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Florence Conner Hearn

Florence Conner
Florence Conner



By her mother, Lena Allen Conner (1949)

With addenda by Florence and Aubrey Hearn

Florence Rebecca Conner (parents Thomas Ganaway Conner and Lena Allen Conner) was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, July 21, 1908, in the small cottage next to the T. Y. Conner "big house" which occupied the main site on the hill of forty acres owned by him. She was born just before midnight, and almost before the nurse or doctor arrived. Dr. M. M. Smith was the attending physician. She was named for her maternal grandmother, Florence Rebecca Allen. She is the third child and only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Ganaway Conner, with two brothers preceding her and three following. In her childhood days she played mainly with her five brothers and knew little of companionship with girls.

As a little child she followed on the heels of her two brothers whom she worshipped. She alone, of all the children, had a nurse, Matt, who kept her dainty and sweet all the time, and carried her about in a baby carriage, mostly in Grandfather's grove.

When her father first came to Tuskegee the family lived with Father Conner's family. Florence caught her thumb in the door-jam of the back porch screen door. The door was made of heavy two-by-fours. It mashed the end of her thumb off and left the bone exposed. Fixing up that finger was the last service Dr. Smith rendered us, since we moved to Covington County soon after. The doctor said that the accident would not keep Florence from playing the piano.

Once when I went to church in Opp (about the first time), I left Florence with Psyche, who was the cook. I returned to find her in the high chair at the dining room table with the pepper box for a toy. She was screaming for dear life, but Psyche was still in the kitchen doing that marvelous cooking she was famous for. Florence was about two years old at that time.

As a school girl she was obedient, studious, and loyal to her teachers and little friends.

Her first school was in Opp, Alabama, in a store which was used temporarily after the public school building burned. In the fall of 1915 the family moved to Andalusia, Alabama, where she attended both elementary and high school. She was graduated in May, 1925. At the age of ten she spent the summer at Sparta, Georgia, with her grandparents and had her first piano lessons with her aunt, Lily Allen.

After she began the study of music, she was the source of much pleasure to her loved ones, helping to hold the boys and the home together.

She was converted at an early age under the preaching of Dr. T. Barron Gibson, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Andalusia. She took an active part in all the church services along with her brothers--Sunday School, B.Y.P.U, Sunbeam Band as leader, choir, and assistant pianist.

Florence was not much interested in housekeeping but did keep house for a short time while I was working. She was a pretty good cook and liked to try out new recipes.

She was a fine pupil in the summer school of music, and in the contest in which she won over Julia Cameron. Julia, though much disappointed, and possibly thinking the decision unfair, nevertheless came down to cry on Florence's shoulder.

Florence was especially fortunate in her friendships with older women--Mrs. Lyons, Mrs. Plumber, Mrs. Hill, Mrs. Beckett, Mrs. McGowan, and the mothers of her girl friends. Among her girl friends were Evelyn Kirkland, Julia Cameron, Louise Bozeman, Ruth Powell, and Marguerite Beckett. During her college life there were many more.

That she was always aiming high and hitting her mark is attested by the perfectly round hole, the exact size of a baseball which is still in the top window of the back hall in the Andalusia house.

Being the only daughter, she had to do double duty, and for her father and mother she was a real joy. When she left home for college she left a vacancy which could never be filled. After that time her mind and heart were occupied with grown-up things that gave her other interests.

In the fall of 1925 she entered Woodbury Hall, in Atlanta, Georgia, in order to make additional college entrance units in Latin, receiving an A average. Also at this time she studied music with her aunt, Lily Allen, who was then living in Atlanta.

For two summers she studied in the Summer School of Music in Andalusia, a pupil of Dwight Anderson, making an enviable record. In September, 1926, she entered Shorter College, Rome, Georgia. Besides taking the required college courses she specialized in piano, pipe organ, and harmony. During her senior year she gave an organ recital, April 6, 1930, and on May 9, 1930, gave her piano recital.

Florence, along, with other Shorter students, entered the district and state contests of the National Federation of Music Clubs which were held in Decatur, Georgia, April 18-20 of her Junior year. She was among the winners and had the privilege of going to Boston, Massachusetts, to play in the national music contest. She won fourth place. She was one of the 38 graduates of the class of 1930 (June 3).

Florence received recognition both in the Daughters of American Revolution and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. While at Woodbury Hall she wrote a competitive paper on the life of Benjamin Franklin for which the Atlanta chapter of the D.A.R, gave her a medal. She is eligible for membership in the D.A.R. and the U.D.C. Her grandfather Conner and her great-grandfathers Allen and Archer were Confederate veterans. Through the Conner, Lewis, Gill, and Young line she is eligible for D.A.R, membership. After graduation from Shorter, she taught piano in several schools. Florence taught music in the following schools: Columbia High School, a few months in the spring of 1931; Albertville High School, 1931-32; Andalusia Grammar School, 1932-33. During the year in Andalusia she was most pleasantly associated with Mrs. Lyons with whom she gave a recital and also studied pipe organ.

