Teachers who made a difference - Palmer Marsh Oysters and bomb shelter | Beaufort County Now | A teacher with real life experience, but I was too young to care

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Teachers who made a difference - Palmer Marsh Oysters and bomb shelter

A teacher with real life experience, but I was too young to care.

    As I recall, Mr. Marsh led a varied life prior to entering the teaching profession. He appeared to be a bit older than most of the other teachers. I do not remember many of his life stories but my impression was that he had spent some time as a miner and explorer.

    My two memories of him revolve around a trip he took one week end and the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis. The room was a science classroom, which accommodated both Chemistry and Biology classes. It was located in the newest brick building at CHS. The room had the usual ambiance of a science class. It has a Bunsen burner, a deep sink and tall facet and a compressed air nozzle fed by a tank under the bench.

    He had apparently been to the Florida coast during the weekend and had dumped a big load of oysters in the aquarium with ice, which was at the front of the room. He always wore a big wide tie except for the annual picture. Most of the time you could tell what he had recently eaten as he used the tie as a napkin from time to time. During his lecture, he casually went over to the tank, reached in, and got an oyster which he opened with his pocketknife and turned the shell up and dropped the oyster in his mouth. Without missing a beat, he continued with his lecture.

    I am sure most of us did not have any idea what an oyster was or at least had never seen one eaten raw. He repeated this several times during the class. He grounded his lessons in reality and tried to show how such esoteric subjects as biology and chemistry fit in to the ordinary world. The class lesson was lost on me but his style has stuck with me forever.

    The second memory involves the nuclear scare after the October Surprise where the US discovered Russian Missiles in Cuba. This was one of the first awakenings for me that the world was indeed a dangerous place. Shortly after the crisis, word spread that Old Man Marsh was building a bomb shelter behind his house. I think he lived on the corner of Northern Avenue and Indian Way. I often wonder what is in that shelter fifty plus years later.

    Several of us drove by his house several times and confirmed that he indeed was digging a shelter behind his house. I wish I had been mature enough to spend more time talking to him because He kept us spellbound for hours with his tales and adventures. I have no other memories of subject I was taking.
   I never had any interest in Chemistry and did not bother to study during my senior year in his class. I think the only reason I took it was because I thought we would be doing extensive lab work with test tubes and Bunsen Burners. Unfortunately, that would not come until the Chemistry 103. I had skated through Chemistry 101 without much study at Bass High School before transferring to Clarkston. Here is my report card for my Senior year. I dropped his class in the third quarter with a F pending. Below is my report card, carefully preserved by My mother. As you can see, I was not a good student, but one thing that was never in doubt; If I did not behave myself mom would have told my Dad, and that was not an option. Notice the conduct marks.

Updated March 14, 2017

    I felt it appropriate to update this post with the comments from our Hich School Facebook page. I have since realized that Palmer Marsh's teaching style was performance art in an effort to teach kids subjects (Physics and Chemistry) that most believed dry and uninteresting. I post this update in hopes that some current teacher will gain some inspiration when they read how they can make a difference in their students lives. I'm sure every school had teachers like Palmer Marsh, I hope if they still do.   I posted this comment on our FB page in November 2016 and it is still drawing comments from his former students. I am not surprised that he made such an impression on students that has lasted many years after they graduated. The last comment in this list was posted yesterday 3/13/2017.
I was wondering if anyone had any information on the life and times of Palmer Marsh, Science teacher at CHS 1960's. He was a character and lived a varied life.
Posted November 2016 on CHS Facebook page.

