letter to the editor

I too remember Miss Aline Neal

Dear Editor:

I was touched and pleased to read William "Stick" Jeanes' column in a recent edition of the Northside Sun, and did not realize we had an old mentor in common. He spoke of Miss Aline Neal's career as a great educator and sometime Keeper of the Peace in an old Fondren movie house, back in the day when we all wanted to believe that screen heroes were real ones.

I encountered Miss Neal when she had been made Superintendent of Rankin County's elementary schools, and she was awesome, indeed. I then attended a semi-rural school where we were taught good manners, follow-the-leader and never interrupt in class, and with at least two of these precepts, I was not successful. I did get through second grade by trying to be as quiet as possible, having embarrassed the substitute teacher by quoting a children's book about ferrets (she did not know what these were).

Progressing onward into pretty Miss Autry's third grade, I was unsure what was in store for my academic career, when she finally threw up her hands and cried "Linda, please keep your mouth shut," after which she informed my bemused parents that she was recommending that I skip fourth grade, since the teacher would surely not put up with me.

We duly visited the exalted Miss Neal, about whom I was only told that she would decide what to do with my precocity. Sitting in her pleasant office in Brandon, I was given a small battery of tests to determine 1) is this child a homo sapiens? and 2) where on earth does she belong in a classroom?  And kind Miss Neal, to her everlasting credit, did not diagnose any exotic mental quirks, but handed me a math workbook and said that in the fall, I would be enrolled into fifth grade, and must teach myself math.

To fifth grade I went, but alas, I did not tackle the math, and fudged my way through the rest of school until, at the last possible moment, the academic powers at Millsaps College decided that arts majors didn't need to study calculus, and I was finally off the hook.  Bless you, Miss Neal, wherever you are. It is surely a place of lightness and joy, a reward for your patience, diligence and willingness to wink at what could not be fixed with small children. You've earned a rest.

Rev. Linda T. Berry

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