Archive by Author

My favorite books about America’s teachers

15 Jul

Books and Movies about teachers that I have loved:

                I have always enjoyed books about teachers. Perhaps my favorite is Tisha, the true story of a 19 year old teacher in Alaska in the 1920’s.  It was exciting and enlightening. I enjoyed and learned much about rural teachers in The Thread That Runs so True. It is based upon the author’s actual life as a 16 year old teacher in rural Kentucky in 1925.  Christy was delightful and was based upon Catherine Marshall’s mother’s adventures as a 19 year-old teacher in the Appalachian mountains of NC.  There must have been some interesting stories to tell of teachers on the early Western frontier as well. I read that between the years 1847-1858 over 600 young women answered the call to become teachers in one room school houses in America’s rural frontier. I wonder how many of those girls recorded stories in a daily journal? 

                I loved the TV mini-series “Anne of Green Gables.”  When Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote the book it was set in a time period a few years before Elsie’s adventure in Arizona. The TV mini series came out shortly before I began my research into Elsie’s Arizona years. I read on-line that the date set for the second part of the series was supposed to be 1915. So I loved looking for similarities in the dress styles, in attitudes and in things like red-tin tobacco lunch boxes. I watched it over and over imagining what it must have been like to teach in a one-room rural school.

                I have discovered that, at age 25, Elsie was older than many western teachers of that time who were teaching in their teens.  Many states had such a desperate need for teachers in one-room schools that the qualifications were minimal. California was apparently unusual for that time period in their requirement of a 5th year of teacher’s training before a teacher could qualify to teach.

Do you have a favorite “teacher”book?

Celebrating Arizona’s Centennial – The 100 Year Old Birthday of a Southwest State

7 Jul

This February 14, 2012 marks the 100th birthday of the state of Arizona. If you are planning to visit Arizona for vacation, study, work, or other travels, or even if you are an Arizona native, Elsie’s memoirs will give you an amazing, in-depth perspective of the time leading up to the birth of this state – and will help your visit or connection to it even that more meaningful.

More information on the Centennial celebration is available here:

An Author’s Journey into the Past – Discovering My Roots in a Pioneer Arizona School Teacher

7 Jul

As my curiosity was aroused by her diaries and letters and I began researching the three years (1913-1916) that my Grandmother taught school in Cornville and Williams, Arizona, I was elated as mysteries were solved and the full picture began to emerge.  I knew that eventually I would have to put the draft I was developing into book form, for family, for friends who had read parts of it and urged me to continue, and for others who I knew would enjoy the story.  It has been an on-off project for the past twenty-three years.  Interrupted by four children (home schooled), moves – California to South Carolina to an island in the Caribbean and back to California – being a wife, public speaking, women’s seminars, teaching in prison, and many other time-consuming activities which have been part of my chosen life’s work.  Here and there I would sequester myself for time devoted to the manuscript.  The impetus provided by a friend, herself an author and publisher, has encouraged me to complete the finishing touches and bring the book to publication in time for the Centennial of Arizona Statehood. “Elsie” will be available in late September both as an e-book and paperback on Amazon. I believe Elsie would have been my biggest fan.

A Page out of Elsie’s Diary – A Laura Ingalls Wilder Type of Discovery

7 Jul

It was after her death in 1987 that I first picked up Elsie’s well-worn black leather diary, not realizing it would reveal a young Elsie that I had never imagined. The diary told of her first love, of heartache and sorrow, and of fascinating adventure.  Never had I pictured my grandmother as being free-hearted, young and in love.

Her diary could not give me all the answers, but hidden in library archives were surprising discoveries.  Piece by piece, through letters, newspaper articles, and her diary, her story deepened. Elsie frequently described her Arizona years as “glorious.”  She experienced isolation, lack of modern conveniences, and sacrifices, yet still she remembered and described those days as delightful.   As I read her diaries and her letters written home to California I saw why she had great joy in the memory of those years.  I discovered why some of those memories brought tears.  This is not a sorrowful story – it is, like Elsie, delightful – a mirror into her exuberance and zest for life in early Arizona. But there is also the answer to the tears.  As you will discover, she had a heart that refused to focus on the hard things, instead, she focused on the joy found in the adventure of a challenge.

