This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Louis Mazé.
1922 and 1932 were not the best years to be looking for a job in the United States. The former was the year after the depression of the twenties, and the latter was the year the economy hit rock bottom. Understandably, students graduating from college with plans to teach did not have the luxury of passing on any job offers.
Anna Gladys Jenkins Casimir, a 1922 Baylor graduate who would later teach in Calvert, began her teaching career in Charleston, Missouri, after her father spoke with the superintendent of schools:
"He said they needed a Latin and Spanish teacher. My father told him I could do it, although I hadn't (laughs) planned to teach either one. And this is the comical thing about it: when I arrived at the school the week before the school start[ed] for our series of teachers' meeting[s], I was told that I would also have to teach a course in sewing and coach the girls' basketball team. Well, coaching the girls' basketball was all right, but I had never sewed, do not sew today, but I taught sewing. I got a book. They had a textbook. And all that I taught was the elements of sewing—what kind of seams?—flat seams. What other kind are there? I don't know. (laughs) Not even to this day can I sew. But you can do most anything when you put your mind to it, can't you?"
A graduate of Texas State College for Women in 1932, with a degree in physical education, Wilma Buntin had a surprise awaiting her when she arrived at her first teaching post at Shawnee Elementary in Graham, Texas:
"They said, Oh, you're the new first-grade teacher. I said, No, I'm not the first-grade teacher. Mr. Gilmer hired me to teach P.E.' Well, that kind of befuddled them. They talked it over and came back with the same conclusion: You're the first-grade teacher over at Shawnee. Well, I thought I better just not be too hard in my position. I'd just wait and see."
Once at the school, Buntin met the principal, who confirmed what her co-workers had said:
"And he took me upstairs, and sure enough I was the new first-grade teacher. But he assured me I would be that only for one semester. Mary Kenny was the only first-grade teacher there. She had a double session, and it was too much for her. So Mr. Matthews, some of them told me later, told Mary to just take out everybody who couldn't learn and put them in my room. He said, Because Miss Buntin has never taught, and she can't go wrong.' (laughs) I was about ready to turn around and go home."
Although these positions were not what Buntin or Casimir had studied for in college, they successfully tackled each challenge, seeing them as opportunities. Both women enjoyed long teaching careers, influencing hundreds of lives.
Living Stories is heard every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday on 103 point 3 FM, Waco's NPR. For more information about this program or the Institute for Oral History, visit us at baylor.edu/livingstories.
Search our collection of full transcripts available online.