Leslie Harrison follows a different path

Published 1:53 pm Friday, October 21, 2011

By SANDRA THAMES / Community Columnist

Leslie Harrison, a well-known retired educator, is not an idle man. A man of many hobbies, he has been involved in photography, stained glass, wood carving, basket weaving and pottery. Currently he stays active by going fishing, playing golf and flying remote control airplanes. By coordinating some remote control classes in the school system and being the rep for the RC club, he is able to stay in touch with the kids.

Harrison did not follow the usual path of high school graduation, then college, then a job. As a youngster born and raised near Bessemer, he was the son of a mechanic and a housewife who was a popular speaker at churches and school. One of his mother’s tools was a flannel board (brings back memories for me). By the time he was 8 or 9 years old, his paternal grandfather began to be quite an influence in Harrison’s life.

Grandfather George Harrison was the chief of police in Montevallo and later a deputy sheriff. On Saturday nights they watched the latest westerns at the Strand theater.

Harrison’s family moved to Dogwood in the 1950s. At Montevallo Junior High, everyone laughed at his shoeless feet, but by high school, he and Tommie Ruth Mowery became sweethearts.

Harrison turns a hand pump from his old homeplace in Lipscomb. (Contributed)

After high school Harrison worked at an auto parts store, Montevallo Motors, and then volunteered for the draft and served for five years. While in the Army, he was a military policeman working with K-9 dogs and later learned a trade in the optical field through military training. When Harrison was discharged, he and Tommie returned to Alabama where he worked as an optician for a number of years.

Unchallenged in the optical field, he decided to pursue a college education. At the age of 30, Harrison became a college freshman. At the same time, he drove a school bus and worked at Western Auto and Times Printing Company to help Tommie support their family.

After earning his degree in elementary education, Harrison began teaching third grade at Thompson Elementary. He later went on to become assistant principal and then principal.

The Harrisons, who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Oct. 7, enjoy their cabin on Lake Jordan with its primitive setting. In the 1970s they built a home in Alabaster (you can’t see it from the road) and still live there in complete privacy.

Active members of Alabaster United Methodist, Harrison, as a former trustee, is “used to locking up doors” just as he did those many years ago at Thompson Elementary. Each day as he goes about the community, Harrison sees former students who often make positive comments about their school days.

“Simple activities can become rich experiences when you share them with ones you love,” he said.

Community columnist Sandra Thames can be reached by email at bobthames1942@yahoo.com.