a small country school in rural northeast Texas during the 1940's
and '50's, we all eventually learned that nothing was ever a big
production at our little school. In fact, back then hardly anything
was ever a big production in the entire county. Things were pretty
laid back and moved along at a whole lot slower than they do now.
The county sometimes had an annual forest festival or maybe a watermelon
festival, if we were lucky. And the parades were no big deal with
very few participants and most of those were horses and mules. Everything
was in a great depression until the oil boom arrived.
McLeod Schools and the little town of McLeod,
Texas had its heyday during the east Texas oil boom beginning
in the early 1930's. Oil was king and the district was able to build
a really good brick school facility with elementary grades on one
side and high school grades on the other, separated by the cafeteria
and auditorium in between. It was there that I completed grades
one through 12. My first grade teacher was Miss Annie Lou Shines,
a fantastic teacher that taught first grade at McLeod for eons and
all the kids dearly loved her. She was a darling. My second grade
teacher was Ms. Brown, of whom I remember little. Then my third,
forth and fifth grade classes were taught by the same teacher, Ms.
Kate Stewart, a fairly strict and well-disciplined teacher that
kept we kids headed in the right direction. My first tutoring by
a man teacher was in sixth grade. By then I was ready for a firmer
hand and believe me, I owe so much of my upbringing and positive
influences during those formative years to some great teachers.
I can tell you first hand and who among us would dispute it, that
"Teachers are our best resource."
May of 1957, our senior graduating class consisted of 21 graduates.
Of those only twelve to fifteen participated in our senior play
that year. The name of the play was "MISS $1.98" and I remember
it well. Most "would be" actors and actresses participating really
had scads of fun doing it. For nearly all, though, like me, it was
our last and only foray into a big time acting profession. No one
was very disappointed, to say the least, knowing that there was
no big production here. What can I say? My! My! Such a senseless
and vast waste of latent talent!
My character was "Rufus", a young country bumpkin much like Jethro
on the "Beverly Hill Billys", or maybe like Red Skeleton's "Clem
Kadiddlehopper." Rufus was the main character in the play, so I
really enjoyed top billing and had great fun while playing the part.
Rufus was a backward, innocent, uneducated young man, lonely and
in serious need of female companionship, fitting my own real life
character almost to a splendid tee. In casting, I'll bet the director
never realized that important fact.
Some how this family of backwoods hillbillies had obtained a Rears
and Sawbuck catalog. It must have come by the rural mail carrier
out on the main mail route. Or someone could have just given it
to them. The catalog was always kept in the outdoor toilet and for
the lack of anything better, was used as toilet paper. One day while
viewing the catalog out there, Rufus became familiar with the picture
of a young lady modeling a very pretty dress for Rears and Sawbuck.
That dress was on sale for only $1.98. Thus Rufus identified her
with that price tag and thereafter, to him, she became the magnificent
and irresistible "Miss $1.98." His every awaken moment was spent
day dreaming and thinking of her as becoming his lovely and most
desirable bride. This young "hormone hurricane" never realized,
I'm sure, everything on God's green earth begins with a dream and
that dreams do come true.
As the story went, after many months of dreaming, somehow Rufus
managed to place a catalog order for Miss $1.98. I can't remember
whether he had someone place the order for him or if he eventually
did it himself. At any rate, an order was placed using the mail
order forms provided in the back of the catalog and the long wait
for his mail order bride began.
After an "extremely long" wait of about two weeks, which seemed
like an eternity to Rufus, one day there came a knock at the mountain
cabin front door. Everyone quietly lying around sipping on a jug
of "white lightening", quickly jumped to their feet in excitement.
A knock on that door was a rare occasion. It had to be Miss $1.98!
And sure enough it was. The long awaited arrival of Miss $1.98 was
over. She was cordially greeted inside to meet Rufus and the entire
family. As soon as Rufus saw her, he gasped in awe and exclaimed
loudly, "Miss Dollar Ninety Eight."
all the way from, where else, New York City to meet a backwoods
hillbilly, the cultural shock was immense and definitely obvious
in her countenance. She tried mighty hard not to let it show.
The address label was removed from her belt and before long as all
the excitement and conversation continued, the chill warmed somewhat.
The shock subsided and everyone began to get better acquainted.
Rufus was very anxious and could hardly wait to be alone with his
new found and unbelievably beautiful "mail order bride."
Before long, in the last scene of the play as his dream was coming
true, Rufus and Miss $1.98 were walking hand in hand as they crested
the mountaintop and disappeared into the sunset.
Hopefully, everyone lived happily everafter….. The end.