by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
When I entered first grade in the fall of 1952, my teacher was Miss Mary McQuerry. I was most anxious to be in her class, the room where my older brother had Miss Mary as a teacher in the fall of 1949. My mother was a room mother for Charles’ class so I got to attend their parties! In those days, we had a party nearly every month; Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter and the end of school bash! And this didn’t include those “special days” when your mother brought cookies and punch for your birthday.
But in first grade we also had a Fairy God Mother, Mrs. Preston. I’ll tell you more about her in a future issue, but for now I’ll just say that she would frequently appear in our classroom to read us a story and she often brought us cookies!
My class was the last to have Miss Mary as our 1st grade teacher. We were the last to have the revolving doors in front of our coat closet. Each door had a chalkboard on one side where we could “go to the blackboard” to demonstrate our math skills; “2 + 5 = 7” and later in the year, “12 + 9 = 21”, once we learned to “carry the one.” We had a piano in our room and we sang a lot! We also had a big closet in the northeast corner filled with puzzles and games for recess when the weather was bad.
In 1953, a bond issue was passed to build Grain Valley’s first elementary school and Mary McQuerry was selected to become the principal.
Mary M. Kelly was born on May 1, 1904 to Kate and Hiram Kelly. They live in Clay Township (named for Henry Clay, the Virginia Senator), Lafayette County, Missouri. She attended school there and graduated from Bates City High School in 1923. She attended college at the Normal School in Warrensburg, Missouri, eventually attaining a four-year degree in education. I cannot determine exactly when she began teaching in Grain Valley, perhaps as early as the mid-1920s.
On July 3, 1927 Mary Kelly was united in marriage to Robert Lester McQuerry. While Mary had only two older siblings, Bob was one of eleven surviving McQuerry children and so Mary Kelly McQuerry became instantly related to half the population of Grain Valley!
Her picture first appeared in the yearbook in 1940, however the three prior yearbooks did not have photos of the elementary students and teachers. The 1940 U.S. Census listed her as a teacher who worked 39 weeks during the previous year and received a salary of $630.
The photo above is an autographed page from my 1953 Treasurer Chest yearbook
which was dedicated to Miss Mary. (By the way, my parents purchased a yearbook
for both my brother and I so we could get autographs. The cost for the 60-page,
hardback book was $2. Today a high school yearbook is $80.)
After only 2 years as our principal, Miss Mary left Grain Valley at the end of the school year in 1955. She became the elementary principal in Odessa where they named a school in her honor. Like many students at the time, I looked upon her as a traitor to Grain Valley. We loved her so much, but hopefully it was a good move for her. And hopefully, she was paid much more than $630 or its’ equivalent in 1955.
Visit the Historical Society Museum to see more photos and artifacts from Miss Mary’s tenure as a beloved Grain Valley teacher. We are open on Wednesdays from 10 AM – 3 PM or by appointment. (Phone: 816-686-7582)
2/25/2022 07:58:01 am
Miss Mary was my first grade teacher. Class of. 1945-46
3/1/2022 10:08:17 am
Bud, I would love to send you The Voice, a monthly newsletter from the Historical Society. However, I do not have your email address. If you send it to me at MLNMIZZOU@gmail.com, I will put you on my mailing list. Marty
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