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Growing up out Proctor: Influential Teachers

By Gary Eller - | Sep 15, 2021

I was blessed to have some excellent, caring, inspiring teachers and mentors in elementary and high school, undergraduate and graduate school, and at Los Alamos National Laboratory during my thirty-year career there. Some of the Wetzel County teachers who stood out for me are mentioned here.

Highland Elementary School

I had three different teachers in the four years I was at Highland (I skipped two years). Managing a one-room school with grades one through six and a wide range of development and ability is no easy task but my Highland teachers pulled it off. My most memorable Highland teacher was Mrs. Virginia (Ginny) Bohrer. Mrs. Bohrer lived in Proctor and had a son Steve who was in my high school class and later became mayor of New Martinsville. Mrs. Bohrer was tough but fair in the classroom but lenient with recess. I can still picture her sitting at her desk and standing at the chalk board. She no doubt inspired my love of reading. Mrs. Bohrer drove a black two-door sedan when I was in first grade and starting to read fairly well. I had an “aha!” moment at recess when I figured out the correct pronunciation of the name on her car, P-L-Y-M-O-U-T-H. I was really proud of that accomplishment. Later in Mrs. Bohrer’s life when she was in a nursing home, I had several nice visits with her after not seeing her for over fifty years. It seemed to touch her.

Magnolia High School

Mrs. Helen Pyles was the senior English teacher at Magnolia and she had taught me and Dad when he was in high school. Mrs. Pyles was a no-nonsense teacher and not my favorite but in hindsight she taught me discipline in writing that would be useful later in my life. More inspiring to me was freshman English teacher Mrs.Vivian Van Duyne, who was a relatively new teacher from the South Fork South Branch Potomac country of eastern West Virginia. Her composition assignments really struck a chord with me and without a doubt she encouraged my life-long interest non-fiction, short stories and story songs. And no doubt my enjoyment of writing was inspired by her.

Olan Hall was the chemistry and physics teacher at Magnolia High.

I already had a strong interest in chemistry but Mr. Hall hook set the hook solidly when I took his chemistry class. I wish I had thanked him properly before he died. Olan grew up on the farm of his father. Hayes Hall, of the real old timers I remember (born in 1877). The Hall homestead abutted my grandpa Eller’s place, from which our property was split. Olan, his wife Louise, and their two daughters and son (all considerably older than me) lived on a big piece of the original Hayes Hall farm, adjacent to our property and about a mile from our house, at the top of Anderson Run Hill. Olan’s first cousin James was a physical chemistry professor at WVU so evidently there was a chemistry tradition out Proctor.

As an aside, Jim Hall owned the property that Roy and Ruby Palmer squatted on. As another aside, the Hall properties had the best squirrel hunting around!

There were other memorable teachers at Magnolia but of course not always in a positive sense. For example, there was an assistant football coach who attempted to teach boys physical education. I don’t need to name him – if you were in one of his classes, you would know who I mean. Unfortunately, Mr. XXX had little skill with keeping a bunch of rowdy adolescent boys under control so his classes could get a little wild. When things got too rough, rather than singling out the instigators he would line up the entire class and every single boy in the class would bend over and get a whack with a board. Of course, he reserved special energy for certain boys.

All in all, I enjoyed my time at both Highland and Magnolia.