The View from Writers Roost
by WILLIS WEBB
Feb 28, 2014 | 742 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHEN I “went off” to college in the mid-1950s, I was used to teachers in our 210-student high school that knew me and called me by my first name. (When they got mad at me they screeched: “Willis Newman WEBB!!!”) Yeeesh.

Attending Sam Houston State University, nee State Teachers College in those days, was like attending a big Houston high school. There were 1900 students, 900 of them freshmen.

Teachers-lecturers-professors were known as Mr., Miss or Doctor. The only place I got “familiar” with a T-L-P was in journalism where the head of the department, Dr. Ferol Robinson became known to me as “Dr. R.” Of course, he knew his “J” students by their first names.

In most other classes, the T-L-P’s addressed us as Mr. Webb or Miss Hill. However, I had a woman instructor who used the formal Mr. or Miss in front of your name and added the term “honey,” after your name. Her name was Martha Ann Turner and she was middle aged and unmarried.

Ms. Turner was in the English department and taught a course in “creative writing,” which could be credited as either English or journalism. I chose it as a journalism course.

In those somewhat puritanical mid-1950s, one did not hear profanity or suggestive stories in a classroom, i.e., unless you took Ms. Turner’s creative writing course. While Ms. Turner did not use profanity, she did allow what were then considered “liberties” in writing creatively. The teaching and the writing were nowhere near the definition of lewd or “dirty” in today’s society.

Word around campus was that if you wrote about alcohol, partying and the like and hinted at sex, you’d receive an “A” on the paper and perhaps in the course. The implication was that Ms. Turner loved implied sex and/or “dirty” stories and that you’d get a good grade for such inferences whether it was well written or grammatically correct.

One thing is certain, however, and that is that Martha Ann Turner was colorful to the point of being entertaining. And, she was a very good teacher in the art of creative writing.

I thoroughly enjoyed the class and, since I’d never known anyone like Ms. Turner, I was enamored of this intriguing instructor.

She was a free spirit and developed in me a bent for writing creatively. My strict Baptist upbringing, to that point, prevented me from succumbing to suggestive description on writing assignments. Slowly, however, I did begin to write more “creatively.”

In the second semester in school, I fell into the fraternity-sorority way of life of partying and having a good time, often to the detriment of grades. It also added some “understanding” to the lifestyles implied in the desired writing in Ms. Turner’s class.

Ms. Turner, when she called on you in class, it was usually issued in this terminology: “Mr. Webb, Honey, would you please read your paper.”

So, we clever devil students thought it was funny to refer to her among ourselves, as “Martha Ann Turner Honey.”

Loving to dance — and already introduced to the favorite step of the day, the jitterbug — I leapt into the social swirl. The places to socialize and dance were those clubs that served beer and had a jukebox and, often, a band.

The club of choice for underage imbibers was The Paper Moon in neighboring Trinity County, which was “wet” compared to then-dry Huntsville and Walker County.

We soon learned that Martha Ann Turner Honey and another English instructor, Charles Adams, were frequenters of “The Moon.”

It was said that if you’d buy Martha Ann Turner Honey a beer, you were ensured an A in the creative writing course.

I couldn’t bring myself to buy a beer for a teacher, particularly in order to improve my grade in the class.

However, I did always ask Martha Ann Honey to dance. We cut a pretty mean rug.

My grade?

An A, of course. I had dance lessons while attending high school.

Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at wwebb1937@att.net.
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