By John Fooks, Gazette Staff
School has been out for many years now, but those who attended Miss Mary's Kindergarten (at Fairview Kindergarten) in Texarkana, Ark., between 1935 and 1958 say their memories of the small school will last forever.
Mrs. Mary Roberts Carter, who moved to the Greenbriar Retirement Center in mid-September of last year, said many names known throughout Texarkana are in her files at her home on Linden Avenue in Texarkana, Ark., only a short distance from her old stomping grounds.
"People like Dr. Herbert Wren and his wife, Jean Atkinson," Mrs. Carter said. "Others, like "Cheesie" Nelson (president of Texarkana College) and lawyer Karlton Kemp. Ann Overhaulser, who is the first female president of Duke University in North Carolina, was one of my little students."
Mrs. Carter said those and other names (as well as class photographs for every year, which are also on file will be mentioned and discussed thoroughly at the "Roberts Clan" family reunion on Jan. 11. She said her sister, Patty Roberts, will be coming to attend from Dallas, as well as some 23 other family members from Colorado, California, Georgia and Louisiana. When the reunion was last held in 1991, one of Mrs. Carter's granddaughters, Mary Jean Carter Charlton, got married in her home.
"When I married my husband, James (now deceased), in 1930, I was made ineligible to teach in Texas," Mrs. Roberts recalled. "It's hard to believe now, but Texas schools would not hire married women as teachers in those years.
Mrs. Carter's father was A. B. "Buck" Roberts Sr., a Cotton Belt Railroad employee who worked with the railroad for more than 60 years. Roberts raised five children, including Mrs. Carter, who attended Highland Park Elementary in Texarkana, Texas, and graduated from Texas High School.
Mrs. Carter went on to earn her degree and teaching certificate at East Texas Teachers College in Commerce, Texas, and taught first through third grades for two years in Leary, Texas. (Patty also graduated from Texas High School, East Texas Teachers College and Southern Methodist University in Dallas with degrees in education, and recently retired as a teacher.)
"After Leary, I taught second grade at the old Central School between (West) Seventh and Eighth streets," Mrs. Carter said. "I only taught one year, because I got married in 1930and they made me stop teaching on the Texas side."
But as she always taught her young students, behind every cloud is a silver lining. Although she knew she could not return to Central, she began making other plans. That was when she worked out unique arrangements with Fairview Elementary.
"Married women were allowed to teach in Arkansas, so I just moved over to the Arkansas side. It was very unusual at the time, but I basically opened a private kindergarten in a public school. It was technically called Fairview Kindergarten, but everybody called it 'Miss Mary's Kindergarten."'
Mrs. Carter considers her family much larger than her two sons, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
"Those (students) were all my children," Mrs. Carter said. "They will always be special to me.
Mrs. Carter said one special event took place the first day of school at her kindergarten, which she said many students clearly remember, when Bobo the Magician would be on hand to magically dispel new students' fears of being away from home for the very first time.
"I thought that having a magic show with somebody like Bobo would make the ones who were scared and felt alone feel better," Mrs. Carter said. "It worked. They always had great fun that first day, and all the days thereafter."
Article submitted by Aubrey Adcock, Class of 1960
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