  • Had him for Chemistry 72-73 my senior year. He was different for sure!
  • Best high school teacher I ever had 68-69
  • Had him for chemistry and physics 65-67. I got a degree in physics because of him. He told some great stories: lumberjack, steel worker, etc. Don't know how many were true.
  • Dale ( R I P ) did well in Mr. Marsh's class ( Dale was drum major in the school band and musician in good quality rock bands as well ..... , " The Henchmen , " " Ougie and The Ougots "
  • Dale played drums with me and Kenny in The Henchmen .
  • I was wondering about ol Palmer a few days ago. There was a lot of lore about his prospecting days before he went to college.
  • I remember him always saying "dear, dear, dear"!
  • I remember him saying "Goodbye, Mr. Kantner." Always a relief to get out of that freezing classroom of his, even without a hall pass.
  • Had him for chemistry. He was one different man.
  • one of the best teachers i ever had
  • Mr. Marsh sang "Little Brown Jug"
  • I was disappointed when after parents' night, all the parents where on his side! Boy were they right.
  • I had him for Chemistry and also had Mrs Marsh at Allgood Elem. She was allergic to chalk and always used a chalk holder. She probably would have loved the "white boards".
  • I also had Mrs Marsh at Allgood she and Mrs O we best buddies they were so different
  • I had him for chemistry. One day he spun "Al E. Gator", the stuffed animal that hung from the ceiling. The gator pointed in my direction, so Mr. Marsh told me I could leave. The only time I got kicked out of a class. Mr. Marsh told us about buying his ties at the nearly new store. He said he would buy 52 ties, one for each week.
  • The only D I ever made on a report card. Loathed every minute of his class.
  • Transferred out of his class after about 3 days!......remember him saying, "if you don't show your work on a test as I have done it in class, it's WRONG!!...even if your answer is correct"!
  • SMART!
  • I transferred out mid semester. Major relief.
  • I loved every minute of his class, but Studying was not in my persona in any subject so I had to leave in the 3rd quarter Senior Year with a pending F.
  • Studying would not have helped in THAT class!
  • I feel compelled to add that those who did not have Mr. Marsh in class make note that the failure was not the making of the teacher but it was the student. Some may disagree but he applied real life lessons to classroom antics to make his point. I learned the hard way in 1968 courtesy of Uncle Sam what I should have learned courtesy of Palmer Marsh. He still rates high on my list.
  • We gave him a zots..that candy that foamed...and he thought we tried to poison him.He flushed out his mouth with the sprayer in his room for acid spills...
  • I was so afraid of him!! Lol
  • I remember somebody falling asleep in one of his lectures and him dropkicking a trashcan down the center aisle of his classroom to wake them up
  • HA! I remember Mr Naiger doing that
  • I had Mr. Marsh for physics and for second year chemistry. He was an unique and wonderful instructor who cared about his students. I appreciated him most during my first year of college when I realized how well prepared I was compared to other students.
  • Best teacher I ever had
  • Had him in 9th grade, 76'I was terrified. Pop quizes and surprise 10 question tests. I failed them all. Hated every minute of his class. He never remembered to zip his pants. I had him when he was way too old to be teaching. I'm sure he was a great teacher back in his time.
  • Oh, yes ... XYZ
  • I also had him and was terrified of him! Somehow I got through!
  • Anyone in class the day he backed that Mitchell guy down? The guy came at mr marsh who physically toss him from the class.
  • Think he grew up around the Valdosta area
  • Mr. Marsh's younger son John always said they were from Macintosh county , down in the swamplands of Georgia . I guess though , Valdosta must be either in , or near Macintosh county .
  • Bet you asked questions after that!
  • Doug he use to talk about using a broom to chase the gators outta his yard
  • I woulda take a guess that he may have passed by now.
  • I'm sure he has passed but don't know when. I never had his class but For some reason he loved to ask when I'd join one of his classes. I always loved to watch and see who was late to Chemistry because he locked the door! He kept a kitten in the lab for me until school was over.
  • After we tested on one chapter, he would say ask us if we had any questions on the next chapter, which of course we didn't , so he would say ok, test tomorrow. I had him in '73 and he suffered from narcolepsy. He would fall asleep for a few seconds standing up with his book open and would wake up and continue exactly where he left off. It was amazing. Can't say I did so good in his class.
  • Yeah, Angie, it was always a game to see if we could come up with questions all period long so we could put off the test by one more day.

    Publisher's note: Join Bobby Tony and others so inspired to discuss the "Teachers We Remember", a new, ongoing, and fully participatory series here on BCN.

