After earning a degree from FSU with a double major in Spanish and English and a minor in Education, I found myself in a plum teaching position at Ft. Lauderdale High School with five classes of Spanish 2 in the same classroom and I could even stay in my student-less room during my planning hour to actually plan. Life was good - Atlantic beaches nearby and I was happy as a lark.
I spent four years at Ft. Lauderdale High, teaching a little English along with the Spanish. Then I started looking around the school at seemingly octogenarian teachers like Miss Pinder and Miss Poole and decided I was in a rut and needed a change or, in forty years I would still be teaching at Ft. Lauderdale High and be (Gasp!) an Old Maid School Teacher. So I applied to the Dependents Schools Program to teach the children of military personnel at installations around the world. Oh, the places I'd go and the things I would see! I was accepted into the program and informed that I would be teaching in Labrador. Well, the first thing I did was to find an Atlas. (Labrador-Newfoundland is the easternmost province of Canada.) I packed my things and left Ft. Lauderdale with zero inches of snow per year and arrived at Goose Air Base in Labrador with 300 inches of snow per year.
It was quite an experience: lots of new friends from all over the country and lots of new stuff to do. One of the new things I did was to earn a Canadian private pilot's license, mostly flying a Cessna 150 single engine plane. Shortly after I took off for my solo cross country flight, I was in a heavy snowstorm and could see nothing but huge snowflakes all around. I turned back. I wanted to fly, not DIE! I was trained only in VFR and the V part wasn't working out so well (Visual Flight Rules -- I completed a rescheduled trip when I could actually see the frozen lakes below to help me navigate.)
I left Goose with 58 hours in my log book, including several with an instructor pilot in a tandem seating Citaborea, an aerobatic plane (read it backwards), doing snap rolls with the ailerons and other fun maneuvers. I had no idea what I was doing! I just did what my instructor (a fighter pilot) was shouting over my shoulder. I haven't flown since returning to the U.S. - too many other planes in the sky here and after I had a husband and kids, it seemed "suddenly" very dangerous for me to be at the controls of a plane!
Remember my plan to join Dependents Schools, travel and see the world? Well, on Halloween night (about ten weeks after I arrived at Goose Air Base) I met George Ude at PYO night at the O Club ("Peel Your Own" shrimp, Officer's Club). By Thanksgiving we knew we wanted to do the "till death do us part" thing. George shipped out on February 2nd, and I stayed at the Goose and finished out the school year and we were married on June 20, 1970. (Yes, we are George and GeorgiaJ.) George is the best thing that ever happened to me -- and new people we meet never forget our names.)
George retired from the Air Force as a Major and we spent our first year of marriage in the Phoenix, Arizona, area -- but it was a dry heat. Then for eight years we lived in Flagstaff, Arizona, about 75 miles from the south entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. We had traded saguaro cactus for towering ponderosa pines - and over 100 inches of annual snowfall. Flagstaff is over 7,000 above sea level.
A fellow teacher from the Goose - my suite mate in the VOQ (Visiting Officers' Quarters where teachers lived) came to Flag for a visit and she and I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on the Bright Angel Trail. We crossed the Colorado River on a suspension foot bridge and stayed overnight in the bunkhouse at Phantom Ranch. It was a ten mile hike down on the switchbacks. Going back up on the same trail the next day, it was 20 miles.
Both of our sons were born in Flagstaff, Christopher in July, 1973 and Kevin was a Christmas baby in 1975. They were four years old and 18 months old the summer George was the Pharmacist at the Grand Canyon Clinic in the park and the boys and I explored much of the south rim, Kevin in a Gerry Carrier baby backpack and Chris carrying our lunches in his backpack. Over the years we were able to see the canyon in every season and many different light effects and even went to an Easter Sunrise Service on the rim one year. Really nice!
