by Rita King
In the fall of 1982, I was a fourth grade teacher at Campus School, an elementary school on the grounds of Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. My principal and friend, Liz Whorley sent a message that said, “Come to the office as soon as you can.” This request was not uncommon, since I was our faculty’s leadership chairman.
When I entered the office, Mrs. Whorley said, “Sit down and read this letter from a man in Pearland, Texas”. The writer introduced himself by stating that he attended our school in the 1940s. He remembered that there were not enough basketballs, and footballs. He asked for a list of gym items needed so he could purchase them for us. In the last paragraph, he said a major donation was being made to MTSU. The letter was from Harry Bradley.
We decided more information was needed about this man before Liz responded to his request. I called Carlene Henry, a friend and secretary to the university president. When I told her about Mr. Bradley’s offer, she said, “Honey, don’t throw that letter away. He is communicating with us about giving the university an airplane.”
We discovered that Harry dropped out of high school, moved to Texas and became an errand boy for a major airline. When he could not find the washers needed for specific bolts, he received permission to make them in his garage. This was the beginning of his multi-million dollar enterprise.
Liz and the physical education teacher made a list of needed supplies and mailed it to him. During the next few months, Mr. Bradley called Mrs. Whorley often to talk about his donations and how his purchases were benefitting the children and teachers.
In conversations with Mrs. Whorley, Mr. Bradley revealed information about his recent emphysema diagnosis and life expectancy of a few years. After receiving the medical news, he had filed for a divorce and started giving his money away.
Mr. Bradley said he liked the way we spent his money. He especially enjoyed the humor and personal touch in the expressions of gratitude from the children and faculty. In our first thank you gift, each faculty member introduced himself or herself by cutting out a model’s picture from a fashion catalog or a magazine and placing it, with a personal note, in a plastic egg. The Easter basket of colorful eggs was mailed to him.
To welcome Mr. Bradley on his first visit to the school, four hundred children formed a double line to welcome him as he strolled through the reception formation receiving handshakes, drawings, cards and gifts. He thoroughly enjoyed each event planned in his honor.
During the next 2 years, Mr. Bradley visited our school on several occasions. Betty Jo, Harry’s sister, hosted dinners and parties for him in her basement. I was amazed by Mr. Bradley’s unassuming style. He was a stockily built, tall man. His daily attire consisted of a lightweight, bomber-type jacket, a golf shirt, and knit pants. On special occasions, he wore a sports coat and shirt or a polyester suit. When entering a building he always removed his baseball cap to reveal thinning, red hair.
A few months after his first visit, Mr. Bradley gave all of our teachers their first classroom computer. He converted a gym balcony into a computer lab. A large, console television was donated for the lobby. During this time, he was making major donations to two other schools in Rutherford county.
In the spring of 1984, Liz announced that Mr. Bradley was sending his pilot and helicopter to take the children in grades 3-6 on a ride over Murfreesboro. A parent said she did not believe her child when he excitedly shared this news during the evening meal. The entire student body waved and jumped up and down on the front lawn as the helicopter came into sight and landed.
The following January, Mrs. Whorley sent out a memo stating that Mr. Bradley had called and wanted the faculty and staff to be present when she opened a large box that had arrived for her. After dismissal everyone gathered in a classroom for this exciting event. Liz unwrapped a long mink coat. “Mrs. Harry Bradley” was written on the label.
Liz lived in the home place where she was raised on a farm nine miles south of Murfreesboro. In the spring, Liz and Harry were married in Mt. Tabor Church in the Gum community, where Liz was a lifelong member.
That summer, Harry chartered a bus to take approximately twenty of Liz’s Murfreesboro friends to Pearland. He had special plans for our visit. Our reception was in the country club where margaritas were handed out as we entered the door. We stayed in his lake house and in homes of friends. We toured NASA and had helicopter rides over and between the towers of Houston. He bought everyone a jacket in the golf pro shop, hosted a party for us at the lake house, had meals prepared. He treated us to dinner at the local country club and took us to lunch in a renowned country club near Dallas. When we returned to our rooms after each excursion, a unique gift from Harry was on each bed. The presents included a manicure set, a ring, a watch and a hair dryer.
In 1986 Harry called me at home and said, “Are you sitting down?”