Buy the Book

7 Jul

Keep your eyes and ears peeled for the book, which will be published and released in the early fall – most likely the end of October!

Links will be provided here for its sale on

Excerpts from Elsie’s Letters – Poetic Travels Through Arizona’s Landscape

15 Apr

Writing from a log by Oak Creek…

Sept. 9, 1913

My very dear Family:

I must tell you about Jerome.  It was Saturday and late afternoon as we approached Jerome.  A sort of stage met the halted train and took us passengers into the town, we each paid fifty cents.  I certainly wouldn’t walk.  The short drive is on a narrow, steep, winding mountain road.

I never imagined such a town.  It looks like New York slums turned loose on a hillside and like Spain and Italy and almost like Chinatown combined.  The mountainside is bare and bleak and the houses are queer and black and mysterious looking.  The dirty saloons are surrounded by groups of foreigners who stare.

When we turned into the town little children of all kinds followed us waving and dancing.  Such hordes of children and babies I never saw before.  I saw three small boys holding babies, one holding a very wee one.  Almost all are Mexican or Italian.  I gave some of the left over cake in oiled paper to two dark skinned stringy-haired youngsters who were more than pleased.  I want to have a big bag of candy next time, each piece in paper, you know the kind, and throw out handfuls of it!

A leaflet on the train had advertized a certain hotel, so we said we’d go there for overnight.  We’d been told that the next day a stage would be going down to Cornville.  Jerome is a frontier mining town and Saturday night of course meant celebration.  It looked wild. The bus driver stopped at a corner where there was a saloon, with a drunk man leaning against a post in front of it. A dark narrow staircase outside led up to evident rooms above.  The driver pointed “That’s the hotel up there,” he said.  I felt terrified and Marguerite was trembling so hard her jaw was shaking.  The driver no doubt noticed our feeling for he said, “You don’t have to stay there.  I know a woman who takes in girls, I’ll drive you there.”   That certainly didn’t make us feel much better.  I thought “white slavery” with horror.

Apparently Marguerite thought the same.  She was very pale and could hardly speak as she said “We’ll look at the place.”  I managed “We’ll look at the woman.”   When we discovered that a local school teacher lived there we really were relieved.  The landlady was honest and kind and friendly.

The next day we were driven down from the mountainside by the narrow country road to the beautiful Verde valley, to where (near Cornville) lower Oak Creek joins the Verde River.

Oak Creek is about three minutes from where we live. We crossed the creek three times on the two-mile drive from the post office at Cornville. We crossed the Verde, (into which this empties), I believe, on the fifteen mile stage trip from Jerome to the Cornville office. Then the rough water was above the horses knees. The stage driver said that our creek, Oak Creek, is the prettiest one in Arizona, and I don’t doubt it.

On the train we passed so many barren places and schoolhouses (the worst, I think, were near Cajon Pass before we were out of California), that I was prepared for a bleak outlook, and unspeakably thankful for all this beauty about us.  Also, Montezuma’s Well and Montezuma’s Castle are only ten, eight, twelve miles or so away.  We kept school only half a day yesterday, but stayed ourselves until about six, and I worked much in the evening.  It was the arranging of the work and study of school laws and prescribed courses of study that swamped us at first. Today school lasted the regular length of time, nine o’clock to four o’clock, with two twenty minute recesses and an hour at noon.  It takes about two minutes to walk up the hill from our house to the schoolhouse.  We have to stay at noon to be with the children, but Mrs. Girdner sends us delicious luncheons, daintily prepared.

