If you have the pleasure of knowing Dixie Daily, today’s People of Blount County, you know she loves reading and anything that has to do with reading. Her love of reading began at an early age and since that time has flourished.
Growing up, Dixie was one of five girls. And with five girls in the home, you can just imagine the shenanigans that took place each and every day. Often, Dixie’s sister Martha conducted school for her siblings. The “students” would have to read out loud and if they mispronounced a word, Martha would hit the back of their hand with a ruler.
Whether her sister’s actions played a part in Dixie’s love of reading or if it was something she would have gravitated toward as she grew up, who knows, but being able to read is something special to Dixie. And, she has made most of it.
After graduating from Oneonta High School, Dixie completed her postsecondary education at Snead State and the University of Alabama. She married the love of her life, James Daily, in 1961. They eventually moved out of the county and her 34-year teaching career began. It included working in France, as well as five different school systems stateside. While in France, Dixie taught GIs on the army base.
After returning to the states, Dixie taught at Arab Elementary as well as the Guntersville, Muscle Shoals, and Tuscaloosa school systems before eventually ending her teaching career at Oneonta.
When Dixie became pregnant with their daughter, she took a hiatus from teaching to stay home with Elizabeth until she turned 5. As life would have it, when Elizabeth was about to start school, Dixie received a call from then Oneonta principal and superintendent Bill Burdette who needed to fill a teacher position ASAP. Dixie was up for the challenge, but unlike other teachers who had a longer time to prepare for the school year, Dixie only had a few days to get a plan together. It obviously worked out, as Dixie worked there from 1979 until her retirement in 2002.
Throughout her career, reading remained in the forefront. Dixie knew that incorporating any type of reading activity into the lesson plan would be beneficial for students as they prepared for life. But she also wanted to make student learning fun. Even today, she thinks, through no fault of the teachers, Teachers are being inundated with paperwork that prevents them from being able to make learning fun on a more frequent basis.
One such fun learning activity was reading the book “Cheese, Peas, and Chocolate” by Scott Foreman, which they took to the next level. With the story being about a boy who wouldn’t eat anything else, students would incorporate chocolate pudding in an art project.
And with that goal, the fun began. The students used chocolate pudding to finger paint. It was a big mess, but was definitely fun. Dixie recalls having DeLynn Burns in that class and her mother Barbara was a room mother. Barbara wanted to know how they were going to clean the students’ hands. Without missing a beat, Dixie said the students could lick the pudding off. The children loved it and finally each child was given a wet towel to finish the clean up effort.
It was important to Dixie to teach students about Alabama and keeping children interested with fun activities such as building a space man with an actual space suit and celebrating Native American Day. The Native American Day included local Native Americans who participated in the learning experience, as well as a chance for students to taste squirrel soup. Dixie also gave students a chance to make peanut butter to highlight George Washington Carver, “The Peanut Man,” and his development of hundreds of peanut products, sweet potatoes, and soybeans.
Looking back, Dixie said she may not have spent enough time with ABCs and 123s, but most of the time, students had fun learning through non-traditional lessons. She acknowledges she has taught a lot of wonderful people, and to this day, Dixie loves seeing former students around town.
Born in Oneonta, Dixie lived where the Pickett Fence property is now located. Her father was the minister at the Little Brick Church and the parsonage was located there. At an early age, Dixie was nicknamed “Bunky” and it has stuck. Most people call her Bunky to this day. The name “Bunky” came about when she was called “Fatty Bumpkin” as a baby. It later changed to “Fatty Bunky” before being shortened to the nickname Bunky.
When Dixie moved away as an adult and experienced life outside of Blount County, she honestly never thought she would end up back where it all started, but she is glad it worked out the way it did. Dixie loved growing up in a small town, as it has offered many opportunities to develop lasting relationships.
Years ago, then librarian Emily Tish needed someone who could read to children for story hour. Dixie gladly accepted that honor. After all, reading was in her blood. As it turned out, that was just the beginning for Dixie’s service with Oneonta Public Library, as Dixie recently retired after 16 years as an Oneonta Public Library board member. In addition to her service with the library, Dixie served on the Oneonta Foundation For Educational Resources (OFFER) board, and, along with Donna Wilson and L. D. Bentley, was instrumental in starting the Lester Memorial Preschool program.
Dixie still loves to read. She just finished “The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois.” Dixie does not have a favorite book genre, but she doesn’t like romance novels. In addition to reading, Dixie enjoys working outside at her home and being a member of the Lester Memorial Prayer Shawl group. She likes to walk in her neighborhood for exercise, but doesn’t do so as much as in the past.
If Dixie can offer any advice to others, she encourages those who are going to retire to have a plan. Sitting idle is not easy. And it is not fun. Take a look around and find something that interests you. After all, you have worked all your life and now is the time to enjoy life.