I quickly responded, “I am now!”
He said, “How would you like to go to Australia in July with all expenses paid?” All I could say was, “Thank you!
Then he said, “After touring Australia, you will tour New Zealand’s two islands. Liz, three more friends and my sister, Betty Jo, will go, too.” He added, “There is some bad news. You’ll have to pay for souvenirs. There is more bad news because you’ll have to spend two days on Waikiki Beach and stay in the Hilton there on your way home.”
I said, “Thank you! I am thrilled!”
He said, “You can’t tell anyone this news for an hour.”
I found out later that Harry chose Australia as our destination because he asked Liz Bennett, Liz Bradley’s friend, to choose a place anywhere in the world to visit. She chose Australia because she read a book in second grade about “The Rock” in the outback and dreamed of climbing it.
Harry arranged for us to fly to Pearland and meet with a tour specialist in their home to plan details of our trip. As we sat on the floor around a large map of Australia, each individual was told to identify a city or area to include in our itinerary. That evening after dinner, Harry passed out $200 to each guest. He said to keep this amount of money with us in the future for emergencies.
Our tour included a cruise of Sydney’s harbor, Alice Springs, Ayers Rock, Melbourne, and the Great Barrier Reef. One afternoon, we traveled to an island south of the mainland. As the sun set, we wrapped ourselves in blankets and quietly stood on the shore. We were mesmerized as hundreds of penguins emerged from the ocean, waddled past us, and settled in their nests.
On New Zealand’s north island, two small planes took us through snow-covered mountains to a ski resort. The next day a helicopter took three of us to a glacier. After we glided to the middle of it, the pilot told us to lie down and create angels in the snow.
A highlight of our south island tour was a visit to hot springs. Two friends stayed in the tepid water too long. When they emerged, they were weak and wobbling as they walked, because they were so relaxed. We had to take them to their room and put them in bed.
The next day, we toured the quaint town of Christ Church and cruised through a fjord. In Queensland, we visited a sheep farm, viewed the sheering process, and had a New Zealand meal with a local family.
On our return trip, we were on Waikiki Beach for two days enjoying the water, fabulous food and beautiful views. When we arrived in Los Angeles, we changed clothes and went to Disneyland for the day. During our trip home, we realized that our twenty-eight day vacation had included twenty-one flights.
A few months later, I was with five friends visiting Liz and Harry in Pearland when Mr. Bradley asked us to ride with him to Sam’s Warehouse. A middle-aged, African American lady met him at the front door. After introducing us, he said, “I called this lady after reading a newspaper article about a fire destroying the kitchen in her church.”
When we were inside the store, he said, “Each one of you grab a buggy and follow us.” As we walked through the aisles, he asked the lady, “Don’t you need a microwave?” “What about silverware?” When she realized what was happening, her arms went up in the air as she cried and shouted repeatedly, “Lord Jesus, thank you!” When a buggy was filled with merchandise, he said, “Take it to the front and get another cart.”
As Mr. Bradley paid the bill, the cashier said, “Who are all of these women with you?” Someone responded, “This is Harry’s Harem”.
In 1987, Harry and Liz invited thirteen friends to go with them on a Caribbean Cruise. They said the group would include MTSU’s president and his wife, Dr. Sam Ingram and Lynette. Liz said she wanted us to participate in two talent shows during the cruise.
A friend designed and made harem outfits for us to wear during one contest. We took jeans, denim shirts and red handkerchiefs for our rendition of “Rocky Top” in the second performance.
When we had boarded the ship, Harry told us to come to his room as soon as we were settled in our cabins. When everyone arrived, he asked us to gather around him. He shared his latest surprise. We he told us to sign tickets for our snacks, meals, and drinks during the cruise. Harry had arranged to pay all of our bills.
When the evening for the first talent competition arrived and we appeared on stage, the MC asked, “What is the your group’s name? In unison, we responded, “Harry’s Harem”. He said, “We’ve heard that Harry paid for your cruise. Where is Harry?” We responded, “He’s in his room downstairs.” That was a true statement because Harry was not feeling well.
When Harry realized that his health was declining, he had a new home constructed for Liz on the golf course. They had been married between two and three years. During their brief time together, they enjoyed the children, grandchildren, friends, world travel and time together.
