Remembrances of Dora Huddle: A Unique Schoolteacher

Three Huddle ladies taught in Johnson City’s public school system during the 1950s – Dora (Junior High), Louise (Science Hill) and Pansy (Columbus Powell).

Louise became my homeroom teacher in the 10thgrade. Dora was my “Tennessee History” teacher in grade 7B (fall/winter). She was a small thin lady with a strained voice and a somewhat cranky disposition. Her classroom was located on the first floor at the far northwest end of the building.

Miss Huddle’s life appeared to evolve heavily around Tennessee history. She employed both conventional and outlandish methods while instructing her pupils on the origin of the Volunteer State. Our textbook was The Story of Tennessee by Joseph H. Parks and Stanley Folmsbee. The name “Parks” is forever etched in my memory from hearing her mention him so often in class.

In 1990, I was browsing though some books at a tent sale in the parking lot opposite Greg's Pizza in North Johnson City, I spotted a 1973 sixth edition reprint of the textbook used by Miss Huddle.  In the Preface, the authors acknowledged 10 individuals who offered helpful suggestions with the preparation of the work.

Included were three locals – Miss Dora Lee Huddle, Mrs. L.W. McCown and Mr. George Finchum. The latter was a professor at Training School (University High), ETSU and Milligan College. Miss Huddle permitted the authors to use her Master’s thesis as a resource for their book.

My most memorable incident concerning my teacher was when she assigned our class to build a model log cabin similar to those used by the Tennessee pioneers. This project was shown in the textbook at the end of Chapter 3. Miss Huddle forewarned us that in order to get a decent grade the log cabin had to look authentic similar to the one shown in the textbook. We were permitted to use nails provided they did not show.

This venture turned out to be quite enjoyable and very special to me because my dad became heavily involved. He drove us to Erwin and turned onto highway 81 toward Jonesborough to a picturesque spot at the base of a hill overlooking the Nolichucky River.

While climbing the steep terrain, we placed carefully selected small tree limbs into a cardboard box. Dad and I brought the pieces home and took them into the basement. We cut the limbs into “logs,” notched each one, glued and nailed them together to form our cabin, which we mounted on a small plywood base. We utilized small pieces of rock for the chimney.

The day came for us to bring our cabins to class for grading. Miss. Huddle collected them on a large table near the door. She returned them to us in about two weeks. Not finding my cabin on the table with the others, I nervously approached my teacher as to its whereabouts. She informed me that I (and Dad) had received an “A” and that she was keeping it for permanent display in her room.

I was flattered that Miss Huddle selected my cabin for exhibit in her classroom, but felt cheated that I was not going to keep the little homemade relic that my father and I labored over for several weeks. Dad’s wise counsel was for me to graciously accept my grade and forget about the cabin. I took his advice largely because I had no aspiration to confront my teacher.

Although I did not realize it in 1956, this highly knowledgeable and dedicated instructor made a giant educational mark on my life by spurring my interest in local history. I only wish she were alive today to read this column. Dora Huddle will forever reside in my memory … along of course with Mr. Parks.