Our Stories, Our History: Angelina School

Published 12:12 am Saturday, May 28, 2016

MT. AIRY — Angelina was one of four schools built in St. John the Baptist Parish in 1910.

Jeanne Keller reminisces over photos of Angelina school with her brother Ray Boé.

Jeanne Keller reminisces over photos of Angelina school with her brother Ray Boé.

The two-story building was situated where Pin Oak Terminals is now being constructed in Mt. Airy and had two classrooms downstairs and a large auditorium on the second floor.

It was demolished in 1926 when the levee was set back and rebuilt with a single story with two classrooms. While this much is known about the building, due to written history, Mt. Airy native Ray Boé’s vivid memories of his early education there paint a story of school in the early 1930s.

“As soon as you entered the front door, you walked into a hallway with a cloakroom at the rear,” Boé said. “On the left was a vacant room we used for lunch or recess on rainy days, and on the right was the classroom. In the yard were two outhouses — one for the girls and one for the boys.”

The classroom housed first through fourth grades, with a row of desks for each grade. In the center of the room, right between the second and the third grade, was a coal-burning heater. In the back of the classroom was a table covered with sand. The sand table was used to display seasonal decorations created by the students.

Hilda Weber was the only teacher in the room and while she taught one grade, the others worked quietly.

“Anyone who disobeyed or made noise had to hold out their fist and the teacher would hit it with a ruler,” said Boé. “I never got punished.”

Boé went from first to fourth grade in Angelina School, but his education was almost shortened by one year. He was the only student in third grade so Miss Weber told him that he knew enough of the third grade curriculum to move to the fourth grade.

“I moved to the fourth grade row,” he said. “About a week later, a new family moved to Mt. Airy with a third grade child, so I moved back to third. At the end of the year, I passed, the other child failed, and I was alone in fourth grade the following year.”

The sole fourth grade student did not like geography and had difficulty with the subject.

“When I didn’t do my homework or didn’t study, the teacher pulled my ear. She pulled my ear every day,” Boé laughed. “I think that’s why I have ear problems.”

At the beginning of every year, Coca-Cola gave out envelopes of school supplies to each student.

“We got a pencil, ruler and a blotter to blot the ink after we wrote with our fountain pens,” Boé said.

All of the students lived within walking distance of the school, but could choose to ride the bus, driven by William Millet.

Boé was given a key to the school and on cold days would go to school early to start the fire in the heater.

“We rarely used the cloak room to put away our coats,” he said. “With just that one heater to keep us warm, we usually wore our coats during school.”

The key to the school was the only key Boé used.

“At home we kept a bucket of sand by the door. When we left, we put the bucket in front of the door to lock it. If a visitor saw the bucket in front of the door, they knew that no one was home.”

Angelina was closed in 1937 and the students were sent to Garyville.

Boé went to St. Peter in Reserve and was shocked by the size of the student body. Accustomed to an entire school in one room, at St. Peter there were about 25 students in each classroom.

“The only thing I can’t remember about Angelina is how we got our water,” mused Boé. “There was no running water. Maybe we had a cistern, but I don’t know of anyone still living to help me with the answer.”

— By Ronny Michel