Editor’s Note: This is the first in, what we hope will be, a series of articles to be published throughout this summer.
We are inviting our readers to write down their fondest memory of life in the local communities (including Moapa and Virgin Valleys). It could focus on people, places, events, activities or anything else – either from the recent past, or from days long gone by.
Send in your stories and memories; preferably by email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org; or you can bring them by our office at 2885 N. Moapa Valley Blvd. Please include a phone number where we can contact you if needed.
If you have an old photo to go with the memory, all the better! Send that in as well!
Then your fond memories may just show up in next week’s edition of the PROGRESS!
By ONETA PETERSEN
Mr. Long was the teacher who really cared about all his students whether they be rich or poor, or the brightest in the class. His one and only purpose was to see that each individual in his classroom received an education to carry them on to the next level in their lives. His desire for each child to excel, was far beyond that of an ordinary educator.
Mr. Long stayed many hours after school every day preparing for his next day classes – long after the other teachers had all gone home. I know this because I was often staying late too. He spent countless hours with me after school each day that year, personally tutoring me on a one on one basis. Then I’d study my homework while he prepared for the next school day.
At times it was after dark before we left to go home. He would then give me a ride which was on the way to his house. Except I lived down the lane that was a mile long. So by the time he took me down and came back up the road, it was two miles out of his way, adding to an already long day’s work. It was time he could have been home with his wife and two sweet, little daughters.
On one occasion as he was helping me read, I was holding my reading material up by my face. He noticed this.
“Do you always hold your book so close to your eyes?” he asked.
He began having me push it back until I couldn’t read the words anymore, then bring it forward to where I could see what was written on the page. It was brought to my mother’s attention that my eyes may need to be checked. Shortly thereafter, I began wearing glasses.
The day they came in the mail my older brother brought them to class for me. When he came to the door, I walked up to the front of the room took the package from him, then went to the first row where I sat several seats back in the room. My hands with the box were out of the sight of Mr. Long who was sitting at his desk listening to the class read.
As soon as I figured the other children had gone back to paying attention to their books. I opened the package and put the contents within it on my face, not realizing a few others in the class were still watching curiously to see what I’d received.
About then Andy said, from across the room, “Look over here, let me see!”
I glance out of the corner of my eye to see who he was talking to, I quickly pulled them off and set them in my desk.
Some of the other individuals began interrupting the class. They wanted to see what I looked like in them.
“Put them back on!” they said.
Others begin looking around murmuring, “What’s going on.”
By this time everyone’s attention was now resting on me, which was definitely not to my liking.
Everything came to a standstill as Mr. Long began inquiring as to what was happening.
One of the Peeping Toms decided it was his business to declare the information about my new spectacles to all that had ears to hear.
When Mr. Long found out what the unexpected outburst in the midst of his otherwise orderly class was, he had me take my new eyes out and put them on so everybody could see me in them. He proceeded to compliment me on how nice I looked with glasses.
“ How good it will be now to see everything that was going on around you,” he said.
This helped all the children in the class as well as myself accept me with glasses.
Mr. Long had something else that he needed to attend to, and couldn’t stay that day after school. As I got off at the bus stop and began walking the mile down the lane to my house, it was amazing! I could see all the little rocks on the road as I walked along. The leaves on trees were so clear. It was indeed a wonderful sight to see the beauty that laid before my eyes.
From then on my glasses and I became inseparable. They were the first thing I reached for each morning, and the last thing I took off at night.
During that year we put on a play. I don’t remember the name of the story we were to perform. But the main character was a little girl who had a lot of daily chores to do. She was very bashful but always happy, and smiling no matter what. So she was given the job of peeling onions which made her cry. Still she kept smiling. And it made those sad that had wanted her to be unhappy in the first place.
There was a pet that the little girl loved that was written into the script. At the time, I had a cat named Cinnamon and he became the pet in the play.
