Fort Smith High School
Jack Geurin

LIFE’S IRONY

The cyclone that hit Fort Smith January 11, 1898 brought my grandfather up from Saline County; not literally, of course, but he did come up to find work rebuilding the city. Fortunately, he stayed so I could come along 42 years later and grow up in Fort Smith.

Speaking of the cyclone, this is the link to some pretty amazing pictures. Click on the following link then scroll down to find them: www.photolib.noaa.gov/brs/nwind34.htm.

Peabody School – what a great place to start my education and with my all-time favorite teacher, Mrs. Shermer; we just loved her. I have to tell my first grade classmates a story: I was home on leave from the Navy in about 1967 and stopped by Peabody after school one day just to walk through the building. I didn't know if Mrs. Shermer was still teaching. I came in through the front door and turned right toward our first grade classroom just as Mrs. Shermer came out of the classroom and started toward the office. I hadn't seen her in probably 15 years but she caught sight of me from about 30 feet away, and her eyes lit up and she grinned and said, 'You're Jack Geurin, aren't you?' I said, 'Yes, ma'am" and she said, "Son of a gun!" and forgot her mission to the office. We went back to the room and sat in big people chairs and talked for about 45 minutes, just catching up. It was amazing; she told me about people in my class and still had the connections and in the few cases where she got a name wrong for the most part it turned out to be a brother or sister of the one in my class.

Another note to my first grade classmates: if you look at our class picture, you will see part of a poem on the board.

This is the full version – Indian Children - By Annette Wynne

Where we walk to school each day
Indian children used to play -
All about our native land,
Where the shops and houses stand.

And the trees were very tall,
And there were no streets at all,
Not a church and not a steeple -
Only woods and Indian people.

Only wigwams on the ground,
And at night bears prowling round -
What a different place today
Where we live and work and play!

I stopped by Peabody (now the Adult Education Center) last summer on a visit to Fort Smith. I had heard about the storm damage several years ago and talked with several instructors in the repaired classrooms; the school looked good. I also went up to the third floor auditorium; I had forgotten all about it – if I ever knew in the first place. I just don’t remember us using it.

The first grade class reunion Allen McCartney hosted at our 30th high school class reunion was another wonderful time to catch up and I will always appreciate Allen's friendship and hospitality. And what a joy to see Mrs. Shermer once more.

Fort Smith Junior High School - the old castle; what an interesting building. As you might remember, it was originally the high school and is in one of the pictures on the cyclone link at the top of the page. The caption says the picture was taken from Peabody School. Leigh Ann Barker, who works at the Adult Education Center, said there was a previous Peabody School where the First Baptist Church parking lot is and it is the one mentioned in the caption.

Fort Smith Senior High School - I think we had American Lit. in Junior English; for some reason I have always remembered a line from a poem we read that goes ‘what the hell are we whispering for?’ It turns out the poem is Pershing at the Front by Arthur Guiterman and you can find it at: www.holyjoe.org/poetry/guiter8.htm.

I graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in Business Administration. Since the Draft was still going strong, I thought it best to make my own choice of military service. Fortunately, the Navy recruiter was up to date on his new programs and pushed the opportunity to join the Medical Service Corps’ Hospital Administration branch. It was a little daunting since all other MSC officers were former hospital corpsmen who had gotten commissioned and they had the experience; I had the education and would gladly have traded with them on a number of occasions.

My duty stations included the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland and the Ninth Naval District Headquarters in Great Lakes, Illinois, where I worked with Naval Reserve medical personnel.

The picture below was reissued in 1968 during the time I was stationed at Great Lakes. It was originally taken in 1918 to commemorate the signing of the armistice to end World War I. The sailors wore dress blues or dress whites to form the stars, stripes and background field. My memory of the news release tells me there were over 3,000 sailors in the picture; while that number seems high, notice that the flag is about three blocks ‘high’. There are about 250 sailors in the ball of the flagpole alone.

The beauty of the flag is that it seems to wave in the breeze. And it is proportional – stars and stripes in the farthest part of the flag have more sailors to make them the same size as the stars and stripes in the closest part. Because of this, it took many hours of placement and adjustment to get everyone lined up right.


It is one of my favorite pictures.

I wanted to return to the University of Arkansas for graduate school so I left the Navy in 1968. It was there that I met Ginny, my wife, actually for the second time. We had been in the same freshman English class exactly 10 years earlier. She was a Navy widow with two daughters. We married in December 1969 and I became an instant father, a wonderful decision all around.

After receiving my MBA I worked as Director of the Neighborhood Youth Corps in Fayetteville. Ginny went on to get her PhD in Business Administration. We moved to Charlotte, North Carolina in 1972 and she joined the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte After retiring from UNCC, she was appointed chair of the College of Business at Johnson and Wales University’s new location in Charlotte.

I believe beyond a doubt that God led me into what I have enjoyed these last 20 years. Teaching had never appealed to me and since I didn’t know how to use a computer, I certainly didn’t see myself teaching others how to use one. But God with His sense of humor turned me in that direction. I went to the local community college and took computer classes and loved it. I had a chance to teach a class and loved that. After teaching at the community college for 10 years I joined the UNCC faculty in 1996.

What comes next? Retirement at some point, but I would like to keep my hand in teaching. I think being around young people keeps me young and I love to find new ways to use the technology.

Our health is good, though we have had a couple of scares followed by successful surgeries; the main memory of my problem is the hilarious questioning by a young 5th grader I was tutoring at the time and I will share that one at the drop of a hat! Sometimes I just tell it to myself and laugh out loud. Thanks to Bill Jones for reminding me what adolescent boys think about!

Ginny and I will probably do a little traveling; we discovered the West in the early 90’s and love it out there. But the main traveling I see us doing it to visit the grandkids; each daughter has two boys and a girl and it is a joy to be around them. They live in Raleigh and Wilmington, NC, 3-4 hours away.

I sure have yammered, but the thoughts and memories just kept coming.

Jack Geurin - 2005 with 2008 revision - Also see Addendum 01