On September 1, 1933, she was married to Charles Aubrey Hearn of Albertville, Alabama, and Nashville, Tennessee, in the First Baptist Church of Andalusia, Alabama. A large group of friends of the bride and groom took part in the wedding making it both beautiful and impressive. After a honeymoon in Fairhope, Alabama, the couple began life in an apartment on Blair Boulevard, Nashville, Tennessee, near Hillsboro Road.

Florence enrolled in the graduate school of Vanderbilt University in the fall of 1933 and received her Master of Arts in English in early June, 1934.

Florence's children are: Charles Lee, born May 22, 1935; Mary Alice, born May 8, 1937; Nancy Conner, born August 21, 1938; Ina Mildred, born December 12, 1941; Marcia Louise, born August 9, 1943; and Suzanne Joy, born March 4, 1949.

Addendum Written by Florence June 12, 1976

When Suzanne was six years old and entered the first grade I began teaching in the kindergarten at Immanuel Baptist Church. Jean Burton was assistant teacher and I was director and teacher. We began with twenty boys and girls four and five years of age. Each year we added to our kindergarten enrolment. We divided by age groups and expanded until we had five groups and a fine staff. Three-year-olds were added the last four or five years. Five-year-old groups diminished with the coming of public school kindergartens.

My resignation as kindergarten director took effect at the close of school in 1973 after nineteen years. The kindergarten committee decided to discontinue the school due to the lack of five-year-olds and the growing number of kindergartens in the community.

Through the years, while our children were small, I wrote articles and curriculum materials for the Baptist Sunday School Board. My special interest was the four or five-year-old child but during a few years I taught and wrote materials to be used with Primaries (now called children).

Because of my experience In kindergarten, Sunday School, Training Union, and music with fours and fives I began to limit my writing to these age groups.

In 1955 my first book, Children of Bible Days, was published by Broadman Press. This is a collection of stories about seven Bible children. The pictures were drawn to illustrate the stories. These same pictures were then used in the sets of Teaching Pictures for fours and fives.

In 1959, Broadman Press published my second book, I Think About God, as a worship book for older fives and Primaries.

In 1966 the Baptist Home Mission Board published a series on Panama. I was asked to write the study book for Primaries on the San Blas Indians. With no first hand experience experience with these people of the Island of Ailigandi, the task was very hard. An article in the National Geographic and two or three books on the people served as a beginning. Finally some of the Cuna missionaries read my manuscript and gave help on understanding the customs and ways of these Indians. The book, with a teacher's guide, emerged as Coconuts for Peter.

A new series of study course books was planned by the Sunday School Board for publication in 1970. These were the Understanding and Guiding books on the age division. I was asked to write Guiding Preschoolers. Deadlines were short, pressures of directing and teaching kindergarten were heavy, and writing hours were long. All of our children were away from home so it was possible to let some housekeeping chores slide. Aubrey was supportive and willing to help. Without his encouragement none of my outside activities would have been possible.

For many years I have led conferences and workshops on preschool work for Sunday School, Training Union, and kindergarten teachers. Several weeks each summer were spent at Ridgecrest and Glorieta teaching five-year-olds or assisting in leadership conferences.

In May, 1976, I was invited to take part in a crash writing assignment for the Church Training Department of the Sunday School Board. My assignment was to prepare a module for use in a lab situation with preschool teachers. It took a week and a half of steady work to finish the content material, work sheets, lab leader's guide, and individual study guide.

As I write this, I think of preparation that must be done on the following assignments in 1976:

Assist Nora Padgett in four leadership conferences at Ridgecrest July 3-30
Teach five-year-olds with Zadabeth Uland at Glorieta August 6-13
Lead conference for Nursery School teachers of four-year-olds at Lake Yale, Florida August 16-19
Teach Guiding Preschoolers for W.M.U. house party at Belmont College Aug.21-22
Teach Guiding Preschoolers Tallowood Baptist Church, Houston, Texas Sept, 12-16
Teach Guiding Preschoolers First Baptist Church, Plano, Texas Sept. 19-22
Conference on preschool work, Camp Linden, Tenn. Sept. 24-25

Addendum by Aubrey 1976

Florence and I have made four tours abroad as follows:

1950. We had a party of twenty-two. We left Mildred, Marcia, and Suzanne at home with the St. Clairs. Charles, then a page in the House of Representatives in Washington, was with us in New York. We left the Lincoln Hotel, our headquarters, at 8:30 A.M. June 18 for LaGuardia Airport where we boarded the Pan American clipper Golden Fleece. A member of the crew said that our party was the most congenial he had ever seen on the plane. We reached Barcelona about 11:00 A.M. on June 19. From there we flew to Nice, visited Monaco. We traveled by train to Genoa and Rome and Pisa. Thence to Florence where we had extensive sightseeing. At the Florence Art Gallery we bought two paintings, Rest by Del Bono and Motherhood by Magni. Next we went to Venice, thence to Bolzano and on to Oberammergau where we met Joe Ed. On July 2 we spent 7 1/2 hours seeing the Passion Play, an unforgettable experience. On July 3 we went by private bus to Lucerne, Switzerland, where we climbed Mt. Pilatus and bought watches. We went by train to Paris where we had both night and day tours. Then we flew from Orly Airport to London. On July 9 we flew on the flagship Ireland to Shannon where we had a steak dinner. We arrived at Idlewild Airport at 11:00 A.M. July 10. We got to the Nashville Airport at 5:45. No one met us, so we took a taxi for home where we were greeted by our children, the St. Clairs, and Mother Conner.

1966. Our party of eighteen left New York at 6:00 P.M. July 25 on Alitalia and flew nonstop to Rome where we were at the Mediterraneo Hotel. We had 1 1/2 days of sighteeing before flying to Cairo, where we stayed at the Hilton Hotel. We visited the Egyptian Museum, went to see the pyramids, and rode on a felucca on the Nile. We flew to Jerusalem on Middle East Airlines and stayed at the Ambassador Hotel. Nine members of the party made a memorable trip to Petra. We were entertained in the homes of Emil and Wedad Abu Dayeh and Rev. and Mrs. Annis Shorrosh. Spent several days in Jerusalem, then flew from Tel Aviv to Athens. We stayed at the Grand Bretagne Hotel. We saw "Sound and Light" and Greek folk dances. We had dinner at Piraeus. We flew to Zurich and spent three days in Lucerne. We flew to Frankfort then made the famous trip down the Rhine River. Thence by plane to Amsterdam, Hilton Hotel. We flew by KLM to Paris and stayed at the Commodore Hotel. We flew to London where we were at the Piccadilly Hotel. We left London Aug. 15 at 2:15 and arrived in New York at 4:55 P.M.

1972. This was our best tour. There were only six of us--Robbye and Herman Burns, Eleanor Furman, Clara Gentle, plus the two of us. We left on July 10 and flew on a TWA 747 with 336 passengers for London where we were at the Sherlock Holmes Hotel. On July 14 we flew by Olympic Airways to Athens where we stayed at the fabulous Grand Bretagne Hotel. We flew on the 15th to Cairo where we registered at the Hilton. We had the usual sightseeing. After dinner on the l6th we saw a wedding procession at the hotel with dancing girls and an orchestra. On the 17th we flew to Jerusalem via Nicosia, Cyprus, where we were met by Emil and taken to the Mt. Scopus Hotel. Our visit in Israel under Emil's direction was the best ever and we visited places I had never seen. On July 24 we flew to Rome where we were met by a limousine and taken to Florence, Minerva Hotel. Again we visited the Florence Art Gallery and purchased a beautiful painting of Florence by Aldo Affortunati. We went on an expresso train to Rome where we stayed at the Boston Hotel. On the 28th we flew to Zurich where were met and transported to Lucerne where we stayed at my favorite hotel, the Schweitzerhof. We had dinner at the Stadkeller Restaurant where we enjoyed a program of yodeling, folk singing, and flag throwing. On the 31st we bade goodbye to Herman and Robbye who departed by train for Frankfort and other cities. The rest of us went to Zurich where we stayed at Hotel Garmisch. We flew on Aug. 1 to New York on TWA. We had two meals on the flight and saw the film "Living Free." We arrived home at 7:30 and were met by Suzanne, Marcia, and Traci.

1975. This was a tour sponsored by the Rushlight Club of which I have been a member for twenty years. We flew to Boston on April 26 where we joined the other members of the party at the airport. There were thirty-two of us. We left by British Airways at 9:15 PM on a 747 and reached London at 8:15 AM. We registered at the Royal National Hotel near Russell Square. On the 28th I attended my first meeting of the Rushlight Club, held at the Gore Hotel. We heard an excellent address by Stanley Lyons of London, then had a banquet with a six course meal in the Elizabethan manner. On the 29th we went to the Science Museum where we saw a special exhibit of lamps set up especially for our party. We were served tea by the museum. On May 1 we went by bus to Bedford where we were guests of Ralph Porter and his son Charles in their spacious farm house. We were shown their collection of some six hundred lamps. We were guests at tea there. On this trip we visited Woburn Abbey near Bedford which was built as a monastery. In our spare time we visited the British Museum, the art galleries, went to several plays, and bought some 25 books at Foyle's Book Store. We flew home on May 4. This was a memorable vacation trip.