When the doctor told Harry he had a few weeks left, he said, “I am going to Murfreesboro to see my harem.” He called me and said, “I am coming to Murfreesboro for my last trip. Dr. Ingram and his wife are hosting a dinner for us in their home. This will be the last time I’ll see you. If I see one tear, I’ll leave.”
As we visited in the parlor of the president’s home, everyone chatted, concealing sadness. As usual, Harry entertained us with his stories. After the meal, he handed each individual a box containing a twelve place setting of gold-plated silverware.
That was the last time I saw Harry before he died. I always smile when I think of the great experiences he provided and the stories about his joy in giving. For example, when Polaroid cameras became popular, Harry bought a case of them to give family members and friends. During a visit to his Pearland home three of his sisters and his brother were there. Harry passed out small, boxed presents. Each sister received a ring with a miniature watch inside of it. His brother received a pocket watch. Each box, also, contained a small piece of paper with a number written on it. He told Betty Jo to open her box first. Her number was two. After all boxes were open, he led them to the front door. Four new Cadillacs were lined up on the street. The number indicated the car each sibling received.
During another visit to Murfreesboro, Liz told him that she liked bacon. Harry had a pig delivered to her house. Yes, it was alive!
In 1992, the year after my mother died, Liz called and said, “Since you don’t have a family, why don’t you spend Christmas week with me in Pearland?” For twenty-two years, I’ve been there for the holidays enjoying her home, delicious country cooking, visits with her children, grandchildren and friends, social events, church services, the two dogs, the cat, shopping and movies.
FOR RELEASE: April 14, 2015
EDITORIAL CONTACT: Gina E. Fann, MTSU Press Release
MURFREESBORO — Even the parties are historic at the Homer Pittard Campus School, which celebrated its 86th year April 14 at a noisy, joyful open house with a special twist.
Fifth-graders scurried through the halls, acting as ambassadors and tour guides for dozens of guests. A 1930 film touting the work of the facility, then known as “The Training School,” played on a lobby screen as current and former students, teachers, parents and employees greeted each other and other community members.
The late-afternoon gathering featured displays honoring students from the 1930s through today and a painstaking exhibit on the school’s first teacher, the devoted and innovative educator Mary Ella “Miss Mary” Hall, inside her former north wing classroom.
“The last time she was in this classroom, where she’d taught, Miss Mary was 91 years old,” former Campus principal Dr. Rita Schaerer King said of a 1986 visit from Hall.
“She sat down at a computer and said, ‘I wish somebody had a minute to teach me about this.’ So the children did. That was Miss Mary,” added King, who organized this year’s open house with the Friends of Campus School and did her dissertation at Vanderbilt University on “Mary Hall: A 20th Century Pioneer for Educational Progress in Tennessee.”
Hall, a native of the Kittrell community in Rutherford County, was:
- the first teacher at Campus, then known as the Training School of Middle Tennessee State Teachers College, when it opened in 1929;
- Tennessee’s first state education supervisor in 1936;
- MTSU’s dean of women in the 1940s; and
- the lone female faculty member in the university’s Department of Education for more than 20 years.
Though she retired from MTSU in 1960, Hall remained active in education and in the community until her death in 1991. She maintained her interest in educational opportunities for all, according to her great-nieces and great-nephew, along with her blunt but loving guidance for everyone from her family to her students.
“She had very strong convictions and morals. She didn’t change her beliefs because of what others thought or how trends changed,” Angie Kleineau said of her great-aunt, whom the family called “Me-Me,” as her siblings — Benita Lane of Carthage, Tennessee, and Ginger Lowery and Ben Hall McFarlin Jr. of Murfreesboro — nodded in agreement.
“She cared very passionately for children and for education. She was calling legislators all the time to get them to do more for education.”
Indeed, Hall, who’s on the cover of the Heritage Society of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County’s “In the Footsteps of Notable Women” self-guided tour brochure, convinced the Tennessee Legislature in the mid-1960s to change a law that banned using state funds for public kindergartens.
MTSU later began operating one of the state’s nine pilot kindergarten programs at Campus School, allowing student teachers from the university to get their training as well as providing early education for youngsters.
