“Teacher does Math Figures Students Gone
Entering her 100th year in December, this feisty female and former teacher has a sweet side, for when pausing to collect her thoughts she says “sugar.” After all, at 99 plus, she has much over which to muddle.
A native of Dunnstown across the river from Lock Haven, she’s made her way down the same west branch of the Susquehanna to her current home at Riverwoods near Lewisburg.
Etched on a silver hand mirror are her initials B. V. M. Ever the teacher she says, “B for Benice, my mother Mary McSherry named this first born for a friend; V for Victoria and my father Victor Moran, and M could have many meanings, my maiden name, my married name as wife of Herbert Miller; or for Montgomery where I taught school and meet my husband.”
Bernice was destined to become a teacher. “My mother read to me while on her lap and when she was busy I sat on the front steps and asked people walking by to read with me,” she said.
A teacher noted the mere youngster with her nose in a big book of nursery rhymes and questioned the mother if the child could read. The teacher suggested Bernice come to school and oh how she remembers the books. “Shelves on each side in the front of the one-room school; books on the right were lent to parents while students used books from the left shelf. All were purchased with money earned holding box socials,” she said.
Bernice’s reading level was so advanced she was assigned to third grade with seven boys and no girls. “I didn’t know the difference between boys and girls then and neither did they,” said the new student who had only a younger sister Sarah at home.
A little brother died soon after birth with complications rendering the mother an invalid. Assuming responsibility for chores and a younger sister gave this future teacher a no nonsense attitude for dealing with children and adversity.
To further her education, Bernice walked the mile and a half to what was then Lock Haven State Teacher’s College and studies conducted six days a week. After graduation and applying for jobs, she was met with, “We don’t want a woman teacher.”
With no husband or children, Bernice worked at resorts in Florida. Returning home on one occasion, she visited cousins in Lewisburg who’d heard of a position up the valley at Pleasant Green School.
Seems the previous two teachers, each lasting only a year, had no experience with one-room schools, not even attending any themselves. “They didn’t know how to handle thirty kids from one through eighth grade,” she said.
Bernice remained about four years then found a position teaching fifth grade at Montgomery. For a time she roomed at a friend’s house until the friend took a job encouraging Bernice to seek a place elsewhere.
A room was for rent at Mrs. Mabel Miller’s home and so Bernice moved there. The spinster teacher had a rule she’d not live in the same house as single men, but Miller didn’t mention she had a son, and as he worked second shift at the wire rope in Muncy, hadn’t been present when the deal was struck.
No instant sparks ignited between Herbert and Bernice, but eventually he asked her to an event, the beginning of the end of each their unmarried days.
Both were near their mid thirties when WWII came, Bernice enlisted with the Women’s Army Corps. During a furlough the couple married at Dunnstown Methodist Church.
When an officer learned what Herbert did, he said, “His work is as important as mine,” and took her to a large shed completely filled with reels of wire rope and explained its use in the war effort.
Following a military stint just five days short of three years, Bernice was back to Montgomery and teaching. The couple resided in an apartment before building a home. “I’d learned a few things about carpentering from my father and worked right along with the men from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. all summer,” she said.
Herbert Miller died after they’d spent 25 years together, Bernice quit teaching to travel saying there’s hardly anywhere in the world she hasn’t been including Antarctica.
Her favorite subject is history but when asked to name a few former students, she said, “Do the math, I don’t think there are any left.”
She admitted to recently having dinner with Montgomerian Gene Pauling and visits by Sue Price, a daughter of neighbors’ way back when.