The forty-six year career as an educator ended for Dr. Norman Vester Dyer in Villa Rica, Georgia, after eleven years as principal at the high school there (1944- 1955).
He retired in 1955 from active work as a teacher, but not from work he loved.
One of his main aims after retirement was to write his memoirs. This he did in a book entitled Fugitive from a Georgia Schoolhouse published in 1961 by Thomasson Printing Company, Carrollton, GA. The foreword was by long-time friend and fellow Choestoean, Dr. Mauney Douglas Collins, another educator who had risen from humble beginnings to become, for twenty-five years, Georgia State Superintendent of Schools.
Together, these two men had been involved in Georgia schools as the educational systems progressed from one-teacher institutions to schools with multiple teachers well-qualified for the curriculum they taught and accredited by high standards.
Home-spun with advice and philosophy, Dr. Dyer often quoted his "xyz" formula for success in the classroom: x - work; y - play; z - ability to keep your mouth shut about matters that should be kept within the school.
His philosophy, both of life and for educational practice, included a ten-step ladder for success: 1. Loyalty; 2. Conscientious fulfillment of duty (solid work ethic); 3. No griping about salary, work hours, or duties; 4. No discrimination— democratic attitude about students; 5. Beginning with the child where he/she is and developing his/her potential; 6. Good discipline; 7. Friendliness; 8. Sense of humor; 9. Doing a good job in the teacher's own way; 10. Cooperation. (listed on pages 143-144 in "Fugitive from a Georgia Schoolhouse").
One of Dr. Dyer's favorite poems was "If" by Rudyard Kipling. He frequently quoted it in addresses to senior classes at graduations, to the seniors in his inimitable "guidance" classes as he sought to help them come to grips with purposes and goals for life; and at civic clubs at which he was often guest speaker. Some key phrases in the poem he practiced in his life: "Keep your head"; "Trust yourself"; "Wait"; "Dream"; "Think"; "Lose…Start again"; "Keep your virtue"; "Fill each minute… with 60 seconds of distance run."
After his retirement, he wrote a regular short, pithy column in "The Villa Rican" newspaper under the pseudonym of "Hill Billy Joe". In those columns, he gave thought-provoking, brief views of life, and ways of making one's time upon this earth more productive and memorable. To end this four-part tribute to the man who chose to sell his farm mule to apply the money to his education in the early 1900's, and became a legend in Georgia education, I close with two of his "Hill Billy Joe" columns: " 'To live in the hearts of those we love is not to die.' “
It is disturbing to us when we meet people who do not seem to care whether they live or die, or how they die. But it gives us a wonderful feeling when we meet people who have not thus lost their balance. These people have a warm place in their hearts for us, and a good wish for our well-being. We feel that they are living for something, and somebody, anyone they meet.
We like to read the life history of that kind of person. We feel that he has left something behind that will help those who follow. The good things of life are brought about by these kinds of people. The good works they do are not 'shuffled off' when they pass on." -Hill Billy Joe”
“'Root hog or die poor.'”
“This was an expression that was quite often used by one Old Timer in our community. He was an independent man who believed a person should work for what he gets, and not depend on some other fellow to keep him up.
By this philosophy of life he worked hard, 'From sun to sun' to provide his family with the necessities of life. He never did let them go hungry. Every member of the large family had to work in like manner. He would tell them, 'If you put your feet under my table, you have to work.' They understood his language and abided by it. That was in the days when 'children were to be seen and not heard.' A hard philosophy of life, you say. Yes. But it developed a fine bunch of independent and industrious children into sturdy men and women who were self-supporting." - Hill Billy Joe
At this turbulent election time, 2008, the work, words and philosophy of educator Norman Vester Dyer bear heeding.
c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published November 6, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.