The siblings also laughed while recalling a story about Hall’s unexpected visit to the MTSU dormitory that bears her name several years after its 1964 dedication.
It wasn’t being maintained to her standards, they said, so Hall marched into an administrator’s office and ordered him to “’fix that place up for those girls,’ or take her name off it and shut it down,” McFarlin said with a chuckle. “They had people over there by that afternoon.”
Campus School, which is now a K-5 facility staffed and operated by the Rutherford County Schools but still owned by MTSU, initially served first through eighth grades. Its last eighth grade class left in 1972, when the county opened Riverdale and Oakland high sr3rrrchools and turned the former Central High into a middle school.
More fifth-graders helped capture memories from former students and faculty on video, encouraging the reunited visitors to share favorite stories of their time at the school.
Siblings Bobbie Jean Parkhurst Snoddy and John Parkhurst, for instance, had young Sam McGill and Ingram Parks struggling to stifle their laughter as they used their iPads to record the pair’s first-grade memories from 1936 and 1946, respectively. Former Campus principal Stan Baskin kept them fascinated as he recalled the building upgrades that helped bring the aging facility up to more 21st-century standards in 2008 and 2009.
“The best part was seeing everybody laughing and visiting and enjoying history,” King said as she and other volunteers packed up the open-house necessities for another year. “It just thrilled me to see our students from the ’30s talking with the children enrolled today. They were having so much fun.”
You can learn more about the Homer Pittard Campus School’s history at the Friends of Campus School’s website, https://friendscs.wordpress.com. The 1930 film is available there as well as at http://vimeo.com/99635973. You also can watch a series of video interviews with Hall archived at the “MTSU Memory” Digital Collection at http://ow.ly/LF3m3.
MTSU is committed to developing a community devoted to learning, growth and service. We hold these values dear, and there’s a simple phrase that conveys them: “I am True Blue.” Learn more at www.mtsu.edu/trueblue. For MTSU news anytime, visit www.MTSUNews.com.
by Rita King, Campus School Principal 1988-1995
It began as a typical day of organized chaos and became filled with events etched in memory. I was enjoying another perfect fall morning during my first year as principal of Homer Pittard Campus School, Middle Tennessee State University’s laboratory school for children in kindergarten through 6th grade.
The massive, three story, historical building was erected in 1929. The impressive exterior had broad steps that led up to four white Corinthian columns on the porch. The state of Tennessee designed the structure to nurture and prepare college students for the teaching profession. We were planning a spring celebration of the school’s 60- year legacy in teaching and learning.
On this day university students were observing in classrooms, learning to write lesson plans and teaching small groups of children in classrooms and hallways, on the front steps, and under the trees.
I enjoyed my role in developing the potential of children, college students and staff. My goal each day was to provide a safe, inviting environment for the children, the college students, and the staff.
Dr. Mary Tom Berry, chairman of the university’s elementary department, was in the building. As director of the school’s teacher-training program, I reported to her in the Department of Elementary Education. She was planning with two faculty members in the reading room on the third floor. During my routine “walk about”, I stepped inside the door to say hello.
As usual, Dr. Berry was dressed in a pantsuit with a coordinating silk blouse. Her silver hair looked as though she had walked out of a beauty shop. I often wondered where she found professional outfits for her tall, thin frame. I was fascinated by her shoes, which matched each outfit, including the pastels and mauve tones.
After a brief chat, I said, “I’ll drive you back to your office. I need some advice for dealing with a university student. Let me know when you’re ready to go.” She glanced at the clock and said, “I’ll be ready in about twenty minutes. I’ll meet you in the lobby at 10:30.”
I admired this southern lady throughout my college days when she taught courses for beginning teachers. I looked forward to our short drive to the education building and to receiving her practical, compassionate advice.
As I started down the steps, I saw Patsy, my secretary, running up the lower stairway. Her dress style, bouffant blond hair, and mannerisms reminded me of Dolly Partin. She leaned over the handrail, looked up at me, and whispered in an anxious voice, “I got a message saying that the basement is flooding. I called the maintenance department. The men are on their way”. I turned around and ran down the steps in my high heels, thinking about the old radiators and their occasional major leaks.
