I'd seen her portrait for fifteen years, hanging in the hallway at Ocean View Elementary School in Norfolk, Virginia. Miss Lucy Mason Holt had been a respected educator during the Great Depression.
I had an upstairs classroom for most the time I'd taught at this school, and from glancing out the windows, I could see a bell on the roof. That bell was dedicated to her and use to ring at a certain time every evening, reminding parents about to keep an eye on their children.
Miss Holt was the school's first principal and for many years, I didn't bother to find out more about her. After I received a graduate degree in reading from Old Dominion University under a special grant, I became a literacy specialist and was transferred to Willoughby Elementary School. Before I retired from Willoughby, my former school, Ocean View Elementary, was being torn down and replaced with a new building.
Once I learned about the school being replaced, I knew it was important for me for write a book about this amazing education. I knew the memory of her wouldn't be the same in a new building and it was just a matter of getting off my butt and doing a little research.
It had been easy to do the research, since the former school had kept old newspaper clippings about Miss Lucy Mason Holt. However, it was just a matter of time before this valuable piece of history might simply disappear, due to the destruction of the building.
I reached out to the principal assigned to the new building and asked if I could have access to reading these old clippings. Thankfully, the principal was a history buff and when he came across two boxes containing information about Miss Holt, he stored them in a closet.
Besides some of the amazing contributions this educator accomplished during the Great Depression, the most notable was having a barefoot contest, where children could come to school barefooted, until shoes had to be worn, due to the cold winter. (Which led me to writing another book about the first barefoot contest winner, Thomas Creekmore, Jr.)
It took a couple of days for me to read through all those newspaper clippings, while taking a few pictures of old photographs, here and there. After giving it considerable thought about how to keep her memory alive, I decided to write a fictional story about two boys, who entered Miss Lucy Mason Holt's Barefoot Contest.
After self-publishing this book as a hard copy as well as an e-book on Amazon.com, word got around, and the curator at the Ocean View Museum, asked for several books to put on display and sell. Altogether, thirty books were sold. One of those books reached the hands of Thomas Creekmore, Jr., who messaged me through Facebook and that opened the door for me to write a book about him.