Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Charles Roscoe Collins: His Life and Times (Part 2)

Paying tribute to a man whose life was characterized by service to others is easy. Such a life was lived by Charles Roscoe Collins (1907- 2000). He wore many hats: son, husband, father, teacher, school administrator, lover of history and preservationist. On the other hand, writing such a tribute is hard. Everything can't be included, and there's the outside chance that some of the most important contributions of the person will inadvertently be omitted.

Go back to this column for July 4 to read the beginning account of this man, born in the hills of Choestoe to James Johnson Collins and Margaret Ann Nix Collins, the youngest of their six children. Charles Roscoe, better known as "Ros," made his appearance in the Collins home on September 20, 1907. He lived a full and productive life of over nine decades. He didn't stumble over obstacles but saw them as challenges to overcome.

By way of education, he went to Choestoe School near his home, walking from his home over a mile in all sorts of weather. He often recalled some of the outstanding teachers who early-on influenced him to be studious, pursue knowledge, and consider teaching as a career for himself. Following Choestoe, he boarded at the Blairsville Collegiate Institute. There he played on the basketball team, practicing on an outside court, and going to competitions as their coach, the Rev. Harry Smith, could garner transportation to take the outstanding team to Dahlonega, Gainesville, Demorest and elsewhere. He graduated with honors from the Blairsville Collegiate Institute in 1927.

It was a long distance from Choestoe in the mountains to Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. Roscoe packed his meager belongings in a "cardboard suitcase" (as he termed his traveling bag). He wore, on that long trip, a "linsy-woolsy" suit made by his cousins, Avery and Ethel Collins, from wool sheared from sheep, and woven into cloth on their hand loom. Then they tailored a suit--pants, jacket and vest- out of the sturdy material. "I was warm in that suit," Ros said, and it served him well for years as his best dress-up suit. I once saw him hold up the brown pants, died that color from oak bark, as he made a talk on mountain ingenuity and crafts. That old wool suit and the pants became symbols for Roscoe Collins for the "make-do" road of his young manhood.

Mr. Charles R. Collins points out the memorial window at Choestoe Baptist Church honoring his parents, James Johnson Collins and Margaret Ann Nix Collins.

He rode on the top of a load of logs over Neal Gap to Gainesville, then caught the train on to Macon, Georgia and Mercer University. He said that the Rev. Harry Smith helped to arrange a scholarship for him at Mercer University to pay some of his tuition and board. Roscoe worked, too, as he studied, to make ends meet. He spent two years at Mercer, but did not get his Bachelor's degree. That was to come later. He had to stop his education for awhile and begin his teaching career to earn some money to continue. His first teaching job of consequence was in the Hall County Public Schools at Gainesville, Georgia.

Some of Roscoe's kinfolk had moved to Colorado seeking a more economically-secure way of life. There they worked on large farms or ranches, purchasing their own when they earned enough money. All of their stories sent back home by letters enticed the young man Ros Collins to go to Colorado. While there, he did odd jobs for a living and attended the Colorado State College of Education in Greeley, earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1938.

Back in Georgia, Roscoe taught school, becoming the first principal (and also a teacher) at the Town Creek Consolidated School. He told me of walking the several miles from his father's farm to get to Town Creek early enough to build the fires in the heaters in each of the four classrooms. He was still wearing that linsy-woolsy suit he took to Mercer away back in 1927. It kept him warm as he walked on cold days. His evaluation of his years of teaching and administering the Town Creek School was that he taught some of the brightest young lads and lassies there of anywhere in his 40+ years of teaching.

Ros enjoyed telling people that he had "taught in the four corners of Georgia and many places in between." He had a long stint in St. Mary's, Georgia. On his 90th birthday (September, 1997), I was present to see a large motor coach bus full of people who had been his students travel to Blairsville from St. Mary's to honor Mr. Collins, to testify to his influence on their lives. All had a good time remembering. It was exhilarating just to be a part of that big birthday party and to hear the heart-felt accolades.

On June 4, 1940, Charles Roscoe Collins and LaVerne Cheshire (a fellow teacher) were united in marriage in Lakeland, Florida. She was a daughter of Robert and Minnie Lemack Cheshire. Ros and LaVerne continued their careers as teachers, he clocking up more than 40 years at his retirement and she having 35.

Their daughter, Becky Ann, was born August 7, 1947, and adopted by Ros and LaVerne when she was a baby. When Becky Ann grew up, she married Garland Moose of Suches, Georgia. Ros and LaVerne delighted in their three grandchildren, Rodney, Robby and Carrie. Becky Ann, like her parents, became a teacher.

As he continued to teach, Roscoe took classes at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia, where he earned his Master of Education degree in 1948. He went back to Mercer University in the summer of 1952 to take a course commonly called then a workshop for in-service educators. I was a student at Mercer University at the time, working on the last requirements for my Bachelor of Arts degree. As good fortune would have it, Roscoe and I were both students in that summer workshop. Roscoe, in his joking way, liked to call the workshop classes, which were over a three-week period from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon with only a short break for lunch, the "Paw-Paw Patch" classes. That was because we had to come up every day with innovative ways to teach, and one day Roscoe and I together "performed" the song, "Way down yonder in the Paw-Paw Patch!" We could barely refrain from laughing as we sought to show how rhythm, music and action help to reinforce younger students' learning.

Although I had known Roscoe Collins all my life, and we were neighbors (and cousins) on Choestoe, that summer workshop at Mercer University made us life-time friends. We discovered our common interests in history and family roots, as well as education. He retired long before I did, but after my retirement, my husband Grover, he and I took many "historical" treks together so that he could point out significant milestones, like the Logan Turnpike and the Mule Springs Camp. We also made trips to visit the Rev. Harry Smith in Forsyth, Georgia. We had a lot of time to talk and to appreciate history.

He had a distinguished career in education in "the four corners of Georgia." His service to his home county of Union included being teacher, basketball coach, principal and county school superintendent. After 42 years as an educator, he retired in 1972.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published July 10, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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