Possum Trot alumni return home to Berry

Cassie LaJeunesse, Campus Carrier Deputy News Editor

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Possum Trot alumni (L-R) Genoka Parker, Wesley Dodd and Martha Dodd McConnell attended the service.

This Sunday, the Possum Trot Church held its annual Homecoming service. Possum Trot has hosted this service since 1955, the year after the Possum Trot School was closed. Possum Trot Church is a small, wooden chapel surrounded by three buildings that were used as classrooms starting in the 1930s. The chapel served as a gathering space and auditorium for students of the school. Worried about a lack of Bibles, Martha Berry painted scriptures around the walls of the chapel that are still there today. 

The Homecoming service follows the same order from year to year and is followed by dinner on the grounds of the church and a hymn sing in which attendees request and sing their favorite hymns. The service itself consists of hymns, prayer and a student speaker. This year’s student speaker was senior John Anders, who spoke about his faith and his journey at Berry.

The tradition of having a student speaker at the service was started by Martha Berry herself. According to senior lecturer in education emeritus Mary Outlaw, a former student speaker named Ted Phillips used to attend the Possum Trot Homecoming every year. From his time at Berry, Phillips went on to have a career in education and was president of Brewton Parker College from 1957 to 1979.

The service this year was attended by current Berry students, Possum Trot alumni and their families.

“Our school has an incredible history, and being able to meet some of its earliest students was an incredible expereince,” junior Sarah Cooper said.

Martha Dodd McConnell started school at Possum Trot in 1936 and has fond memories of the school, as well as of Martha Berry. She said that Miss Berry was always sweet and friendly, but always seemed to be in a hurry. McConnell recalls that Martha Berry used to bring a cake to Possum Trot on her birthday and celebrate with the children. She also remembers visits from “The Pilgrims,” a group of wealthy donors to the Berry Schools. 

“They always made us feel important [as students],” McConnell said.

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Everyone who attended the Possum Trot Homecoming service on Sunday was invited to stay afterwards for lunch on the grounds.

McConnell’s brother, Wesley Dodd, recalls the bus that picked up the children who lived on campus for school each day. Because it had chicken wire instead of windows, students nicknamed the bus “the chicken coop.” McConnell remembers that Mondays through Thursdays, the three schoolteachers rode the bus with the children. On Fridays, however, the teachers were driven by the principal at the time, Elsie Andrews Ford. 

“Those [Fridays] were happy days on the bus because the teachers didn’t ride with us,” McConnell said.

According to the Dodd siblings, students of Possum Trot learned skills such as woodworking, gardening, cooking and sewing. McConnell remembers that each spring, the girls who were graduating agreed on a pattern and fabric and then made their own graduation dresses. 

Possum Trot students also did the maintenance on the school buildings. McConnell said that although they were working, the students always had fun doing maintenance and spring cleaning. 

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