Mr. Hurt's Memories

Mr. Hurt was Principal of Albemarle High School from 1954 through 1984 and his influence was a major factor in the establishment of the Albemarle High School Alumni Association. In 2011, the Association honored Mr. Hurt with a “retirement party” 27 years after he retired. With access to only about 2,500 emails, we could reach only one-quarter of the people who graduated while Mr. Hurt was principal, but nearly 700 people from 26 states attended “A Night To Remember”. Those in attendance, and others that could not make it submitted more than 500 written memories or messages to Mr. Hurt and they were published in a book titled “Mr. Hurt’s 10,000 Memories.”

On June 6, 2014, the Albemarle High School Class of 1958 had its quarterly reunion planning committee luncheon and the group was honored by the presence of Mr. Benjamin Hurt. After a lunch filled with memories, Charles “Connie” Crenshaw, the founder and president of the Alumni Association, gave Mr. Hurt a ride home to his home in Crozet.  Connie interviewed him that afternoon and collected some his favorite stories and thoughts about his days at Albemarle.

Following are the highlights of the interview:

 

Mr. Hurt, tell us about your early days in Farmville.
I was born October 27, 1918 in Farmville, Virginia.  I had good, strict parents.  My Mother, Ethel, expected me to make good grades and do well in classes.  My Father, James, expected perfection.  The rule was to be home before 11:00 PM as long as I lived there.  That included my college years at Hampden- Sydney and my dating years.  I was the youngest of four children.

 

When we talk about “memories”, what is the first thing that comes into your mind?
My Mother.

 

Did she spoil you being the baby of the family?
I think you could say that.

 

Tell us about your high school years.
I graduated from Farmville High School on June 12, 1936.  There were 14 in my graduating class.  I played one year of baseball.  I played first base and right field.  I played all four years of basketball and played the forward position.  I was the head of the Drama Team.  We had to have all A’s and B’s to be in Drama.

 

How about college?
I attended Hampden- Sydney College and lived at home.  My favorite classes were Latin and Math.  While in college, I worked three afternoons a week to have some money.  Other students would come to my house to study for tests and exams. I had upperclassmen come to me for school help; I took good notes.  During one summer I took four courses; normally they would not allow more than two.  I told them I would do my best.  I also worked part-time at Longwood. I got good grades on all of them.  I worked extra hard; I did not want to let my Dad down.

 

What did you study?
During my freshman year, they asked us what profession we wanted to pursue.  I said a teacher or a preacher.  Since I didn’t think I was a very good speaker, I decided to be a teacher.  I graduated in June 1940 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, Magna Cum Laude.

 

Could you tell us about the World War II years?
Mr. Paul Cale was principal at Greenwood High School in Albemarle County Virginia in 1940 and I taught Latin and Math.  I enjoyed teaching and I enjoyed working for Mr. Cale. 

 

But, at the beginning of my second year at Greenwood, I received my orders to report to the U. S. Army.  I left on October 2, 1941.  I served with the First Armored Division, Fourth Tank Battalion, as secretary of a company.  Our Battalion was sent to Northern Africa and I was the company clerk.  They discovered I could speak some French, so the Company Commander had me ride in his jeep to assist with communication.  We were attacked and took a hit, the jeep was destroyed and I was thrown out.  I had some injuries but nothing bad.  I lost contact with my unit and joined in with another unit for a short while.  After three days, we ran into my unit.  They told me they had reported me missing in action and thought I was dead.  I let them know, I was alive!  We then were sent to Italy and I was promoted to Sergeant Major, that was the highest enlisted rank.  I was placed in charge of my Company. We fought a lot of battles in Italy and were one of the first to enter Rome. World War II in Europe ended and I received my discharge on August 15, 1945.

 

What was next after you returned?
When I returned home from World War II, I was not sure what I wanted to do.  Since I liked math, I thought about accounting.  Paul Cale called and I returned to Greenwood High School in 1945 and taught History, Latin and Math.  Paul Cale was promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools and on December 2, 1946, I became principal of Greenwood High School, a position I held until 1953.  I loved my years at Greenwood.

