February 8, 1995
Hal B. Sherrod used to be a teacher and, I think, principal at the Perry elementary school back in the mid-1930s when I was in the student body there. Only a few of you may remember him at all. He moved on to a larger school system but as far as I know the field of education remained his life work.
Mr. Sherrod, and all his former students would address him as "Mister," for reasons you will soon understand, was a tall, slender man with slicked-down dark hair. He usually wore a three-piece suit, as did most of the men teachers in those days. Except when his dander was up, he had a pleasant smile which exposed a nice set of even, white teeth.
Youngsters in his class were about 10 years old, an age when many boys were just beginning to assert their independence, or rather to test their elders' patience by attempting to do so. Mr. Sherrod was from the old school and he tolerated no breach of discipline, period. This was made clear in his annual opening statement to all his students at the start of each new school year. The thing was, he really meant it.
Mr. Sherrod taught mathematics and some of his charges found the subject boring. There is not much any teacher can do to dispel that notion and Mr. Sherrod made no attempt to do so. He simply expected you to study the textbook, listen to his explanations, ask questions, and then be prepared for the weekly test. Foolishness in class was strictly forbidden at all times.
To enforce that policy, Mr. Sherrod had a habit of drifting to the back of the classroom and then gliding stealthily and silently up the aisle, between rows of desks, always carrying an unsharpened pencil in his right hand. Whenever he observed a student whispering to another, or doing anything besides the assigned class work, the pencil would be applied to the offender's rib cage in a swift jab. Yes, I can still feel the pain.
If that sounds like cruel and inhuman punishment, let me just say that it worked wonderfully well. Mr. Sherrod’s unique method encouraged many boys and girls to apply themselves, even to tasks they didn't care all that much about. And what do you know, he was well-liked by the kids, too. We respected him, and not altogether out of fear of that dreadful pencil jab. Perhaps we knew he was trying to help us be the best we could.
The Sherrods lived in a small house on an alley between Delaware and Elm streets until they built a modest new home in the 1100 block on Delaware. Soon after that they left Perry, and I have not heard of them in many years. Then last month in an obituary column in the Daily Oklahoman I read of the death of Mr. Sherrod's wife, Laura Mae, at the age of 86, in Oklahoma City. A photo accompanying the story showed her to be a very pretty lady. The article said she was a retired teacher, of Oklahoma City public schools, and that she was preceded in death by her husband and a son, Hal Cornish Sherrod, among others. A daughter, Ann, of the home, is among the survivors.
I don't really remember Mrs. Sherrod or the children, but I am sorry to learn of her passing as well as the belated news of her husband's earlier death. He was a stern teacher, but one who will be remembered by most of his pupils all their lives. He and his pencil really made a lasting impression.