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School Day Memories – Martha Pritchett Segraves

Martha Pritchett Segraves

GHS Class of 1958

By Nancy Hicks Williams

Special to The Enterprise

Martha Pritchett Segraves was born October 28, 1939, to Elish Berry and Lillie Mae Teague Pritchett, in Gleason, Tennessee. She had an older brother, Charles, and loving maternal and paternal grandparents nearby.

Martha was reared in Dresden, Tennessee, and attended Dresden Elementary, Junior High, and High School from 1945-1956. Her family then moved to Gleason, where she attended Gleason High School her junior and senior years, 1956-58.

Martha and her family lived just two houses off the Dresden Court Square. Six-year-old-Martha remembers standing in her front yard and watching the courthouse burning in 1948. The arching flames and smoke billowed skyward, the horrific scene framed by the theater on the left and the corner car dealership on the right. Commotion and chaos were everywhere.

“We had no electricity yet,” Martha explained, “our home was heated by a fireplace and coal oil stove. Daddy went to work every day. Mama couldn’t drive, but shopping was easy. We just walked around the corner and were in downtown Dresden. Horses and buggies were still intermingled among the old cars.”

“Family members would come to town on Saturdays, run their errands, and then stop by our house to visit. Mama would always ‘fix’ dinner for everybody, like creamed potatoes and chicken and dressing, served with her good, sweet tea and peach cobbler. One of the most prized possessions from this era was my little iron and ironing board. I still have the iron.”

“Mama hand-pieced beautiful quilts and hand-quilted them all the time. She had her quilting frames strategically propped on chairs. We didn’t go anywhere very much throughout the early- to mid-50s. Families would convene with each other for holidays and other special occasions.”

The family relocated to the edge of town, near the city limits. They now had their first indoor bathroom and first electric stove. Her new playmates were Nancy and Wanda Buckley. There were no buses. They would daily walk the one and one-half miles to and from the Dresden Elementary School which stood in the current location of the old gymnasium. On rainy days, the girls would call a taxi on the old, party-line telephone, split the twenty-five cents charge, and ride to school. They didn’t want to walk in the rain.

Dresden Elementary was a square two-story, eight-room building, complete with a fire escape. Both levels had a long hallway with rooms on both sides, complete with a study hall, big lunchroom, and lockers. The playground was in the front yard.

The faculty all wore their Sunday dresses, suits, and ties. Martha found the classes interesting, and liked reading and writing stories in English best. “I was a good ‘B’ student,” Martha adds.

Inclement weather never curtailed any classes because of the proximity of their homes to the school. The schoolhouse doors were open in rain, sleet, or snow — no snow days!

The Pritchett family moved from Dresden to Gleason in 1956. Mr. Pritchett worked at Bell Clay Company and thought it would be best for him and his family to move closer to his work. “We moved to College Street where Daddy had built us a house,” Martha explained. “I was sixteen years old and began my junior year at GHS.”

“I walked down the street to school and into a whole new world of Bobbitt-Bennett-Sanders-Reed-Dunn kinds of days. Their keenness in the classroom as well as quips and quotes of wisdom were lasting. My best/favorite class was Mrs. Bobbitt’s English class.” Martha loved her in-class writing assignments, grammar exercises, and literature lectures.

“My running buddies were Martha Jo Robbins (Edwards) and Sue Lemonds (Webb). We would attend the theater, then go on past the Fire Department, rounding the corner to the Dairy Bar. I loved listening to country music. We all attended prom in the gym. A large, hanging, circular wall partitioned off the center part of the floor. The tables and chairs were placed in this big circle. I do not remember how they did that, but it was pretty. I wore a big, full, frilly, knee-length, purple dress. Dinner was prepared in the cafeteria.

Martha worked at HIS Manufacturing in Gleason after graduation, earning $1.00/hour. She bought her first car – a 1957 red and white Chevy. “I kept it a long time.” I bet she wishes she still had it!

She married Coy Segraves within a few years and they purchased Richee’s Grocery, becoming the new owner/operators: “Working for the public, I learned, for the first time, all about the good people in Gleason, their lives, their families, and their stories — all the things I missed from not having been raised here. Every week was a new face and a new chapter.”

“I learned more about Gleason, the town, and its businesses. I could stand in the doorway of our grocery store and watch its daily operations — the ins and outs, comings and goings — of what was going to become my hometown for the rest of my life. I can still see the Produce House and its loading dock, the City Café, and then gaze over across the street toward the Carlton Movie Theater, Fire Department, City Hall, and J.C. Dellinger’s Grocery. Skipping over from the U.S. Post Office and Coy Black’s Service Station was the Drug Store, Bond’s Dry Goods and Capps’ Grocery. Out of sight, but rounding the corner, to my left was the bank, Barney Klutts’ department store, and Jozelle’s Beauty Shop. There was also a barber shop on Front Street with a red, white, and blue vintage Barber Shop pole sign attached to the building.”

During later years. Martha worked at the Gleason High School cafeteria for 20 years, baking more than 500 of those delicious hot rolls daily. After retiring, she also substituted occasionally at GHS and DHS cafeterias.

Martha enjoys fabric shopping and adding to her stash of craft materials. She makes soup bowl caddies, casserole bowl holders, as well as other gift items.

She lost her husband December 5, 2018. Two daughters, two grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren graced their marriage. “My family is my greatest blessing,” Mrs. Martha shared. She also added, “Just be yourself, have a goal, and look forward to tomorrow.” She hopes to be remembered as being pleasant and happy.

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