A Dichotomy of Miss Ora Dowell

A few weeks ago I was in the supermarket with one of my grandkids. In utter amazement he recognized his schoolteacher and was stunned to see her “out and about,” doing things that…well…everyone does. I think he thought she lived at the school.

Then I thought back to my school days and remembered that I seldom, if ever, saw a teacher in what I considered “normal everyday places.” I too was probably shocked when I infrequently saw one outside the schoolroom.

While doing some research recently on a related project, I went to the Broadway Baptist Church to get some information on William Wallace, the medical missionary to China who attended church at Broadway when he was a young man. In 1951 he was murdered by the Communists on a trumped up charge and buried in an unmarked grave by his brutal executioners to cover up the atrocity. Parishioners of Wallace later risked their lives to find his grave and place on it a tombstone that bears the Scripture verse from Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain,” a tenet that marked his life and those he served.

In going through the Church archives, I also stumbled upon an interesting photo of a group of teachers that included Miss Ora Dowell, an icon of old Knoxville High School and the early days of East High School. She is in the middle person on the back row with the wild looking Carman Miranda like hat…as if you can’t remember her from 12th grade English.

As it turns out, she was an accomplished teacher at Broadway as she was at both KHS and EHS. I know that some grads of both EHS and KHS are not surprised to see the photo, as she taught some of the same people in church as she did in English class. Not being one of those who saw her in this dual role, I had a twinge of fear as a saw the photo and remembered her often-uttered and terse response to a late paper or an ill thought out answer to a grammar question…”well isn’t that smart.”  It makes my heart race a little bit even today. Then I laugh, as I bet you do too, when you envision her adjusting her bra strap to get it back under the shoulder of her dress.

On a more clinical note, she told our senior English class that she was going to give us a list of figures of speech that we should keep because we would never find it printed in any book of grammar that we would ever see. Out of fear and trepidation or because I believed her…or both, I kept it and have it to this day. I also have never seen it printed…just as she said. I must admit, however, that I have not been on a major quest to prove her wrong.

OK…here’s a test incorporating her list. Define and use in a sentence the following: simile, metaphor, allegory, personification, antithesis, epigram, metonymy, synecdoche, irony, euphemism, hyperbole, apostrophe, exclamation, interrogation, onomatopoeia. At the thought of this test does your heart almost pound out of your chest? And what figure of speech does this question represent?  OK…that’s enough grammar for the day…or the year! But I would like to see who can at least answer the last question. Come on now…give it a try.

I thought many would enjoy seeing this picture of Miss Dowell and thinking back on some interesting teenage days. We may chuckle at these vignettes, but I’m confident you’ll agree that Miss Ora Dowell was a great teacher and obviously a great lady.


  1. Wilma Loy on December 16, 2011 at 10:31 am

    thanks ross for all you do —i knew who she was before you said where she was. she never changed.

  2. Carol Bishop Clift on December 22, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    Ross, I reconized her immediately. She was one of my favorite teachers. Also, Greenwood Cemetery on Tazewell Pike has
    a very large monument in memory of William Wallace. Next time you’re in Knoxville, I show you where it is.

  3. rachel on February 21, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    Hi Ross, I remember the Cherry Park-In well, and the menu confirms my memory. I was telling friends that during high school I made $1.00 a week ironing blouses for my neighbor–that’s when we still lived on Washington Ave.–and with that I could buy a football ticket, and purchase a hamburger, french fries, and coke at the Cherry Park-In. It brought back some nice memories. Thanks! Rachel

  4. efi on February 22, 2012 at 7:33 am

    TESTING ….

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