CHARLESTON — I know it is hard to believe that I once had a head full of hair, but it’s the truth. I was a B-UHS sophomore in 1967 with moderately long hair, much like that of the famous Beatles group. My class schedule was fairly easy except for my struggles with Latin (Mrs. Cartwright) and Algebra (Mr. Curry). My fourth-period class was study hall under the supervision of Mr. Tom Bailey, B-UHS shop teacher. This story is a little long because I must give some background as to what was happening in America in 1966.
The Vietnam War was starting to heat up with demonstrations against the war and the remains of fallen soldiers were beginning to appear in Upshur County at that time (two former B-UHS students had lost their lives in a country far away in southeast Asia). About every day, Coach and teacher, Joe Michael, would visit our study hall to converse with Mr. Tom Bailey. Some days they would move around the room until they came to my seating place and they would look at me and ask if I was ‘going to apply for a sheep dog license’?
Then, they would go off and continue their conversation. Matter of fact, I had Coach Joe Michael for physical education class, and I recall that on the first day of class he was taking the attendance roll. When he called my name, I answered, but he asked me if I was ‘Miss’ Hamilton. Again, this was because my hair was a bit longer than most of my male classmates!
Now, my sophomore year never got much better due to the ‘hairdo’ bantering/harassment by those two teachers and my thoughts and memories of them was not too favorable because of that – in my opinion at the time, harassment. As time went on, I progressed to my junior and senior years at B-UHS graduating in May, 1969. I never spoke to anyone about the ‘hairdo’ comments as I decided that was just part of life. Also, at about the same time, the body count from Vietnam had begun to multiply whereas, by 1974, Upshur County had 12 boys who gave their lives in the conflict in southeast Asia.
Now we go forward in time to 2007 or 2008. I was attending the Sand Run Baptist Men’s Fellowship Breakfast one Saturday morning and lo and behold, no other than the B-UHS study hall ‘hairdo’ comments teacher from the past, Mr. Tom Bailey, came over to Sand Run to eat breakfast and have fellowship with us. He was a member of the Tallmansville Baptist Church. I believe he had been a member of that church for several years serving as Sunday school teacher and superintendent on several occasions.
Our minister, Reverend Don Butcher, was leading the discussions and asked Mr. Bailey if he wanted to say anything or give his testimony. Mr. Bailey spoke about his travels with Christ and offered a story about his family. Unknown to a lot of people in attendance until that day was the fact that one of his brothers (Ward) was killed in Italy, fighting against the Germans in WWII.
That day and after all those years, my eyes were opened, and I finally realized why Mr. Tom Bailey was so critical of my long hair. It was not me he was taking his frustration out on; the hairdo reminded him of the people he saw burning their draft cards, the American flag and their total disrespect for our men and women in uniform who had answered their country’s call either by the draft or by volunteering. To me, a kid in high school at the time, the hair was just being, as we called it then, hip or cool.
On that very day, I said a small prayer asking for God’s forgiveness for my thoughts about Mr. Tom Bailey of years ago. Coach Joe Michael returned to Buckhannon and we were reacquainted as I often hung out with others at his pipe yard across from what today is the location of Ware Glass. I soon realized he was a very kind person; unlike the image the kid with the long hair had of him in years past.
Mr. Tom Bailey and I crossed paths again two or three years later when we had lunch together at the Upshur County Senior Center. I approached Tom and mentioned the story about his brother who lost his life in Italy, and I asked him to forgive me for my adverse thoughts in reference to my days in his study hall. He graciously gave his forgiveness and I believe we have been friends ever since. The reason for my writing this story is to convey my condolences to his family and to let them know Tom was a good person walking with Jesus Christ every day of his life.
Tom, you left your mark on our humble little world. God Bless you and may you rest in peace. So long my friend, until we meet again on the other side.
Please remember two things; one, say thank you for your service to a veteran and two, never be too proud to ask someone’s forgiveness.