January 9, 2008 Edition

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Chaney is one of two Arkansas
retired teachers to reach age 104

With Pauline Chaney (center) at the celebration of her 104th birthday are her two daughters, Marilyn White (left) of Walnut Ridge and Patsy Jo (Mrs. Phil) Burns of West Memphis.
TD Photo ~ John Bland

Mrs. Pauline Chaney began her teaching career during the 1922-23 school year in a one-room schoolhouse in Minturn, Arkansas (Lawrence County). One of the main furnishings was a big stove in the middle of the classroom, and she or one of the parents would come early each morning to stoke the fire before class started.

They would then use the stove to warm their lunch at mealtime. For lunch, she remembers bringing rabbit with "biscuits and chicken gravy." With little or no equipment, activities were limited. Recess was restricted to plays or minstrels. However, they sometimes played ball with Mrs. Chaney as the designated pitcher.

Once, because of sickness, she sent her husband to care for her class (there were no substitute teachers available). Before long, she noticed him coming back home. When asked about his early return he announced, "Aw, Polly, I couldn't handle those kids all day so I sent them home early."

She recalls a starting salary of approximately $40 per month. During the Depression she would often go months at a time without getting paid. While teaching at Powhatan, she taught grades one through eight at the same time. With no blackboard, she used a big flip chart and taught the same lessons, but on different levels. Students would come to her home for extra tutoring, and she never believed there was a child that she couldn't teach to read.

When asked about the biggest difference in schools then and now, she responded "discipline." They just didn't have a lot of discipline problems back then. When they did, they would stand a child in the corner. That usually fixed the problem.

Mrs. Chaney received a master's degree from Arkansas State University and was a member of Business & Professional Women, Delta Kappa Gamma and a teacher's association. She was very active in her church (First United Methodist) choir and also taught a Sunday school class. She was still doing programs at her church into her 90's.

Still living in Walnut Ridge, where she retired from teaching at the age of 70, Mrs. Chaney is now 104 years old and is one of only two retirees who has attained that milestone!

(Editor's note: Pauline Chaney of Walnut Ridge was honored Saturday afternoon, Dec. 29, at a celebration marking her 104th birthday. Family and friends congratulated her and shared birthday greetings in the Wesley Room of First United Methodist Church. Chaney was featured as the Member Spotlight in the Fall/Winter 2007 publication of the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System (ATRS). The Spotlight was written by Michael Ray, director of member services for the ATRS, and is reprinted above.)

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