New school year prompts memories of old Chelsea

As students begin a new school year, retired Chelsea School teacher Earlene Isbell recalls her early years as a student at the school.

“My first day at school began with a ride on the school bus owned by my father,” she said. “In those days an individual agreed to furnish school transportation for a sum of money.”

According to Minutes of a 1929 meeting of the Shelby County Board of Education, her father, W. D. Moore, was paid $100 as a bus driver.

“Daddy’s first bus was a homemade bus body that was put on his Model-A truck. It had a bench down each side and one down the middle,” Isbell said. “When the school year was over the bed was detached and the truck was used to haul logs.”

Records show that Ray and Gray’s bid of $12,200 won the bid to construct the first school at Chelsea.

Isbell recalled that it was a little white building. It had two classrooms on each side of an auditorium, and was heated with a big potbellied stove.

The lunchroom was started in the late 1920s. The building that housed it was built for an exhibition hall when the County Fair was held in Chelsea.

The young Earlene Moore was fascinated by the school’s water pump. She missed the bus one day, she said, while playing at the pump. Her daddy drove right off without her and she walked around two miles home, crying all the way.

Isbell’s mother, Lillian Moore, also taught at Chelsea, and at several other county schools.

Watching her involvement with paper grading and other school-related activities at home, Isbell said she once told her she would survive on cornbread and water before she would teach school.

Then, in first grade, she was chosen to go with her teacher to Teachers’ Institute to read stories developed by her class. Perhaps her desire to be a teacher began at this Institute, she said.

Isbell taught at Chelsea, in between the births of her five boys, for a total of 33 years.

After her retirement she served one term on Chelsea’s first city council.

She is currently working on a family history, which includes memories of old Chelsea School.