Mr. Red

My third grade teacher Mrs. Lennes Starr meant a lot to me. It was in the third grade that I learned to love arithmetic. I believe she saw my special interest in numbers and gave me ways to express this. Over the years she lit the spark in many young lives that helped us to find our way through life. I went on to major in mathematics in college and later to teach mathematics in high school and college.

She was a loving but stern disciplinarian. She had a red “Bolo” paddle she called “Mr. Red” which I never remember her using but I never doubted that she would. One of my first jobs after college was principal of this same school, Fayetteville Grammar School, and Mrs. Starr was still teaching third grade. Although I was principal she was still my third grade teacher and I always felt special in her presence.

After she retired in her early seventies, we continued to employ her as a substitute teacher for a number of years. One day we asked her to substitute in a first grade class. There was a little girl in the class who could not talk. She had never said a word at school; however she belonged to a reading group and would sit with her group each day for the reading lesson. We forgot to tell Mrs. Starr that she didn’t talk; so that day when the group had its lesson, Mrs. Starr asked the little girl to read. The child just sat there and no one in the group said a word.

Mrs. Starr thinking the child was just being contrary said “Young lady you read or we’ll have a talk with Mr. Red.”

Again there was dead silence.

As Mrs. Starr got up from her chair and started for her desk to get Mr. Red, a small voice, the voice no one had heard before, began reading.

*Picture from files of the Fayette County Historical SocietyStarr