Mrs. Scruggs to Retire After 53 Years
Memphis Press Scimitar, March 25, 1964
Nellie Pearl O’Neill, like most of the pretty girls in Germantown, walked down to the railroad station every afternoon to “let the train go by.”
But on a September morning in 1912, when Engineer Mike Brady brought the Somerville Accommodation train to a stop in Germantown, she climbed aboard herself, gave her ticket to Captain George Higgins, the conductor, and rode off to a career as a teacher.
That career ends this year when “Miss” Pearl, now Mrs. John Scruggs, retires after 53 years of teaching, 46 of them in Germantown.
She began teaching at the old South Memphis School. She would have liked to teach at the Germantown school where she knew everybody. But since she was so young- just 18 – and such a pretty girl, the principal, Miss Charl Williams, thought she might have a hard time maintaining order with the boys and girls who had gone to school with her.
Rose at Five
To get to the South Memphis School, she rose at 5 a.m., got on the train at 7 a.m., arrived at Union Depot in Memphis at 8 a.m., caught the Florida Streetcar to the end of the line, arriving by 8:30 a.m. and walked the three blocks to the school.
The trip back was no shorter, depositing her back in Germantown about 7 p.m.
Her regular job was teaching sixth grade, but she also taught sewing and manual training, and wielded a skillful hammer and saw, reaching those little boys how to build chicken coops and such.
From South Memphis, she taught briefly at Messick and at A.B. Hill, both in the city. But then an opening developed at Germantown, and she was hired.
Several times over the years, school officials have tried to persuade Miss Pear to become a principal, but she has always refused. Accused once of having no ambition, she flashed back: “My ambition has been to be a good sixth-grade teacher, and I believe I have realized that ambition.”
Among her former pupils are Shelby County Court Jimmy McIntyre, Germantown Mayor Bruce Law, Dunbar Abston whom she remembers a youthful poet, and Otis Pinkston, now a Baptist missionary in Mexico.
“I hate to inject a sad note, but I must admit that I had a few scapegoats, too, and they landed just where I told them they would land if they didn’t mend their ways,” Miss Pearl said.
“But the good ones far outnumber the bad ones, and it is a source of great satisfaction to have so many fine young men and women around me and to feel that I may have helped them along the way.