"CALHOUN STUDENTS WERE THE GREATEST" - Educator Stalnaker Says "Country Boys Would Want To Whip Ya"

Paul Stalnaker passed away from cancer not long after this interview.

By Bob Weaver

Calhoun educator Paul "Pete" Stalnaker (pictured left) now 80, taught school for 38 years, a period stretching from remote one-room schools to being an instructor at Calhoun County High School in Grantsville.

Except for a few years of teaching in Ohio, he spent most of his career in Calhoun.

"I've had thousands of students, and most of them were the greatest," Stalnaker said.

"It was an amazing time of change, from my dad going to a neighbors to get a battery charged so we could hear the prize fights on our radio to seeing a tiny black and white TV while visiting Akron in the 1940s."

Growing up at Orma on Wolf Run, Paul was the son of Fenton and Opal Downs Stalnaker, they had a family of seven children.

A depression era kid, he said, "I didn't know what the depression was. We worked and worked and had plenty on the table."

Stalnaker remembers the family going down to the Orma Theater to watch cowboy movies or enjoy live entertainment like Grandpa Jones or Cap, Andy and Flip, but sometimes they'd go down to Arnoldsburg to Haymaker's Grove for Saturday shows.

"The church people didn't like for us to go to the movies, but my family did go see "Gone with the Wind" in 1939," he said.

"The Model A Ford was a mighty fine vehicle to get us there."

He attended rural schools at Orma and Arnoldsburg, he took a promotion test when he was only 12 and started attending Calhoun County High School. Graduating in 1946, he went to work skidding logs on his dad's farm, while aspiring to continue his education.

"I had $250 and hitch-hiked to Glenville State College to commence my education," Stalnaker said, a process that continued for ten years, attending summer school and night classes, getting a teaching degree in 1956.

"I really liked teaching math, and had a lot of great students," he said.

Finding teachers for rural schools was hard, and county officials granted Stalnaker an emergency certificate to teach Metheney Ridge one-room school at the head of the West Fork, not far from the Clay County line. He was 17.

Stalnaker (right) graduated from Calhoun High in 1946 to launch his teaching career at one-room schools

"I was the teacher and CEO of that school which had about 20 students," he said, afterward he was assigned to a school at Oka.

"People said you'll never last over there," with the culture being that "big, strong country boys would want to whip ya' and cause you to leave. I stood my ground and got along fine."

In the early years, he taught at Sycamore, Bear Run, Beech Grove, Cottrell Town and Minnora.

Stalnaker (rear, second from left) and
his students at Bear Run School in 1950

Stalnaker says parents get excited when there is a fight in the current day system, "Back then, fights were routine and you dealt with it."

There are legendary stories about Stalnaker handling such up-starts, trying to negotiate the problem, but in some cases taking more than verbal action as a last resort.

Stalnaker revels in telling stories about his long career at Calhoun High with his fellow teacher Don McCartney.

Well-known Calhoun teachers Don
McCartney (L) and Stalnaker in 1957

"During a school event in the old gym, three boys in the bleachers kept disrupting the program," Stalnaker said, and after some warnings, he and McCartney sought to take them out of the building.

"They ran and we ran after them, and caught'em," he said. "We gave them a paddling and admonished them to show respect during such proceedings."

"We then discovered they were from Clay County."

Stalnaker (Shown left in 1957 readying to go to work at Calhoun High) repeated an oft told tale about a second story high school teacher who had to leave his room, after which the class began to cut-up, wrestle and throw things.

McCartney, whose classroom was underneath the disruptive classroom in the basement, crawls out his window and climbs like a human-fly up the stone-cut building until he reaches the classroom window, after which he peers at the ruckus making himself known.

"It didn't take long for the students to quiet down, knowing full-well of Mr. McCartney's stance on discipline," Stalnaker said.

"Nearly all those students, years later, have visited me and are my friends," he said.

In 1949 he married Lenell Faith McKee of Millstone, with which he has two children, Pam Breese and Steve Stalnaker.

"I know a lot of people wouldn't want to live in a country place like this, but it has allowed me and my family to have a wonderful life," he concluded.

Paul and Lenell in 1998, married since 1949

Stalnaker has kept busy since retirement, shown here in 2001

EDITOR'S NOTE: Stalnaker passed on now long after the interview for this article after a bout with cancer.