I was prepared for things so much worse than we found them that I can take such conditions as a lark, but poor Marguerite finds country life almost too much at first!  She’s always lived in town, for example, and apparently never washed a thing in her life. This she has done some tonight, and she dreads taking off her silk stockings but supposes she’ll have to eventually wear some other sort to school in order to be sensible! She’s never taken a bath from a basin and doesn’t know how she can!  I think she’ll get used to country life.  I find things wonderfully near my ideal for this year.  I shouldn’t want to live here always, out of the world.

As Marguerite has the ninth grade, I have the first five instead of just four grades, as these people evidently expected all the time.  I have only nine children so far in all the five grades. Ever so many more are coming next week, we hear, and others still later when they aren’t needed for home work. Cattlemen who have their families with them in the mountains come here for the winter for school and to avoid the deep snow, etc.  Evidently we’ll have a more or less shifting registration.

Some of my children are dear and must be of good families.  Others are “common” and need baths !  But I think I’ll love them all.  Here comes a good, cool breeze.  The air in here is grand, the most bracing I’ve ever known. I think it is going to agree with me splendidly. Mrs. Girdner is a fine cook and has sensible things to eat.  I heard her say we are to have chicken and peach cobbler tonight!  They have plenty of vegetables, but so far have had nothing in the way of meat but chicken and bacon.  Beef seems scarce here, though there are plenty of cattle, delicious peaches and melons, and plenty of vegetables.  I had milk and had a raw egg this morning for breakfast.  I also had grapenuts and cream and a potato cake and stewed blackberries.  We have to get used to going without butter, though, and we don’t have napkins except in our red tin tobacco boxes in which our lunch arrives!

I’ve thought of some more things to tell you or ask you to send.  Please get me some plain side combs large enough to be used other ways.  Combs bought for back combs are too large.  The jolting of the Jerome stage lost mine. Please send the better looking of our old riding skirts.  We’ll have a chance to ride they say.

As soon as I got home this afternoon, Marguerite and I donned old clothes and hurried to the creek for a bath before our six forty-five dinner. It was hot today.  The mornings are getting cooler, and the water felt perfectly scrumptious.  Wish you could have seen us!  We’ll have to take a Kodak next time.  I wore my pink crepe for a bathing suit (took it half off in the water as underclothes were beneath the bathing suit) and lay on my back on the rocks.  The stream is swift and strong.  It was great fun.

Very Much Love to you all,

My precious family,


Arizona Photos – One Room Schoolhouse, 1913

15 Apr

One room schoolhouse 1913

Cornville, Arizona

About The Book – Introducing Elsie

15 Apr

“I love and still love Arizona….” The detailed, well-crafted, handwritten manuscript did not appear to be the work of someone who was almost 97 years old.  It was author and educator Elsie Reed Hayes Roberts’ final manuscript, but was a project never she unfortunately never completed.  A year after Elsie’s death, I discovered this manuscript nestled among her many published short stories and articles.  Never before had she written anything that stirred me like this unfinished story of love and adventure in the early state of Arizona. Obviously, these three years in her early twenties had been an unforgettable time for her.

While doing research I came across a tape recording Elsie had made for the Jerome Historical Society.  On the tape she said in closing, “I don’t see how people who have lived in Arizona’s Verde Valley or the mountains, even briefly, can bear to live in a real city.”  Elsie in fact lived in a “real city” for most of her 71 years after she left Arizona.  Perhaps she lived on memories of her time in Oak Creek Canyon and Williams, memories kept fresh by re-reading her daily journals and letters to her family.

I have left her letters and diary in this manuscript as she wrote them, editing out unrelated events.  I used additional  narrative  from her cassette tapes, manuscripts , recollections by her former students, and newspaper accounts.

Arizona from1913 to 1916 was a wild and wonderful place. For those of you enjoy a grand sense of adventure I want to give you Elsie’s memories of the fledgling state of Arizona as seen through the eyes of this delightful, spirited, young  teacher.

I hope you enjoy her memoirs as much as I have.

Barbara Anne Waite

Arizona Photos – Old School Bus – Cornville, 1913

15 Apr

Cornville, Az. 1913

California Photos – Elsie at Pomona College

14 Apr

Elsie at Pomona College, CA