1954-1976 Teacher & Principal at Granbury Elementary School
By Kathy Smith
Hood County News On-Line Edition – August 18, 2001
Forrest Bland Carter could be a wanted man.
While working at what would become General Dynamics in Fort Worth, Carter took the physical exam necessary for service and was assigned to the U.S. Navy. But his papers to report weren’t ready, so he went home. The Navy never called him.
“It’s too late now, but I was worried then!” he laughs, later explaining that General Dynamics must have secured a deferral for their employee.
He sits in his living room-in a favorite chair, no doubt-with his long legs crossed, leaning to one side and resting his elbow on the arm of the chair.
He’s spent a little bit of this day, puttering around on the farm he and his wife bought on FM Road 51 South in 1959, but a stroke suffered in 1997 and a heart attack this year, limits the amount of puttering he can do.
Dressed in khaki pants and an old chambray western work shirt, Forrest Bland Carter fondly recalls his life and the chapters it contains, each one filled with enough memories to fill a book.
The year was 1911.
Roald Amundsen was the first person to reach the South Pole, Chevrolet Motor Co. was founded and the word “vitamins” was first used to describe chemicals necessary to diets.
And Forrest Bland Carter was born on Aug. 19.
“I grew up in one of the poorest counties in Texas,” he says. “I was born in Grayson County, but we moved to Wise County soon after. Everyone was poor.”
As was standard operating procedure of the time, everyone worked. Men, women and children. And they worked hard.
Working is one of his earliest memories, but the memory doesn’t come with a feeling of regret or blame for his parents, but rather with an acceptance that many of his age possess.
“Dad did everything from bale hay to make syrup and Mother did farm work also. We picked cotton. This was before they started ‘pulling’ cotton. Mother picked more cotton than I ever could,” he says, smiling.
Saturdays were spent taking eggs and butter in to town to sell, thanks to the cream separator the family owned. The Carters owned eight or 10 cows and milking, “by hand,” Carter adds, were one of his many chores.
During the 1910s, the Carter family moved quite a lot, searching for opportunities and employment. By the time he started high school, he had attended six or eight schools, the first being a one-room schoolhouse with one teacher.
“We had folding desks and they’d put three people to a desk-a boy in the middle and a girl on each side. That kept us from getting in trouble!” he laughs.
Carter’s memories of his school days are filled with tales of walking miles to school, doing chores before and after classes, and fighting to see who would be chosen to walk a half mile to retrieve water for the school from a farmer’s well.
And it is well apparent that things were different from today’s modern conveniences and integration of the sexes. Girls had the luxury of an outhouse. Boys, went to the sticks, he says. Girls and boys also played on separate sides of the playground, divided by an imaginary line.
Because his family moved so often, Carter admits to being shy and insecure and feeling out of place with his schoolmates, which resulted in a rough side to the young man.
“I didn’t get in trouble,” he says, adding with a laugh, “much!”
But the rough side came in handy on the corner of Main and Houston Streets in downtown Fort Worth as the 13-year-old Carter had to hold his territory while hawking daily copies of the Fort Worth Press until midnight each day. He made enough money for a hot dog, a piece of candy, a Coke and a little left over for the family.
He reflects on the differences in today’s world-the freedom and safety afforded those in the late 1920s.
“A man in a big car pulled up one day and gave me a dollar bill for a paper. He told me to keep the change and asked me if I’d like to use one of his tickets and go to the rodeo and livestock show,” Carter says.
After explaining to the stranger that Carter couldn’t leave without getting rid of his papers, the stranger drove the young man to newspaper office to return the papers.
“Then he drove me to the rodeo and gave me $3 to enjoy the show,” Carter explains, still marveling at the security he felt in getting in the car with a stranger. “You sure wouldn’t want to do that today!”
While in high school, Carter decided to become a teacher and furthered his education at Decatur Baptist College, which later became Dallas Baptist University.
Upon graduation, a trustee for the Gilliland school in Knox County approached him about a job. He would become everything for the Gilliland school-principal, superintendent and teacher.
It would be in Gilliland, which he thought was the end of the world, that Carter would meet his wife of 51 years, Winnie.
“I guess I stole her from someone!” he says slyly so that Winnie can hear.
“There wasn’t anyone out there!” she jokingly snaps back.
“Yeah,” Carter laughs, “they were all cousins!”
The Carter family came to Granbury in 1954 with their son Gaylon and their daughter Marcia. Carter became principal of Granbury Elementary School in 1963.
“It was really just a name,” he says. “I did everything, including bookkeeping!”
The troubles that perplex and permeate today’s classrooms were nearly non-existent when Carter was teaching.
He recalls that while teaching eighth grade he fulfilled a promise to his 35 homeroom students and took them on a bus to the Brazos River for a picnic-just him and the kids, no other teachers, no parents and no other supervision.
After two boys disobeyed him and ventured in to the river, Carter removed his belt, doubled it over and promptly swatted the trouble makers on their rears.
“Didn’t have any more trouble with them,” he says.
Carter was forced to retire in 1976 at age 65, but he didn’t want to.
“I missed it at first,” he says, but soon he involved himself in restoring old cars. Carter proudly shows photographs of the 1931 Model-A and 1936 Plymouth he refurbished.
His love of children and teaching is evident as he warmly recalls his career. But the harsh reality of today’s educational hardships affects him.
“I can’t, beyond my wildest imagination, think of having to call the cops to pick up a little first grader for breaking the law,” he says sadly. “I would never have thought about sending a kid to the cops.”