As I entered the basement level, an overwhelming stench reached me. It reminded me of the outhouse I had as a child on the mountain.
I stepped into the hallway and saw the filthy watering under the door to the boy’s bathroom. It was moving slowly into the hall. I glanced at my watch. Kindergarteners were scheduled for lunch at 10:30 in the cafeteria. The door they entered was directly across the hall from the problem. It was 10:15.
I stepped into the 6th grade classroom next door. No one was there. I rushed to the cafeteria and told the manager, Mrs. Sitz, to serve the trays to the children from the kitchen’s back door so they could eat outside or go to another area on the upper two floors. I continued down the hall and stopped by the two kindergarten classrooms and whispered directions to each teacher for taking the children to the kitchen door next to the front steps. I smiled and said, “Tell the boys and girls they are going to have a special lunch time outside.”
I took off my heels and made my way to the office. I told Patsy to make a note with the lunch service changes and send it to each teacher. I asked her to assign a college student to monitor the children at the kitchen door and have her send for the next class to create a continuous line of students.
I changed shoes, washed my hands, and entered the lobby. Dr. Berry was walking toward the front door ready for the ride to her office on the other side of the university campus. I had visions of the oozing sewage. I grabbed my purse and keys and escorted her down the steps. I opened the passenger door and watched as she folded herself into my sporty, red car.
During the short excursion, we chatted about her planning session. After listening to my concern for the college student, she poured out tidbits of advice as I smiled, nodded my head, and thought about sewage. I let her out near the back door of the education building.
When I returned to Campus School, I rushed to the basement. The plumbers were working frantically in the bathroom. I turned around. Sewage had entered the cafeteria door!
I hurried to a kindergarten classroom at the other end of the hall. The teacher, Mrs. Travis, had removed her shoes and was walking in the sewage wearing black hose! I said, “I can’t believe you are still here. You need to leave the room!” While stapling a picture to a bulletin board, she said, “I’m okay. I’m getting ready for our next lesson.”
I sloshed across the hall and entered a third grade room. I called Mrs. Jolly, the teacher, to the door and whispered, “You need to move the children out now. The water is almost to your door.” She said, “I want to finish this lesson. Can you place something under my door to slow the water down? The children are excited about our science experiment. I don’t want to interrupt it”. I said, “Okay, I’ll be back in a few minutes and we’ll help them climb out of the emergency window.”
An educational assistant was waiting when I exited the room. She said, “The sewage covered the cafeteria floor but all classes were served. ”I removed my shoes and walked toward my office. As I walked through the door, Patsy said, “A plumber wants to see you in the basement”.
When I entered the lower hall, I saw a maintenance man standing at the door of the boy’s restroom. He was smiling and held a large piece of black and white checked material in an extended hand. It was soaked in sewage! He took a step closer and said, “Mrs. King, we just have one question. Why did you try to flush your shirt?”
As the plumbers continued to laugh, I headed down the hall to Mrs. Jolly’s room. Sewage had moved under her door. We helped each child climb through the window.
The university sent an emergency crew to clean and sanitize the cafeteria and all basement areas during the weekend. Monday afternoon, in our faculty meeting, I commended everyone for maintaining a calm, orderly environment.
This incident was a conversation topic for a few days. I decided to avoid a time consuming investigation of the sixth graders. I thought the culprit had to be one of the boys and decided that he was experiencing enough remorse, fear, and guilt. Honestly, I simply had no desire to deal with the recovered evidence.
Written October 2014
The Training School (original name of Homer Pittard Campus School) plays a vital part in the program of teacher training carried on by the State Teachers College (originally located near where Central Magnet School is today), Murfreesboro. The school, composed of more than four hundred children of grades one through nine, has three objectives; first, to teach by the best methods the boys and girls who attend; second, to train college students for the teaching profession; and third, to render assistance to teachers already in service. The faculty of the Training School in cooperation with the State Department of Education and the State Department of Conservation has filmed this cross-section of the work being done with the hope that it may be of some aid to teachers in the field. Filmed in 1930. NOTE: THIS VIDEO HAS NO AUDIO.
Dr. Rita King was interviewed on WGNS Radio’s The Truman Show on April 23, 2014. Follow the link below to listen to the interview: Interview with Dr. Rita King