I don’t know if he knew it or not, but I became fast friends with H.R. Jefferies before I was seventeen years old. For some reason, Mr. Jefferies seemed like a breath of fresh air to me, a student at Comanche High School, and I appreciated him for that. Of course, I was involved in the CHS sports program, and I never had to wonder if Mr. J was there…I could hear him and his support for all of us!
Never once do I remember looking up into the stands without seeing H.R. He was there, and he was at every banquet, every band concert, every…well, you get the picture. If CHS was doing it, H.R. Jefferies was there.
Through the years, I came to know H.R. Jefferies not only as a student, but as a parent and eventually as a teacher as well, and I appreciated him in all of my roles. Maybe I instinctively understood that under that stern facade was an old softie just trying to do a very difficult job amidst a small town and small town politics.
The honest truth is that if you’ve never worked in education, there is just no way for you to understand the stress and the pressure that come along with every good and wonderful thing that happens within a school system. And…when you are the one ultimately responsible for the entire banana, well, it has to be tough at times, doesn’t it?
Now, it was with all of the above in mind one day that I suddenly realized that I had some questions for Mr. J. I called him and told him that I wanted to know just who H.R. Jefferies really is. Of course, it was like pulling the proverbial teeth, but I did get a bit of info to pass along to you!
Just Who Is H.R. Jefferies?
H.R. Jeffereies began his career in education as a coach in Corpus Christi, Texas where he remained for three years.
“We didn’t have all of the coaches that you see today, and I had to coach everything!”
From Corpus, Mr. Jefferies went to West Texas where he earned his masters from Hardin Simmons while coaching at Rule, Texas, near Haskell. Believe it or not, at that time Rule was 11 man. From there H.R. went to Baird where he spent the next eight years.
“When I started coaching at Baird, Rosemary was a senior at Cross Plains. We always opened our season with Baird playing Cross Plains. After Rosemary graduated and I met her, I always told her that I used to send the boys to the field house at half and I would go up in the press box during that game so I could watch her twirl that baton!”
I must admit that a version something to this effect is what I have always heard about H.R. and Rosemary, and being the romantic that I am, I think I will continue to tell the story just this way; however, today H.R. tells me that he never knew Rosemary while she was in high school. Of course, the way his eyes still light up when his bride of fifty-five years enters the room, I’m not at all sure that I believe his story! LOL
Supposedly, the real story is that Rosemary Spencer worked in Baird, Texas after she graduated from Cross Plains High School, and part of her job was to pick up the mail at the Post Office each morning.
“Every morning at the Post Office I would see this really good looking girl, but I never met her. Finally, I talked to a friend and told her about this girl I was seeing every morning.”
It always pays for a man to have a friend who is a woman if they want to get something done, doesn’t it?
And when you can get him to admit it, H.R. says it was love at first sight…or maybe first sip…I’m not sure, but I do know that the couple married about a year later, and Rosemary became a coach’s wife.
The Jefferies were in Abilene for two years, and then they moved to Paducah where H.R. was a principal for the first year and the superintendent for the next eight. The couple and their three sons might have remained in Paducah had tragedy not reared its ugly head.
Rosemary’s parents were involved in a head on collision, and she needed to be with them for what turned out to be a tremendous amount of time. According to Rosemary Jefferies, the couple took it as an answer from God when they opened the morning paper to see that Comanche had an opening for a superintendent, and it was in 1972 that the town of Comanche received five new residents.
The Jefferies did not have to tell me what a hot bed they walked into here in Comanche. I was here, and I remember!
“When I started here, we were completely broke. I’ll never forget how hot it was over in the old wings of the elementary school. I was told to go down and see about getting eight water coolers for those eight rooms. They were $300.00 a piece, and I had to come back and report that we just couldn’t afford them!”
And then there was the tax issue…
“The taxes here were basically nothing, but people were fighting over them, and we just didn’t have the money to do anything. We didn’t even have the money to pay the principals. I made sure the teachers were paid, but then I told the principals that the rest of us would just have to hold our checks until after September 1 when we got our state money. That is how broke we were!
“Some of the things I did sound silly now, but they had to be done. We were an open campus with most of our kids eating in town. I cut out a cafeteria worker to save money. It was only $6,000, but that was $6,000!
“Of course, our biggest problem back in those days was the old high school. You could go to the third floor and look at the ground below through the cracks where the walls had pulled away from the sides, but we couldn’t get the bond passed to build a new one.
“About two months before school was out in 1975, the building was condemned and we had to get out…THEN. We moved everyone into all the other schoools and the Baptist Church, etc. We built two or three classrooms on the gym floor and built walls in the bleachers for classrooms, and we managed that year and the next.”
The town of Comanche couldn’t actually get a bond passed until after the high school was condemned; however, as soon as that happened, an election was called, and of course passed. For the next year, construction continued on what is today the current high school.
“Within a year and two months we were ready to move into the new school. It was pouring rain, and we had no parking lots, just a lot of mud. We parked on the side of the road and carried everything into the building from there.”
I have to stop and insert here that when H.R. Jefferies says “we,” he means that literally. How many times in my life have I looked up to see the man riding tractor, or pouring concrete, or pounding a nail? I realize this may have begun out of necessity since everything he could do saved the system from having to pay someone else; however, I also know that it continued as long as H.R. worked for Comanche ISD, long after we could certainly have paid someone else to do the job.
“The best days of my working career were spent in the Comanche school system. After the first two or three years, I couldn’t have found a better place to work and raise my children, who will always consider Comanche as home.”
Mr. Jefferies retired as superintendent in 1989, continuing to work in the system as the head of maintenence and transportation…Heaven knows he had had enough experience at the job already! He continued on in this capacity for the next eleven years before he retired again, this time for good.
“The first two or three years after I retired were a little difficult until I actually adjusted to it, but Rosemary tolerated my fifty years in the school business, and she likes it that I’m home with her now…she really does,” he said with an impish grin as if he expected me to challenge the statement.
When I asked my question once more, “Just who is H.R. Jefferies?” it was clear that the man who spent half of a century in education measures himself in those terms.
“I think the teachers may have thought I had more authority than I had, but I really just wanted to be one of them. I tried to be a part of the whole school system, eating at one building one day and another the next so I could be a part of it all.
“I feel I was trustworthy in being a conservative in the use of tax dollars in providing a good education for our future generations in financing our school. I’m proud of the fact that I never accepted an increase in salary until I saw that the teachers had benefited as well. If the state didn’t give them an increase, I didn’t take one either.
“And on a personal note of being a good Husband, Dad and Granddad for all my family. I hope I can continue to support our community in volunteer services because Comanche, after being an outsider for many years, has become our home.”
My final question was to ask Mr. Jefferies what comes next?
“Well, I began my career as a paper boy in Corpus Cristi, Texas, and I guess I’ll end it that way. I’m still a paper boy every Wednesday when I deliver the Comanche Chief to all the schools.
“I was a paper boy at thirteen, and I guess I’ll die a paper boy.”
But not for a long, long time, Mr. J…not for a long, long time.
The following is a poem written by Nancy Holland when Mr. Jefferies retired in 1989.