 

How did you meet your bride?
Shortly after returning from World War II, I was in Farmville attending Church.  After worship, I was out on the steps and was introduced to a young lady, Maria Addleman of Cumberland County.  Maria and I started dating in December 1945.  She was teaching in Bedford County and I would go there to see her. We were married on July 31, 1948.  Maria and I have now been married 65 years. We have one son, J.B. Hurt, and two grandchildren.

 

Note - At the time of this interview, Maria was at the Colonnades Nursing Home recovering from a broken ankle, but her Alzheimer’s has gotten worse.  Mrs. Hurt was also a school teacher.  She taught at Crozet High School, Home Economics at Albemarle High School and taught at Henley Middle School.  In the interview, Mr. Hurt said he visited her twice a week, but did not think she would be back home. Unfortunately, he was right.   

 

Tell us about your Albemarle years.
Mr. Cale was now Superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools, a position he would hold until 1969.  It was Paul Cale’s vision and leadership that consolidated the seven high schools in Albemarle County into one high school, and Albemarle High School was born.  Mr. Cale told me, 'Ben, I want you to be the Assistant Principal at the new Albemarle County High School” and  I accepted the position.  The principal that first year was Leonard F. Moore from Saltville, Virginia.  Mr. Moore got things organized for the new school and only stayed one school year 1953-54.  Again Mr. Cale contacted me, 'Ben, I want you to be principal of Albemarle High School.'  I remained in that position until 1984. 

I enjoyed my years at Albemarle.  I enjoyed the relationships with faculty and students.  Mr. Ed Null was the Athletic Director and Coach.  He and I were classmates at Hampton Sydney.   He won us championships at Albemarle for which I was very proud.  My wife Maria and I attended every game and event at Albemarle we could possibly attend. 

 

You obviously had a special relationship with your students – please tell us about it.
I would usually start preparing for the next school year on July 4 weekend.  I would look at the records of every incoming student and their previous year's school picture.  I made it a point to know everybody and call them by name as they entered the first day. Having a good memory is a good help.  Students have asked me how I found time to greet them when they arrived in the morning, I would be in the halls between classes and said goodbye when the final bell rang.  I told them, I took a lot of my work home so I could have personal contact on a consistent basis with all the students at the school.  I placed a priority on that. I was given a big celebration when I retired."

 

What have you enjoyed about retirement?
Since retirement, I have continued to be a member of the Crozet Lions Club, which I joined in February 1946 and served in multiple positions, including President.  I have continued my faith at Crozet Baptist Church where I began attending in August 1948.  I have served as Sunday School teacher, Deacon, and Chairman of the Board.  Currently, our son J.B. is Chairman of the Deacons.  We have enjoyed attending University of Virginia basketball games and some football games. 

Maria and I have continued to enjoy attending class reunions and functions when invited and in recent years Albemarle High School Alumni Association events.  The 'A Night To Remember' program in 2011 and being inducted into the Albemarle High School Alumni Hall of Fame holds a special place in my heart. The Albemarle High School Alumni Association published a book.  The name is 'Mr. Hurt’s 10,000 Memories' for the approximately 10,000 graduates of Albemarle while I was principal.  I keep that book handy and read often remembering all the wonderful times at Albemarle High School. Now they have printed the second edition.   I enjoy keeping up with graduates and faculty. I enjoy the lunches and events when invited.  I treasure the memories I have, staying in touch with people and being a good Church member, being a person of faith and serving God. 

Thank you, Mr. Hurt."

 

Writer’s Comment:

More than 600 former students submitted memories or greetings to Mr. Hurt when we honored him at “A Night To Remember” in 2009. Many of them, including me, indicated that Mr Hurt was one of the most influential people in their lives. That kind of influence is very rare, and I felt it was important to record some of his memories for others to share. It was an honor and a pleasure to know him.

Charles “Connie” Crenshaw, Class of 1958  



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