Mr. Long chose me for the part of this little girl. It tickled him as I played the part because I was so bashful that I would tip my head from side to side smiling all the while, displaying a bit of embarrassment from being in the spotlight.
As I sit here writing, I realize in all likelihood, Mr. Long picked this play out with me in mind before bringing it to school, reading it to the class, and asking us if we wanted to put it on for our parents. After he finished sharing the story with us he immediately began, without hesitation, naming who would perform the different parts in our program.
When he gave me the role of this little girl it surprised me. But not as much as it did some of the other children. To be given the center stage with a main part was something I’d never experienced before not in school anyway.
I remember thinking at the time, ‘Boy, he made his decision fast as to who would do what in our show.’
Another clue was that the character of the little girl in the theatrical production we were to act out in front of our parents, fit my personality to the T, at that time period of my life.
When it came time to show off our acting abilities for the audience of adults, I became so scared I couldn’t act like my natural bashful self with all the animation, that comes with being bashful.
Another thing that brings back fun memories is the day his sweetheart wife came with their two little girls to school so he could introduce his family to the class. My older sister had given me an old gray, marbled looking purse that was square made out of a hard plastic with a handle to match. Mr. Long’s oldest little daughter, Heather, came over to my desk where I had it sitting next to me on the floor. She picked it up, and started walking around twisting it back and forth with her wrist as cute as you please. We all were amused by her sweetness mixed with her pure innocence of thinking she was as big as anyone else.
Over the years, the few times I have seen and talked to Mr. Long, he never fails to say what a great class we were. He always says that we were his favorite students.
The last time I saw him, was out at the Logandale Fair, at least some twenty-five years ago, he came up and asked if I remembered him. I ran around giving him a big hug.
His wife assured me that his love for our fifth grade class was because we were his first students. He denied it fervently, by saying, “No it wasn’t! It was because they were an exceptional group of kids.”
But the truth is, he was an exceptionally good teacher with control over his class, we felt of his love and we learned because of it.
Not long ago, I was telling a friend, another one of Mr. Long’s students, that Mr. Long was one of my favorite teachers and I felt like he’d been one teacher that had really liked me as a student.
She quickly replied without hesitation not wanting to be left out, “He loved all of us!” A sign of a truly great teacher, when all his students think they were his favorite.
Being a teacher at times must feel a bit like Christ felt as he cleansed the lepers and they went on their way without looking back even to thank him for the blessings he’d given them. Hopefully it’s not to late for me to stop and write a note to pay tribute by remembering one who so unselfishly gave of himself.
I’ve thought of Mr. Long many times over the years since I was a student in his classroom, some 59 years ago. I’ve never forgotten his devotion and his unconditional love for each of his students. There’s no length to which he wouldn’t go to help those in his class. We were lucky to have him as our teacher in the first year of his teaching career. He was truly an exceptional treasure in the educational field.
For me personally, Mr. Long was the teacher of a lifetime. He wasn’t content to let me quietly sit in class, not learning all that I could because I was too shy to open my mouth. The sacrifices he made for me, the little girl that lived down the lane, was incredible. He went way beyond the call of duty, to make sure I was not left behind. His kindness shall never be forgotten!
There was a couple of other teachers that loved and cared for me, and I them in return. But Mr. Long was the one, that took the time, to go the extra mile out of his way to show me that I truly mattered, by showing me how much he cared. He gave so freely of his precious time.
I am truly glad I was his student and a recipient of his love. For his ability to see the potential in me, and what I could become. The year he taught me in school has been a blessing my whole life through.
I shall always have gratitude in my heart for my Fifth Grade Teacher then, and now for all that he gave to me. There are not enough words to express how I feel about my fifth grade teacher Mr. Louis Long.
Oneta Petersen grew up in Mesquite. She attended grade school there and was in Mr. Lou Long’s fifth grade class in 1959, which was Long’s first year teaching. Long later taught school for many years in the Moapa Valley elementary school. Petersen is now 69 years old and lives in Bountiful, Utah.