Go Back


( April 9th, 2021 @ 11:24 am )
There is something remarkable about a teacher who can still invoke pleasant memories almost 60 years after we left his class. Some would call him eccentric, but I have come to the realization that he knew very few of would be chemists, but he did know that some things would stick if presented with a bit of mischievous humor.

Eccentric? no Authentic YES!
( April 9th, 2021 @ 10:53 am )
Wow. What great fun his classes were! Such a prankster! My brother and I were in the same class and he called us Double Dumbness. Typically I scored in the 50s and 60s on his tests, but somehow I passed. I remember him making a stink bomb of some kind and holding it near the HVAC intake to stink up the school.
( April 15th, 2017 @ 5:17 am )
And Thank-you Gordon for the reflective, thoughtful comments on an issue that is very important to the betterment of society - the praise for what is noble and good and worthwhile.

If you still are located in northwest Georgia, BCN welcomes another addition to what I like to refer to as our Georgia Mafia.
( April 14th, 2017 @ 12:24 pm )
Mr. Mash taught me Chemistry, Physics, and Advanced Chemistry at Clarkston High School graduating class of 1964. He was one of the best teachers I ever had, but was also the scariest to begin with. But after 3 years I learned what a fascinating man he was and knew he really was on my side. He just did not put up with any foolishness, at all. He fueled a love in science that took me through Dental school. When I got to college I was amazed and thankful that I had the same text book for my first two quarters of college chemistry that I had used for my year in Advanced Chemistry. Think that did not make it easier? Yes, it did. I am sure Mr. Marsh touched many lives in a very positive ways and I have always been thankful for his influence on my life. I know he is gone but just want to say "Thank You Mr. Marsh".
( March 15th, 2017 @ 2:44 pm )
By way of an explanation on why I would continue to update this post on BCN. I often give a link to the Teacher series to people who are not on Facebook as tribute my past teachers. While I realize that a majority of the readers are residents of North Carolina, there are more than you might suspect that are not residents. It is one of the great things about the Web. Stories can expand beyond the geographical boundaries of a local print publication.

The Comments are still being updated on face book. Here are the latest. I will revise the post to include these later. One of the posters found his headstone. I note that he was 57 years old when I was in his class in 1963.

Below are the additional commnets as of this date:

Looking at my old CHS yearbooks, his full name was Ralph Palmer Marsh. I found a burial plot in McIntosh County for a Ralph Palmer Marsh, Jr 1907-1978.

I remember the story that he was a farmer in S. Ga. he was crushed in a tractor accident and was a convalescent for several years. He self taught himself Chemistry and Physics. That's the story he told us anyhow. Mr. Marsh was a genius. I look back on him now and realise that he was the best teacher I ever had.
He worked many jobs...he got hit with a roofing joist when he was young and it tore his nose off..he talked about how he held it in place while on the way to the doctor...he also told the story of this kid (forgot his name) that stole phosphorous from the lab and put it in his pocket...he got half way out of the class before it burned into his leg...Mr. Marsh loved that story! I had him for Chem. And Physics...never had to crack a book at UGA in either class series (not like I ever did in anything else either) to make good grades in science...failed everything else at lease once...HA!
( August 15th, 2015 @ 6:52 am )
Mr. Marsh told us to eat sulfur to have natural insect repellent. He forgot to tell us that Body Odor would be a problem. I do not think he ever failed a student and used his own grading system. I never saw him upset. He started college at 35 if memory serves.
( August 15th, 2015 @ 6:42 am )
Now, that is what I am talking about. I never really got to know him but he was a true character. Good story Ted and under 80 word max.
( August 15th, 2015 @ 6:38 am )
Mr. Marsh was a pulp wood worker loading pine trees on trucks to drive to the mill. He was a very powerful man who sometimes carried unruly guys to the principals office. Once a gave a boy an A when he cheated on a test using a homemade walkie talkie with a smart girl in the class. The A was for making the device.

Across North Carolina: Volume XVII Teachers We Remember, Educating our People, Living Kristin Blankenship, certified physician assistant, joins Vidant Gastroenterology Washington


Back to Top