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‘Dear Miss Schneider,’ heartwarming story of bygone times and a teacher who kept notes from moms

Special to NKyTribune

Dear Miss Schneider, Please excuse Walter…

“It’s a bright early September morning in 1937.

There’s a hint of coolness in the air, and a sense of anticipation and excitement.

More people and more cars are on the neighborhood streets today. Everything seems busier than usual.”

So begins the book Dear Miss Schneider, Please excuse Walter.

It’s also when young 19-year-old Victoria Schneider greeted her first third grade class at York Street Elementary School in Newport. Thirty-one children, with varying degrees of excitement about the new year.

Victoria Schneider was born on November 19, 1917. She was raised on W. 8th Street across from the old Newport High School with her parents, grandmother, and younger brother and sister. As a child she attended York Street Elementary.

Always wanting to be a teacher, Victoria attended Eastern Kentucky Teachers College after her graduation from Newport High in 1935. Graduating after two years, she was ready.

It was a difficult time for families. The war, the Great Depression, the 1937 flood, all took their toll in the community.

It was during her time as a teacher that she kept a special scrapbook. Inside she kept the notes mothers sent in to her about why their children had been absent from school. The notes are in various shapes and sizes, ranging from torn pieces of brown paper bags, to fancy monogrammed stationery. These humble, heartfelt, and sometimes humorous notes give us a keyhole peek into what family life was like during that time.

Although the reasons in the notes cover issues like mumps, toothaches, not having a coat or shoes in the wintertime, to handling disciplinary issues, it’s easy to read between the lines and appreciate the pride the mothers had for their children and for their families.

Photo strip of Miss Schneider when she started teaching. (Provided)

One note describing the economic hardship of the day was about Walter.

Miss Schneider,

Walter had a very bad toothache yesterday and he could not eat a thing as it pained him so badly. He has three bad teeth that have to be taken out. I will have them pulled as soon as Mr. … starts back to work as he is not full time right now. He only works 2 or 3 days right now and that isn’t enough to hardly pay our rent and buy food.

And then there’s Edward:

Please excuse Edward if he has too much trouble sitting down. Please let him stand or come home. He has a burn on his behind and can’t sit on one side.

This special scrapbook remained in a closet or tucked away in a drawer for over 75 years. However, in 2012, Victoria’s daughter Linda discovered the scrapbook again while unpacking boxes. Deciding that the fading, brittle pages needed to be preserved, she started the project of photocopying the notes.

York Street Elementary School in the 1940s

Then she came upon her mother’s old report cards from York Street Elementary, Newport High School, Eastern Kentucky Teachers College, along with numerous photos and memorabilia.

One thing led to another and that’s how Dear Miss Schneider, Please excuse Walter… came to life.

The book takes you on a journey back to the years from 1937 till 1940. Those are the years Miss Schneider taught at York Street Elementary School. She left her job and married the love of her life, Bernie Schilling on December 24, 1940. In those days, single women teachers had to give up their jobs. Victoria and Bernie were a great team for just shy of 62 years.

So, take a peek with appreciation at our community during Victoria’s teaching years. The stars of the book are the students. The heroes of the book are the mothers. And the influencer of the book is Miss Schneider.

Dear Miss Schneider, Please excuse Walter… is available locally at Seventh Street Gifts and Roebling Books and Coffee, both located in Newport.

It is also available on Amazon.

Enjoy the journey. It’s been waiting a lifetime to be told.

Linda Schilling Mitchell, Miss Schneider’s daughter, now lives in Florida.

Miss Schneider’s class. (Photo provided)

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