Sophia Boring Was Outstanding Henry Johnson School Teacher

In 1954-55, Miss Sophia Boring was my sixth grade teacher at Henry Johnson School on W. Market Street across from Kiwanis Park. This pretty lady had taught there since 1936, after previously being employed at Columbus Powell School.

Our room was on the second floor in the southwest corner of the school overlooking the playground, Miller and Keezel Garage and the Pepsi Cola Plant. One of the first lessons our teacher taught us was to never call her by her first name. One student deviously tested her sincerity and reaped the consequences.

Subjects that year included reading, writing, spelling, English, geography, history, arithmetic, health, physical education, art, music and duty. Miss Gordon Grubbs, the other sixth grade teacher, taught us geography. John Manning, the city’s elementary school physical education director, visited the school on Fridays to work with the boys.

Sophia (oops, Miss Boring) possessed a special talent for reading stories to her students. She was anything but boring. She read and even performed portions of Homer's “Iliad” and “Odyssey” for the class. She was not opposed to standing on her desk for added dramatization. I can still picture in my mind the massive Trojan horse that she word painted for us. She received her training from Science Hill High School’s Dramatic Club in 1927. She also wrote a school play each year, but that is another story.

Weekly Readers were distributed to students at no charge. They were popular juvenile newspapers that contained stories as well as national news, written in a style fitting for six graders. Once a month, a “Classic's Illustrated” comic books was also handed out to students who could afford the 15 cent charge. 

In those days, we did not have ballpoint pens. Instead, we used fountain pens that had to be filled with ink. Miss Boring had a cabinet along the back of the room with one shelf dedicated for students’ inkbottles. We identified our bottle by scratching our last name on the cap. To fill a pen, you placed the tip of it into the ink and simultaneously pulled a small lever on the side. This created a vacuum, causing ink to flow into the chamber. We filled our pens each morning before class, which usually lasted us all day.

Our classroom had slate blackboards along the north and east sides. Within a few years, green boards began replacing black ones, but the newer ones did not seem natural to us. We still referred to them as blackboards.

Assigned daily duties, which were graded, included carrying out trash, dusting erasers, sweeping the floor and washing blackboards. A fundamental rule was to erase the boards thoroughly before washing them to prevent streaking. We took the erasers to a designated outside door on the west side of the school for cleaning, which consisted of beating two of them together. We were strictly forbidden to strike an eraser against the steps or side of the building. About half way into the year, the school purchased an electric eraser, which was actually a small vacuum cleaner. It was kept in the back of the cafeteria for all classes to use. It was especially loud. 

After I graduated from the sixth grade, I did not see Miss Boring again until 1967 when I learned that she lived on Highland Avenue. I just had to see her. I shared several memories with her from that era, but sadly she was unable to recall any of them. When I bragged on her wonderful teaching skills and story telling ability, she seemed pleased. I concluded the visit and departed happy that I had seen my former teacher. She passed away shortly thereafter. She stands tall as one of my better schoolteachers.

Miss Boring (upper left inset) probably took the column photo showing her 32 students posing on the upper set of front steps of the school. The photo was her 1927 Sciience Hill High School graduation picture.

Classmates that I can identify are (left to right):

Front: 1. Carolyn Patrick, 2. Joan Curtis, 3. Tonda Nave, 4. Jean Senter, 5. ?, 6. Janice Blevins, 7. Dorothy Greene, 8. Robert Cox, 9. Charles Willingham, 10. Frankie Lewis.

Middle: 11. ?, 12. Brenda Lady, 13. ?, 14. ?, 15. Janie Buchanan, 16. ?, 17. Nanci Biddix, 18. ?, 19. ?, 20. Allen Davis, 21. Jimmy Laughren, 22. Bill Durham.

Back: 23. Johnny McKenzie, 24. Ralph Miller, 25. Wyndham Frye, 26. Edward Johnson, 27. Harold Tyree, 28. Leonard Smith, 29. Stanley Bishop, 30. Kyle Bulla, 31. Larry Hodges and 32. Eddie McKinney.

If anyone can supply the missing names, drop me a note for inclusion on the History/Heritage page.