Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Them Yankee School Teachers Shore Talked Funny

By Donovan Baldwin

A relative of my wife learned that we were moving to Atlanta, Georgia, to help my mom out a few years back.

She is a sweet lady, as are all the family I inherited. In fact, one of the things I treasure about being married to my Arizona wife is the family of Arizona Sicilians I acquired in the process. However, certain members of the family, like the dear lady I am talking about, have never traveled much to the east of Arizona.

A few days after she learned of our decision, she sent my wife an email in which she seemed to indicate that she was under the impression that folks were poor and not very well educated in the South.

I had thought that we had put that idea out to pasture (that's what we do with things in the South), back in the days of the Yankee school teachers.

You see, I grew up in Pensacola, Florida, attending Catholic schools from first grade through my graduation from Pensacola Catholic High in 1963. Along the way, in addition to the bevy of nuns who tried, with varying degrees of success, to drum knowledge into my thick skull, there was a small cadre of earnest young ladies from up North who filled in when enough nuns were not available.

Now, they were sweet young ladies from exotic places such as New Jersey and Massachusetts, and they did a good job. However, they sure talked funny!

It seems they had some strange ideas, too.

My mother taught third grade at St. Thomas More parish in Warrington for thirty years and many of these young ladies wound up there. Mom got to know many of them very well. One day, one of these young teachers confided a secret to her about the recruiting process.

When the recruiters were searching up above the Mason-Dixon line for suitable young ladies to teach "down South", they painted a picture of poverty and destitution. After all, we HAD lost the war, and, at least to hear them tell it, had never recovered.

Many of the young teaching school graduates already had some sort of mental picture of life down South, and the recruiters' descriptions simply served to accent what they thought they already knew from the history they had learned up North.

My mother's young friend confided that she had been genuinely surprised to learn that she could actually take an airplane into a real airport in Pensacola, after changing planes in Atlanta, of course! She had arrived expecting to live in a hovel, live on corn pone, and share an outdoor privy. She was quite amazed that, except for the accent, and the slower pace, and the fact that everything was fried, and the southern hospitality, living in Pensacola was pretty much like living in whatever Northern state they had left behind!

Of all the minor differences, however, the accent was probably the most major obstacle the young Yankee girls had to surmount. After all, they didn't know how to speak English very well.

I remember one day at Catholic High, in Algebra class, when a lovely young lady from New Jersey introduced herself as our new teacher.

Johnny, one of our classmates, a died-in-the-wool down-home southern boy, stood up and asked a question about homework, if I remember correctly.

The young lady, stared at him for a second, and then cheerfully and politely asked him to repeat his question, which he cheerfully and politely did.

Even at that tender age, the look that began to appear on her face tipped me to what was going through her mind.

The cheerful smile became a bit more brittle and the eyes just a little wider, kind of like a frightened animal, as she faced one of her first real challenges as a teacher in the South.

Again, and with a slight nervousness in her voice, she asked Johnny to repeat his question.

His face began to turn red, and this time, there was little politeness, and even less cheerfulness in his voice.

By now, there was no mistaking the look of bewilderment and consternation on the teacher's face. Desperately, she searched the faces of the other students, some of whom were beginning to snicker, and exchange knowing glances, and then asked, with an uncertain and bemused smile, "Is he speaking English?"

Johnny was just about ready to restart the War Between the States, but Tommy, his good friend, whose accent was almost as thick as Johnny's, stood up, grabbed him by the shoulders, and said plainly enough for the teacher to grasp, "Naw, Ma'am! He's jist tryin' to ask about homework. You jist ain't understandin' the way we talk down here yet."

Now, until that moment, I had never really realized that my friends and I talked with a Southern accent! We had been bathed in its sounds and syllables since birth. There were minor differences among us, but for all my life that soft Southern drawl had been to me, at least, the way people talked.

Everybody else talked funny!

Even my aunts, uncles, and cousins in Atlanta talked different, but we, the lucky few who lived along the Gulf Coast spoke proper English.

Eventually, the young teacher, and many others like her, learned to understand our...ahem...language, and perhaps even our lives. Maybe they even returned up North and took back some true facts about the South. However, my story happened in the 1960's and my wife's relative made her comments in 2009. I guess not everyone got the word...with or without a Southern drawl.

Donovan Baldwin is a freelance SEO copywriter currently living in Central Texas but due to move to Georgia soon. A University Of West Florida alumnus (1973) with a BA in accounting, he is a member of Mensa and has held several managerial positions. After retiring from the U. S. Army in 1995, he became interested in internet marketing and developed various online businesses. He has been writing poetry, articles, and essays for over 40 years, and now frequently publishes articles on his own websites and for use by other webmasters. He has a poetry website at http://ravensong.4t.com, where he publishes many of his poems and articles.

Article Source: Those Yankee School Teachers Sure Talked Funny

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