In 1979 we packed up the kids and pet hamster and moved to Pulaski, Tennessee, where George had been hired as the Associate Administrator of the local hospital. The boys were three and five and I was a stay-at-home mom. That, of course, is a misnomer, because I was the Room Mother, Class Trip Chaperone, Sunday School Teacher (22 years), Vacation Bible School Director, Red Cross Swimming Instructor, Mothers' March of Dimes Volunteer, Scout Leader, etc. I still had lots of time to spend with my sons: wading in creeks, flying kites, climbing trees, shooting off model rockets. (On one occasion the boys found a potato bug that we sent up in a rocket nose cone. He parachuted safely back to earth in his rocket ship and Kevin named him "Bug Rogers.") I think I hated it more than the boys did each fall when they had to go back to school.
One of the things I did when the boys were young was to sew up a clown costume and become "Coco the Clown." I did juggling (a skill I learned while hanging around the real performers at Sailor Circus), magic (coin tricks and rope tricks learned from books) and balloon animals. I went to elementary school classes and nursing homes and did some children's birthday parties. I drew smiley faces on three Klutz® juggling cubes and named them Ralph, Buster and Charlie. Buster would misbehave (hence the name Buster. Surely no kid would have the name Buster.) Buster would jump high or not jump at all while Ralph and Charlie continued on. He would slap the ceiling, get Ralph and Charlie to jump high (peer pressure) and, of course, land on the floor frequently -- but that was Buster misbehaving, not Coco dropping a juggling cube.
I made clown costumes for Chris and Kevin (then ages 7 and 5) and they would join Coco once in a while as Loco and Poco. Loco would do some simple magic and Poco would juggle invisible balls - occasionally dropping one. My most impressive magic trick was cutting a rope in half, but I can no longer remember the set up for it. When I made balloon animals almost all of them would look alike. If the child wanted a dog, I'd make it bark. If she wanted a cat it would meow. (Snakes were the easiest.) Coco lasted three or four years until I ran out of makeup and interest.
When our older son reached Cub Scout age, George and I became deeply involved in the programs of the Boy Scouts of America. George and I purchased uniforms and he became Cubmaster and I was a Den Leader, then Webelos Leader, Tiger Cub Group Organizer, Den Leader Coach, and Pow Wow teaching staff and Train the Trainer staff in Nashville and a few other positions, mostly concurrently. We did Cub Scouts for about seven years and then George was asked to be the Scoutmaster of Troop 462. George did all of the administrative paperwork: records of Merit Badges, rank advancements, nights camping, miles hiked, Courts of Honor, etc. I was Assistant Scoutmaster and planned and led the activities (the fun stuff) with lots of help from different parents: campouts (one night it went down to 13 degrees), hikes (the one day 20 mile hike in Savage Gulf in east Tennessee, the ten mile orienteering course at Shiloh National Military Park in west Tennessee), the canoe trips, the cave trips, backpacking, and more. I still use the First Aid I learned and taught to the Scouts and I think I can still tie eight knots in one minute (a challenge we gave the Scouts). (I'd probably need to practiceJ.) We did lots of water activities and I was able to teach some older Scouts the Eskimo Roll in a kayak, something I could never master myself (but I'm really good at the first half).
We averaged 25 Scouts a year the nine years we worked with Troop 462. We remained leaders for years after our own two Eagle Scout sons went off to Vanderbilt. We had 17 Scouts earn their Eagle Award during those nine years - all of them terrific young men. About the time we were winding down, the Middle Tennessee Council, BSA, presented me with the Silver Beaver Award. It was really nice of them, but I got so much more out of Scouting than I ever put in. It's a wonderful program that teaches God and Country and Family and Character - and the boys don't realize they're getting all of that - they just know they're having fun swimming, biking, camping, caving, climbing, etc. ( I even had a chance to do the high ropes course at Boxwell Reservation when I had my co-ed Explorer Post up there doing it - what a rush!)
Our sons are grown and married: Chris and Allison for fifteen years with two daughters adopted from China: Samantha and Rachel, ages seven and five. They live near Nashville so we see them often. Kevin and Alice have been married nine years and live in Asheville, N.C. - no children yet. We all get together for "Ude Christmas" every year over the New Year holiday. They are all, of course, beautiful, loving, intelligent and perfect in every wayJ. (Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind ....)
