Little did I know last week, when selecting some old automobile photographs for the column that I would learn who Ruth Green Bromell was, and as the late Paul Harvey would say, the “rest of the story.”
My Aunt Mary (Zoller) Turner called to tell me that she had never had a photograph of her former teacher, Ruth Bromell, and I soon learned the impact this school teacher had on her life.
The photograph shown last week was part of Daisy Rahn’s collection. Mrs. Daisy’s mother and Mrs. Ruth’s mothers were sisters. Their uncle, Bill Green, lived at Clyo. Mrs. Bromell was a native of Chatham County and had been a teacher on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma. She married a veterinarian, Dr. Bromell, while living out west.
Dr. Bromell was very ill and she drove him by van from their home to Clyo. Along the route when checking on Dr. Bromell, she discovered he had passed away yet she continued on to Clyo with determination to avoid an investigation or a burial in an unfamiliar town. She came to Clyo to accept a teaching position, lived with her Uncle Bill Green and purchased his home which later came to be known as the Johnny Metzger place. World War II was underway. Mrs. Bromell was not only courageous but also very energetic according to Edna Morgan, who taught with her at Clyo. During Mrs. Ruth’s teaching time at Clyo she organized a May Pole Festival.
The first typing class offered in Clyo was taught by Mrs. Bromell. She also taught English and learned of an essay contest sponsored by Rich’s Department Store in Atlanta in honor of their 75th Anniversary in 1942. The contestants had a selection of topics from which to choose. Under Mrs. Bromell’s encouragement and guidance Aunt Mary submitted her essay to the Rich’s contest. “John Adam Treutlen, Georgia’s First Governor” was the subject of her essay. The Rich’s Diamond Jubilee Festival was a big event. Mary Zoller was in the 11th grade which was her senior year as there were only 11 grades at that time.
She won first place in the district contest. Mrs. Bromell and her student received an all expense paid roundtrip train ride to Atlanta, an overnight stay in a hotel, a luncheon in the Penelope Penn Dining Room where Aunt Mary was presented the ribbon and medal in the photograph. This was the first time Aunt Mary had been further from home than Tybee Island and she had never stayed in a hotel. Aunt Mary also received a $25. War Bond and she recalls that the teacher received an award of $50. They stayed over an extra night in Atlanta with Mrs. Bromell staying with a relative and Aunt Mary visiting with her Uncle Slade Exley and wife Aunt Ruth who lived there. This was certainly a memorable experience for Aunt Mary as it would have been to any child from the Clyo School. She felt fortunate to have been chosen to participate.
Mrs. Bromell went on after teaching the term of 1941-42 at Clyo to join the WAACs (Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps) and is shown in the uniform in the accompanying photo. She was among the first group of women in the corps and very shortly thereafter, the organization became known as the WACs (Women’s Army Corps). After the Army, I could glean very little else of her life. Edna Morgan recalls that they corresponded for some time and that Mrs. Bromell lived in South Carolina at some point. Aunt Mary recalls her teaching at Rincon.
Ruth Bromell was a great influence in Aunt Mary Turner’s life. Aunt Mary had quite an adventure for a young lady from Clyo. The typing skills, which were not available in all of the schools at the time, which Aunt Mary learned, offered her employment after high school and these skills served her well in many jobs including secretary of the Springfield Elementary School where her husband the late T. J. Turner was principal. Aunt Mary is the mother of Norman Turner and Jocelyn Porter and has two granddaughters Audrey and Amy Turner. Unfortunately Aunt Mary’s mother died when she was eight months old. She was reared by my grandmother who was her mother’s sister, Annie Mae (Reiser) Exley and her husband Leon Exley and we are very fortunate to have her in our family.
This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org