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TRIBUTE TO LOMA

Written May 1977 by James Needham Groom (b.1911-)
"The quality of one’s life is determined by one’s commitment to excellence." This, plus unlimited courage, a willingness to work, and the mind to learn anything she wanted to learn are the keys to what makes up the enigma known as "Loma". I’ll try to deal with these attributes separately, but a book could be written on any one of them.

I’ll not try to describe the social and economic conditions which produced Loma, because John Stienback did this better than I could, but the same general era and area produced Pretty Boy Floyd, Matt Kimes, Shine Pipejoy, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Why one disadvantaged kid turns outlaw and another refuses to accept anything but the best in herself and from every one she came in contact with, would make another dissertation of considerable length.

Harry Golden in his "Only in America" said that a beautiful school building, nice school furnishings, etc. were nice, but that the essentials in learning are a chair, a light, a table and a book. Fortunately for Loma this is true, because she had these things and not much else except the ability to learn. She lived on Seminary Hill on Fort Worth’s south side. She rode the trolley to and from Central High School. The trolley cost seven cents round trip, and a sandwich and ½ pink of milk cost a dine. This came to 17 cents a day, 5 days a week, which was hard to come by. No one gave her the 17 cents per day. She earned this on Saturday, working as a domestic. In spite of the handicaps, she graduated in the top ten percent of her class with a 95+ grade average in the largest school in Fort Worth.

When Loma was 19 years old she went to teach in a country school in Coleman County, Texas. Life was pretty drab in rural west Texas 50 years ago. The boys went to school between times to work on the farm until they were married or full grown men. Very few of them had any thought of graduating or learning very much. The general idea was to pass off the dead of the winter months in going to school to socialize and give the teacher a hard time. Some of these boys were 19 or 20 years old, 6 feet tall and weighed 180-190 lbs. Loma had to teach in the winter so she could continue her college work in the summer. If she failed to control these unruly, over-aged adolescents, her whole life’s plan went out the window. As Hemmingway would say, "This was the moment of truth". After talking to some people close to her, she decided on a course of action that would decide it one way or another. She kept all the boys after school and told them that it was time to clear the atmosphere and confess all their transgressions, after which they would come to the front of the room, catch both ankles with both hands and take a spanking. With this one punishment, the slate would be clean for all their sins and they could continue in school. If they chose not to take the whipping, they would pick up their things and go home and not come back.

All but two of the boys accepted their punishment. The two who went home were sent back to school by their dads who told them that they were free to quit school when they wanted to, but they must return to take whatever punishment they had coming. The came back, took their shipping, and decided to stay in school until time for spring plowing.

By this act of a 110 lb. Girl standing up to a room full of unruly boys, she won the respect of the whole community. She also established once and for all who was in charge of her classroom. I doubt that one of her students in the whole fifty years ever doubted who was in charge.

Loma’s commitment to excellence has made life much richer and fuller for the thousands of students she taught through the last fifty years. Loma showed many poor seemingly hopeless children that there were great music, literature, art and a way of life better than the bare existence they had known before.

She went to Mary Hardin Baylor in the summer and taught in the winter, getting her Bachelor’s Degree, then her Master’s from North Texas State University. When she was 50 years plus of age, she decided to change her work from teaching music to library. In order to do this, she needed to change majors. She wrote numerous universities, who told her that due to her age, they wouldn’t accept her for a new course of study. Finally, the University of Washington at Seattle told her that because of a preponderance of A’s on her college transcript they would let her try, but they doubted that she could make passing grades. She not only made passing grades, she made straight A’s!

Of course, in a long and active life, she made mistakes, but she never let one go uncorrected. One time she went with her brother to visit her nephew who was a cadet in Texas A & M. The Corp of cadets made a corp trip to Fort Worth to the TCU game. Her nephew had a blind date, arranged by his roommate, with a brilliant coed from TCU. Unfortunately, beauty never came with her brilliance. She weighed maybe 85 pounds, her eyes were red from over-study and her body was nothing to attract wolf whistles. In fact, she looked like a little sick kitten. Loma told her nephew to be a gentlemen and be courteous because the little girl couldn’t help being plain and the fact she was homely wouldn’t excuse his being rude. Her brother said not to worry because he was sure his son would be polite. Her nephew replied "Okay, Dad, Aunt Loma is just saying what needs to be said". I believe that every one who knows her will agree that she has always said what needed to be said.

These are just a few random thoughts about our Loma. Any incident could be multiplied a thousand times, but I thought these are representative.

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