Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias I've written about Mrs. Eggee in this column before.

I have never met a woman as fascinating as her.

She was my second grade teacher.

There wasn't anything she couldn't do, or hadn't done, or was hesitant to share with us.

She was a world traveler. She was a pretty good photographer, and she would share the slides of her journeys to Europe and the Caribbean and other exotic places with us.

I remember, after fascinating us all with one of her travelogues, she picked up the globe near her desk and pointed out all of the cities in Europe she had visited.

Mrs. Eggee would then keep on turning the globe, first teaching us the major continents, followed by countries, and eventually major cities.

She taught us to read, to add and subtract, and how to print our letters.

She also injected a bit of homespun culture into our learning experience every day.

Mrs. Eggee could play the piano, and she often would lead us in singing a patriotic song, or a Stephen Foster folk tune.

The Humboldt Public School building where my brothers and I attended elementary classes had changed little from the time that my parents had attended high school there.

The school operated, I suspect, in much the same way over the years. There were no cameras in the hallways, and the classrooms weren't wired with an intercom system.

Forty years ago, we had completed our math, reading and writing lessons for the day. We burned off some pent-up energy, as usual, during our morning recess break.

We ate lunch together, and had just finished our first lesson of the afternoon when Mr. Stoddard, our superintendent, slowly opened our classroom's door.

He stayed out in the hallway, and Mrs. Eggee went out to talk to him. We barely noticed � this was nothing out of the ordinary in our school. Mr. Stoddard often interrupted class sessions with short "hallway discussions" with our teachers.

What we didn't know was that, while we were out frolicking on the playground and eating lunch, the world had changed.

Today, we all know the details of that time too well.

At approximately 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 22, 1963, as President John Kennedy traveled in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, he was shot and suffered a massive head wound.

Doctors at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas pronounced the president dead shortly thereafter � at 1 p.m.

Later that day, Dallas police officers arrested Lee Harvey Oswald as a suspect in the president's murder. Oswald was also a suspect in the murder of a Dallas patrolman that had occurred that afternoon.

I was busy practicing my printing when Mrs. Eggee calmly closed the door, walked to the front of the classroom and calmly asked for our attention.

"President Kennedy is dead," she said.

I remember literally feeling a jolt when I heard the news. I lost my grip on my pencil, and for a second, it seemed the laws of nature were out of sync. The pencil, I remembered, literally floated in slow motion to the floor.

My classmates and I responded with an endless series of questions. How did he die? Does that mean Mrs. Kennedy is the president now? Who killed him?

Mrs. Eggee answered every question.

Some people learned about the Kennedy assassination from a news flash broadcast by Walter Cronkite or Chet Huntley.

I'm glad that, on such a terrible day, we could turn to more than a radio or television.

We all had Mrs. Eggee.

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