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

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A mule, a dream and a long career as an educator

The gift of a mule was a kick start to an education and a 46-year career as a teacher and school administrator for Norman Vester Dyer (1885-1968).

Norman Vester Dyer was a student at the Hiawassee Baptist Academy. He had gone to school there periodically, going a semester or two, as he could afford the tuition and board, and then getting a job back in his home community teaching in the country schools of Choestoe or Old Liberty. He longed to finish his senior year at the academy, but his money had run completely out.

Vester Dyer told his roommate that he planned to walk across the mountain from Hiawassee to Choestoe and have a talk with his father. It was in March, 1906 that he went back home and told his father, Bluford Elisha "Bud" Dyer that he was ready for the gift of his mule. Mr. Dyer had formed the custom of giving each of his nine sons a mule when they reached the age of 21. Vester turned 21 on March 10, 1906, and he felt the time was right for this gift from his father.

"Father, I want my mule," Vester stated at an opportune time when he arrived home.

"What do you plan to do with it?" his father asked.

"Sell it and get money to finish my senior year," the son told his father.

"And what will you plow with?" the father inquired.

"I don't plan to plow," was the young man's response. "I plan to teach."

Without further discussion on the matter, Mr. Dyer told Vester to go to bed and rest. The next morning, his father took the three-year old mule he had been keeping for Vester and was gone from home for about three hours. When he returned, he handed Vester $150.00, the price he had been paid for the fine mule.

With money in his pocket and a dream in his heart, Vester returned to Hiawassee Academy and enrolled for his senior year. The long trek by foot from Choestoe back to Hiawassee seemed much shorter than the outward journey, for he had in his possession the money that would provide for tuition, books and board for his senior year.

During the summer of 1906, Vester Dyer did not return to his father's farm in Choestoe to work the crops. Instead, he was invited by Mr. Van Burns, with whom he was boarding, to teach in summer school. Vester was assigned to teach Greek and world history, two subjects in which the young man had excelled at the academy. The contract with Mr. Burns was that he would have his board and room from his teaching, "and, according to what I am paid for the summer session, a percentage of the tuition." At the end of that notable summer, with experience in teaching the classic language and world history to avid students, Mr. Burns paid the young teacher a shiny silver dollar. This seems like paltry pay for a summer's worth of teaching, but in those days, a dollar would go a long ways toward needs.

Norman Vester Dyer had already been teaching in country schools near his home in Choestoe. He tells in his memoirs of going to the court house in Blairsville to take the teacher certification tests for licensing. The courtroom would be full, he said, of men and women aspiring to get basic certification or to upgrade their license to teach. The County Commissioner of Schools was authorized by the state of Georgia to issue three types of certificates, 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade. Pay was based on the grade of the certificate. The first certificate Mr. Dyer received was a 3rd grade. This was several years before he finished his senior year at Hiawassee Academy. His earnings were $22.50 per month. He had 50 pupils in seven grades. He said of that experience, "I felt that I had been highly honored by being placed in a position to teach many of my fellow students, cousins, brothers and sisters." (p. 37 in "Fugitive from a Georgia Schoolhouse." Thomasson Publishing, Carrollton, GA, 1961.)

From his humble beginnings of attending a one-teacher school in Choestoe, to going back later to teach in that same school, to becoming a noted teacher and administrator in Georgia schools, this man who sold his mule to help pay for his education was on a roll. For a career that lasted 46 years, many students benefited from his wisdom and ability to teach.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 9, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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