she has served for some 44 years. Her first "charge" was Coker School. Others have been Juden School, Egypt Mills School, Randles School and the new elementary school at Jackson.

This school year Miss Holcomb is doing substitute teaching at May Greene School. Her most recent full-time school was Juden.

Education Noted

Nell Holcomb, whose parents were Mr. and Mrs. John T. Holcomb of the Hobbs Chapel community, began her education at Juden School; also attended Old Lorimier School, later had classes at the Normal School and returned there for more classes when it became a State College. Through the years she has done correspondence work from the University of Missouri and the University of Oregon.

Times have changed, and so have teaching methods. Miss Holcomb has high praise for aids like workbooks, art supplies, the hot lunch program, bus transportation for children (the list could go on). She finds that children today "catch on" rapidly and attributes this in part to more progressive teaching methods.

What has kept Miss Holcomb from side-stepping the rural school for a school in town?

"Guess it's because I'm a farmer myself," she seriously replied.

This "teacher-farmer" has always been at home on the farm. She loves her dual role and finds the endless tasks of both jobs stimulating.

"I'd rather wear out than rust," Miss Holcomb commented.

Always a hard worker, this early day educator was not disheartened by extra duties which came her way. Many a time she fed firewood to the stove to keep the school room warm. (One winter she filled in as janitor for an extra $1 a month.) However, a janitor was usually on hand to fire the stove and take care of the building, she recalled.

Long before the government introduced the hot lunch program to schools, Miss Holcomb and her pupils at Juden School had their own hot lunch system working. Pupils brought in food and the older girls helped teacher with some small scale cooking and dish washing. The menu, simple but hot, brought the children needed nourishment at lunch time.

Stayed on Job

Miss Holcomb just couldn't recall who filled in for her as substitute teacher.

"I've always been so well and strong; just can't remember missing school," she said.

She did recall that one time school had to be closed because of a flu epidemic.

Early-day classes were small. Enrollment for the eight grades usually came to about 28, she said.

Many, many children have learned under Nell Holcomb. In recent years she has taught children of her earlier day pupils. Faces and mannerisms often give away these father-son or mother-daughter relationships, she noted.

Names familiar to Miss Nell, who daily called them for an attendance check, include those of the Monroes, Kirchhoffs, Weimers, Wallace, Parks, Warner, Moore, to name a few.

Likes to Quilt

Farming and teaching leave little leisure time, according to Miss Nell. When there is a free hour she likes to crochet, tat or quilt. But most of her hours at home have always been filled with cooking, washing and ironing, milking, working the fields, gardening, tending to the chickens, and other farm chores.

And at school there were interested, lively children to teach and work with, to play with out of doors, to gather around her for a story; children to comfort when hurt, scold when naughty, and encourage when needed.

School days have turned into school years for this teacher. She has turned a profession into a life, and in so doing has greatly enriched the lives of those around her.

In appreciation, the communities she has so faithfully served these many years are naming their new school in her honor.

Miss Holcomb is indeed honored, and expressed her appreciation with these words:

"I hope it doesn't sound egotistical, but I was so very thrilled when I learned they're naming a school for me."

Feeling pleasure for a well-earned favor is not egotism, her former pupils and friends will agree.


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  • ah perfect penmanship in cursive of the word Thursday on the blackboard...although as a kid in the late 70s learning penmanship I learned to write my Ts, Rs and Ds differently in cursive...oh the hours we toiled over perfect penmanship.

    -- Posted by TommyStix on Mon, Jan 31, 2011, at 9:53 AM
  • Thanks for posting all these old pictures and articles. I really appreciate them.

    -- Posted by JD420 on Mon, Jan 31, 2011, at 10:28 AM
    Fred Lynch
    I very much enjoy looking into local history.

    So does Jim Rapp, who sent me this comment about Miss Nell Holcomb:

    She was my 1st grade school teacher. Very strict and expected discipline from each student and if not, she would then notify the parents. It was her classroom and she let you know that on no uncertain terms. I believe that after she retired, she opened an antique shop on Highway 61 - approx 3 miles north of Fruitland Mo - was in a red barn.