Powers recalls the past at 101

Published 1:16 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Marjorie Powers turned 101 on July 22. She’s the oldest member of Kenbridge United Methodist Church, and plays bridge in town whenever available.

The sharp, resourceful and knowledgeable retired teacher, famed for her red lipstick, red fingernail polish and no-nonsense approach, has no intentions of settling down anytime soon.

“I’m just so proud to be living,” Powers said. “(And) that God has been so good to me.”

Powers was born in 1916 in Suffolk. Her family used oil lamps and when they moved to Zuni County near Isle of Wright.

Her doll is one of her most prized possessions. She received it when she was 2 years old. The dress is made from material from Powers’ wedding dress and the doll’s hat from fabric Powers wore as an infant.

Powers attended school the then Farmville State Teachers’ College — now Longwood University. She graduated in 1935 and taught elsewhere for 10 years before moving to Kenbridge in 1946, where she taught for more than 20 years and became the headmistress of a private school in Kenbridge before retiring in 1970.

“I love children,” Powers said. “I enjoy seeing them learn.”

Powers recalls life in Kenbridge outside the classroom as vividly as inside the classroom.

“When I first came here, every space in town was filled with stores,” Powers said.

She remembers a grocery store, two drug stores, a 10-cent store, three hardware stores and a theater being among the stores in town. She also remembers that vehicles, rather than parking perpendicular to the curb, would park slanted at an angle.

Powers lived and taught through the throes of the Great Depression and World War II. She recalled teaching the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Schools closed for the day, but when they reopened the following day, Powers said she remembers seeing draft registrations being circulated.

“That’s when I realized that a lot of students couldn’t write,” she said. “They just had to put an X by their names.”

Through the fear and uncertainty the war caused, Powers was dedicated to teaching her students. Powers said she taught nine subjects: math, science, English, health, history, geography, spelling, writing and art.

She taught no fewer than 30 students at a time, Powers said, and filled out every student’s report cards herself, by hand. She estimates she taught 1,010 students during her career.

Once a month she would introduce students to famous pieces of artwork, create displays for geographical locations that would span the length of a classroom wall and have each student write a book report once a month using “locker writing,” a form of penmanship similar to cursive.

Powers continues to be active in the town of Kenbridge, attending the Kenbridge United Methodist Church and playing bridge at venues in Victoria and Kenbridge. She was a chapter leader for the United Methodist Women’s organization and is a member of the Virginia Retired Teachers Association.

“I’m thankful that God has spared me this long for a purpose,” Powers said.