I have been working the past 13 years as the International Student Adviser at Martin Methodist College here in Pulaski. MMC has about 650 full time day students. Of that number, between 50 and 60 each year are my F-1 visa international students (from 22-24 different countries) -- most here on athletic scholarships. I love my job, I love my students and I have no immediate (nor long range) plans to retire. I feel useful working with my students, thousands of miles from home and family and in a different culture, sometimes struggling with our language. Years ago a mother in Argentina dubbed me "la segunda mamá" and that's what I am, a surrogate mother to them all. advise them about immigration rules and regulations, too.)
Remember again the plan I had to travel and see the world? Well, I was in my 50's when it happened. In the past ten years I've visited students and their families in Japan, Argentina, Ecuador, South Korea, Japan (again) and I went to China with Chris and Allison to get Sam. I've slept on a tatami mat in Fukuoka, Japan, and stood straddling the equator in Quito, Ecuador. The best part of those trips was staying in the homes of my students, eating at their tables, feeling a part of their families. In every case I was treated like a relative they hadn't seen in a very long time.
George and I have lived in Pulaski (population, fewer than 8,000) for 32 years now. We have one acre in the country but are only ten minutes drive from the Courthouse Square and Martin Methodist College. Pulaski was a great little town for raising our sons. People are friendly (They greet us by name when we go in the bank or a store on the square.) and they chip in to help each other. Not many weekends go by without some sort of fundraiser for a charity, a family in need, or some other good cause. Giles County has a population under 30,000 but our Relay for Life teams raised over $120,000 last year. Our goal this year is $150,000. The team from my church of about 80 families raises $10,000 each year. Impressive, huh?
George has been retired since 1985. He has some health issues, most notably osteoarthritis in his back which makes it hard for him to stand long or walk far. We still manage a yearly Caribbean cruise each spring, several times taking the family along. George gets around the ship on his electric scooter and I enjoy the warm sunshine and beaches.
Flashing back to SHS days, the teacher who had the most profound influence on my life was Mrs. Eliza Antrim (Latin 2, Latin 3 and Homeroom). She instilled in me a passion for languages and language -- words and their etymology - things I still love. Miss Frances Poston (Senior English) was a pretty neat teacher, too. As was Mr. Kopel (Junior English). He was a hoot! And a great teacher. Does anyone else have similar memories?
I loved studying foreign languages at SHS (could be a reason I love my job working with my international students). Each year in high school I took at least two foreign languages and in my junior year I was taking Latin 3, Spanish 2 and French 1 (might explain why I know so little about History, Math and Science). As I dredge up those high school memories I realize how special SHS was and how good it was to be there during that time in our country's history - a much simpler life than now.
It's hard for me to believe that I'm pushing 70! I don't' feel that old. I swim a mile on most weekday mornings (MMC has a 25 meter indoor pool), and I have a handful of gold medals from the Tennessee State Senior Olympics (It was easy. I was the only female swimming in the 60-65 age category!) I still enjoy tent camping whenever I can get away, which, unfortunately, isn't very often. I bought a kayak last April (sit in, not sit-on-top - that was important) and I love to drive my red '94 Miata around town with the top down. I've never had a surgery and though I take lots of vitamins, I only take one prescription pill a day (for high cholesterol). I figure I've got a few good years left! Hope so! I'm not finished yet!
George and I will be at both Reunion events and we will be staying at the Lido Beach Holiday Inn Friday and Saturday nights in case anyone wants to talk about SHS teachers, the Air Force, Scouting or whatever. (Or you may want to avoid us. George is even more long-winded than I am.J)
God bless you all, members of the 1961 Sarasota High School Graduating Class!
He has certainly blessed me beyond my wildest imagination!
See you at the Reunion!
Georgia McArthur Ude