George Parrish Had “Special Needs” at the Ransom School

June 8, 2021 Greg Tucker

The late C. B. Arnette (1918-2010), local author and historian, and an alumnus of the Ransom School, wrote a memorial for his friend and schoolmate George Walter Parrish. The writing, reproduced here, gives some interesting insight as to the School and the building which now offices the Rutherford County Historical Society.

George Walter Parrish was formerly a staff writer for the Daily News Journal from which he retired. He was also an acclaimed journalist for the Chattanooga Times, Chattanooga Free Press and the Atlanta Constitution. His first newspaper was The South Church Street News which was a weekly publication and cost a nickel per week. The paper was typed by George, the news was gathered by George, and the deliveries and collections were made by George. His antiquated typewriter always lacked a new ribbon but was readable. At the age of ten, George was a dedicated newspaperman, but he had to overcome almost Guinness-Record odds to pursue his ambition.

Perhaps his most embarrassing problem was his slobbering or salivating which made his speech slower and more difficult; yet as the years passed he was able to speak distinctly. The palms of his hands were constantly moist. His fingers were not coordinated. This condition made it difficult for him to write and typing would seem to be an impossibility. Since his ambition was to be a newspaperman, he was determined to overcome this limitation and became the fastest two-finger typist in town. His toes pointed inward, making it hard for him to walk normally. However, George overcame this handicap and was even able to run a little. All the kids called him “walkie.” A doctor in those days would have likely stated that his defects were the result of a birth injury or that he was not fully developed before birth.

George was born in 1918. Realizing that he would need special schooling, his parents sent him to the Miss Eliza Ransom Private School at which he attended two years, skipped the third grade and entered the fourth grade at Crichlow Grammar School. The Ransom tuition was $8 per month. (My father operated a meat market so my mother paid for my tuition by sending this amount in meat to the home of Miss Eliza and Miss Belle Ransom at 717 North Academy Street.) The two sisters began the school in1907 and continued until 1933. Each year the Ransom sisters taught twelve children in a multi-grade setting.

In a three-classroom building, the Ransom School emphasized literacy. Three pages of the Webster’s Dictionary were assigned daily. In addition, students were required to recite in class. Tardiness and disciplinary infractions were punished by detention, during which students were required to memorize ten or more lines of poetry for each offense; the difficulty of the required memorization was determined by the severity of the offense.

At Miss Eliza’s School there were no running water toilet facilities. For this purpose, there was a two-hole toilet shielded by a cane thicket in the backyard. As mentioned earlier, George was unable to coordinate his fingers and could not unbutton his pants. Miss Eliza solved the problem by designating a boy to accompany George to the two-holer in the cane thicket. A bit of this cane remains.

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