Shop class did not fit into my class schedule when I attended Buckhannon-Upshur High School from 1963 through 1966. But I had the next best educational experience—I had homeroom with Tom Bailey, one of the shop teachers as well as the vocational agriculture teacher. Homeroom was a blast. We met in one of the vocational technical classrooms in a separate building from the large main B-UHS.
Early in the fall we painted a shuffleboard game on the floor, and Mr. Bailey helped us novice shop students cut out and glue together our own shuffleboard sets. Then the tournaments began. That is the first time I heard of “resiliency”! Teacher Bailey inspired us with his “can do” philosophy of life.
Allow me to share the Oxford Dictionary definition of “resilience”: 1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. 2 the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
Tom Bailey influenced me in many ways down through the years. I grieve for him as I do for my wife; they died within days of each other in May 2021. The practical skills that Teacher Bailey demonstrated in the classroom continued in evidence in the Tallmansville community all his 90 years. His life well-lived inspires me. He served his Tallmansville Baptist Church as a Christian gentleman. He served the cause of American freedom in the U.S. Army. He volunteered at the Washington District Volunteer Fire Department. He was also a member of the Tallmansville C.E.O.’s. As his obituary states, he loved gardening, baking, and sharing his produce and baked goods.
As an elected member of the Upshur County Schools Board of Education, I strongly advocate for our proposed Career and Technical High School. My positive regard for everything Tom Bailey stood for lets me know I am on solid ground in my endorsement—building on a solid rock, really.
What I want for the future classes of Buckhannon-Upshur High School graduates is what I see shop and vocational agriculture teacher Tom Bailey gave to his students and those who came under his influence like myself: RESILIENCY!
In the 1960s, we had a daily morning homeroom exercise that included the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag, a positive story or poem, and morning announcements over the school’s intercom. One day the Parable of the Farmer as told by Jesus in Matthew 13:3-9 was the positive story:
“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9 New International Version)
When the intercom was turned off, Mr. Bailey sat down on the front of his desk and looked each of us in the eyes. He said if we developed the toughness of a farmer—never giving up, keeping on sowing—we would be successful in life. He told us never to forget that lesson learned. And indeed, I never forgot the wise lesson nor the wise teacher.