Susan Bradford

"Thanks to Head Start, Mrs. Holloman, Junior Now Ready to Start to School at Duke." – Susan Bradford, Altus, OK

Photo of teacher and kids hold a Head Start bannerWhen researching Head Start's beginning in Oklahoma for the Southwest Oklahoma Community Action Group Head Start, I came across a 1965 article detailing how a farmer's wife helped a rural child attend the Duke Head Start. The article ended like this: "Why did she take the time and trouble to do it in the first place? ... 'Mrs. Holloman is just that way.'"

I second that. I knew Mrs. Nancy Cleo Holloman, grandmother of my daughter's best friend. She passed away September 4, 2009, at age 92. But her story lives on.

"Thanks to Head Start, Mrs. Holloman, Junior Now Ready to Start to School at Duke"
The Altus Times (OK), August 1, 1965
by Larry Silvey

The Head Start program for several young preschoolers ended Friday at Duke, and for one boy at least, who lives with his parents in Greer County near the Salt Fork of the Red River, it was the start of a new way of life.

But if it were not for the generosity of the wife of an area farmer, six-year-old Junior Sanchez, who lives 20 miles from the Duke school, might not have been able to take advantage of the preschool program.

His parents had heard about the eight-week program and, at first, were determined to take the boy themselves. But after driving him to school and then picking him up for the first week, they had to face the facts: they just could not afford to carry it out any longer. Junior, just starting to get acquainted with a group of children his own age and just starting to rid himself of the uneasiness which comes from being thrust into group relationships for the first time, would have to drop out.

He missed the second week of school entirely. Then Mrs. Bud Holloman, whose husband employs Junior's father several times during the year, decided that since the Sanchez Family wanted their child to have this opportunity to get a head start, and because Junior was a "raring to go," she would drive him to school. Junior is one of six children in the family, three of whom now attend school in the Duke school district, which takes in part of Greer County.

As it turned out, Mrs. Holloman did not have to drive Junior all the way to Duke. Each morning, she left her home at 8 o'clock, drove about six miles north to pick up Junior, then back down to the little village of Russell — about 14 miles from the Duke school. By the time she got home, she had driven 18 miles over sometimes rough, country road. About 12:45 p.m. every weekday, she was back at the grocery store in Russell, waiting for Junior. Arrangements were made for Junior to be picked up at Russell by Mrs. Paul Baird, who lives northwest of Duke, and who was paid through the Head Start program to use her station wagon as a sort of school bus. Already hauling four youngsters, Junior was added to make five — about a third of the entire class of Head Starters.

"So many times, we can get people to come and work as volunteers, but this is a much greater sacrifice," Duke Superintendent D. L. Boyer said of Mrs. Holloman's efforts.

Junior was at first skeptical of this new way of life. The first two days he cried and indicated to the teacher in broken English that he would just as soon be home. But by the end of his first week he found some consolation in the fact that he was not the only child with this problem, and he began to see and do things with the other children that had never been available to him before. And after this weeklong stay from the school, Junior was ready to return when Mrs. Holloman volunteered her services.

"The first few mornings he would say nothing at all on the drive to Russell," she said. "I would ask him what he did in school on the way back home, and sometimes he would say something and sometimes he wouldn't say anything."

After awhile though, he got to where he talked constantly. On the way to Russell he would practice his ABC's and his numbers. She laughed and said, "He would get up to around F or G and then start jumping around, or he would start counting and get up to nine or ten, and again jump around."

Brought up by his Spanish-speaking parents, he could not speak English very well when he first started, but improved considerably just by associating with the other youngsters. Mrs. Holloman said in the past few weeks he would talk incessantly to her for awhile, then stop and ask seriously, "Do you understand me?"

The other day, he was telling her how he got in a fight with another little boy at school, and then in boyish honesty he blurted, "I started it."

Each day at school, which ran from 8 a.m. until noon, Junior would participate with his companions first in group games, then there was a period of self-expression where the children were allowed to draw and finger paint. Following a storytelling period, the class ate lunch then rested until time to go home. Boyer said that several excursions have been made by the class in such places as the fire station and the health department in Altus, and to a swimming pool at Mangum.

They have also seen several movies. "Sometimes they would ask to see the same film over and over," Boyer said, "especially animal movies. They just love animal movies."

Junior, because he is six years old, will begin school at Duke when the regular session begins August 9. The regular school bus will be making the rounds then, and it will pick up Junior practically at his doorstep.

Boyer felt that the Head Start program helped Junior immeasurably, and it will be a much easier task now for him to begin his formal studies in the public school system."

As for Mrs. Holloman, she won't be making that 32-mile drive anymore. Why did she take the time and trouble to do it in the first place? Superintendent Boyer summed it up simply when he said, "Mrs. Holloman is just that way."

    Reprinted with permission of The Altus Times