I know that many of them are no longer with us as they were in their 40's and 50's fifty years ago when we began as freshmen in our newly constructed school building. That year, we were introduced to a new Home Economics teacher, Jean Streeter. Mrs. Streeter drove 45 miles a day both to and from our school. Fifty years ago, no one had snow tires or all wheel drive and the winters were ferocious as I remember. Still, I don't remember her missing any days of school.
Mrs. Streeter was the Freshman homeroom teacher. She was responsible for taking attendance, collecting our lunch money, receiving our absentee excuses (many of which had forged parent signatures) and all other manner of daily housekeeping. And, of course, she taught Home Ec and was the advisor for the FHA. Somewhere along the way, she became Ma Streeter. Before you think it was a title of disrespect, I need to say it was spoken fondly each time it was used. She was truly Ma.
I emailed my friend, Priscilla, a day or two ago to get some details about this reunion and mentioned Mrs. Streeter. Her response was one of delight that I, too, had been thinking of this wonderful teacher and mentor. As well as being called Ma, Priscilla also nicknamed her , Lean Jean and Her Sewing Machine. Again a name christened with love.
To say she spoiled us would be an understatement. I'm not sure about other classes, but we of the class of '63 were her girls. She loved us and we knew it. I'm sure we gave her many moments of heartache, just as all daughters do, but she never abandoned us or made us feel bad about ourselves.
Back in the day, you made an apron in 7th grade, a skirt in 8th grade and a jumper in 9th grade in Home Ec. I can still see the fabric I chose for my jumper. It was brown with a pink rosebud print. I remember wearing it once it was made, but what I remember most was the help and encouragement she gave me in making it. Without her stepping in and fixing my mistakes that jumper would never have been fit to wear in public. Priscilla remembers receiving the same help.
Mrs. Streeter encouraged us to be everything we could be. With her support and encouragement I ran for an office in the state FHA. She helped me write speeches, accompanied me to County and Area meetings of the FHA all the while being my champion. Not only did she urge us as individuals, but she also taught us to work together as a team. Twice, with her direction, we presented demonstrations at the State Farm Show in Harrisburg. I don't think we ever won a prize, but as girls from the smallest school district in Pennsylvania, we learned to believe in our abilities to compete.
And she was fun. When we went to Harrisburg to the annual Farm Show, she was the best chaperon anyone could ask for. My mom often accompanied us as a chaperon and she and Mrs. Streeter became fast friends. My mom always loved to tell a story of Jean frantically searching all over their hotel room for her glasses. After practically tearing the room apart in her search, she discovered them sitting on her head.
At some point in the years after I graduated, Mrs. Streeter left teaching in Austin. I think she took a job closer to her home. The last time I saw her was a day or two before my wedding when she stopped at my parent's home to deliver a wedding present. We had a great talk. For awhile after I was married I kept in contact with her at Christmas, and then we just lost touch with one another. I'm pretty sure she is no longer living and it makes me sad to think of this world without her.
If anyone was a born teacher, she was. She knew we weren't really very serious about the things she was teaching us, but that didn't stop her from giving us her best. The Home Ec room was a haven for all of us. We knew when we walked through those doors we were in a safe place where we were loved. Although a lot of what I know about making a home was learned from watching and listening to my own mother, Ma Streeter played a big part in the person I am today.
"Keeping in touch with childhood memories keeps
us believing in life's simplest pleasures like
a rainy afternoon."