In recalling her childhood, Nola Alexander Hanson recalls the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” She says that, although her parents, Jessie and Velda B. Alexander, did what they could, the people of Devine were there to lend help as needed. There is another statement that rings so true: “Who we are and who we become is determined by those who love us,” author unknown. Nola tenderly thinks of all the people of Devine who helped her become the woman she is today.
Nola began her education at Shook School with two teachers, Mrs. Virgil Harrell during her first through third grades and Mrs. Martha Ontjes, a neighbor and family friend, during her fourth through sixth grades. Childhood friends during those years, friends with whom she graduated, were Judy Rotramel, Darlene Davis, Molly Sue Griffin, and Annette Harrell. Nola recalls the love, hospitality, and friendship of the Rotramels and the Red Davis families and the many days and nights that were spent in their homes.
Then there was Dr. Rev. Duane Spencer who did whatever it took to get Nola and her siblings involved with the Methodist Church and the church family. Oftentimes that meant that he went to Nola’s house and picked her up, along with the other children. During those days, Mrs. Aubrey Driscoll was one of the Sunday School teachers, and when Nola was in high school, “she had a door open for me when it was needed.” Dr. Spencer also “vouched for me so I could get my birth certificate.” Interestingly, after her mother died, Nola says that her brothers discovered a certificate where her mother had taken her to Dr. Spencer’s church, which was in San Antonio where they lived, when she was two weeks old.
In high school, the English teacher, Mr. Oscar Secrest, drove the bus that picked up the “country kids” who lived out Calame Store way. “He would take me home first if there was an activity I had to attend,” Nola recalls, “so I would have time to get ready for the event.” She credits him with being her “guardian” on band trips, making sure she had money for refreshments when the bus stopped after games.
Nola shares that high school was filled with caring people, like Momma Schott who made sure none of the children went hungry. When they got off the bus and went into the cafeteria, she would have something for them to snack on if anyone was hungry. Nola remembers that these ladies who prepared the food were all so kind and generous.
Other fond high school memories include Mrs. Ruth Allen, an English teacher who was “a stickler on manners.” One thing that impressed Nola was going to her home as a group to watch a movie that may have related to something they had read in class. That experience later influenced Nola’s teaching, as she always wanted her students to feel welcomed in her own home. And it was important to her to be the kind of influence to her students that her high school principal, Mr. Anthony Petri, was to her and all of his students.
FHA also played an important part in Nola’s life. Mrs. Robertson helped her learn the art of properly dressing, presenting herself, and talking in front of people — even though she admits that she still has trouble with that last challenge. Every summer, the FHA would go to camp, and Uncle Clyde Ross always drove the bus. He also took them on boat trips and “basically was like a dad to all of us.”
Nola had impressive athletic ability, and many coaches worked with her. Coach Gustafson would sit her down to watch the boys play basketball and talk to her about the plays, etc. He also had Bob Brown and John Hunt work with her on basketball skills, especially the hook shot and post moves. Basketball and volleyball were coached by Mrs. Ruth Pringle, who would pick up Nola for practice or for games to insure she would get there. Nola shares that her most rewarding accomplishment was being selected on the Honorable Mention All State Team her senior year!
Not only did Nola play an active role the FHA and athletic programs, she was quite involved in the Warhorse Band. Her most thrilling experience was being selected to lead the Mighty Warhorse Band as a freshman and at the age of only 13! Then, twirling camps led to meeting many wonderful people, like one person from Pearsall who turned out to be the head twirler at SWT (Texas State) when Nola was a Bobkitten.
Martha Bain was mascot during Nola’s sophomore and junior years, and that gave Nola an opportunity to become friends with the Frank Bain family, “which opened up a world of events that I didn’t realize at the time.” She adds, “I owe that family so much.”
It was the DHS Superintendent, Mr.Keevert, who took Nola to San Marcos to try out for Mr. Callahan, the band director, to be a Bobkitten — the twirling group — and to Mrs. Tidwell, the director of the Strutters. Nola served as a Bobkitten for two years, and that experience enabled her to make her first trip to New Orleans, to Bourbon St. (although chaperoned), and to perform in the Sugar Bowl. “It sure was a ‘learning experience’,” she admits.
Nola relates that she dropped the position of Bobkitten at the end of her sophomore year to work for the head of the physical education department, Jean Smith, who became a dear friend and a second mom to her, to her husband, Ken, and to their daughter, Michele.
In 1965, Nola graduated from SWT, and in that same year she married Ken Hanson. He was teaching in both the elementary and middle schools of East Central ISD, and in that middle school is where Nola was teaching P.E. She also coached basketball, volleyball, and track; and she led the drill teams, cheerleaders, and pep squads! It’s hard to believe, but, although the men were paid for coaching, Nola performed all of those extracurricular tasks without any compensation!
In addition, (if there is any possible way she could have done yet more thing!), Nola was the official score keeper at E.C. for volleyball and basketball for many years. Nola reflects that back when she was in high school, her team made it to the state basketball tournament but never won the gold. Amusingly, she says that she achieved that gold medal in 1995 by being the score keeper when the 35-0 Hornets won the 5A boys’ basketball championship!
When Nola’s and Ken’s daughter, Michele, was born, Nola quit coaching and went back to teaching in the elementary level to be available for Michele’s athletic and academic events. Nola retired from teaching in 1996, but for many years while teaching and for several years after retirement, she and Ken made up an announcing team that announced East Central Football games and high school playoff games in the Alamodome as well as worked with junior high track meets.
In 1997, Nola and Ken moved from San Antonio to two monolithic cement domes on a hill between Hondo and Bandera. That is where they currently reside. Their daughter lives in San Antonio and is retired from teaching math in the ECISD.
“Finding things to do when retired is not difficult,” Nola states. One such activity, a result of seeking her God-given talents, is painting large pictures that highlight various events held at the First United Methodist Church in Hondo. She is now in demand, as she has been asked to paint pictures for other churches, people, nursing homes, Chamber of Commerce, organizations, etc. Currently, she paints primarily for her church.
Also, Nola works at Bragg’s Pecans in Hondo during the latter part of October – December. She has been active in the Devine Ex-Students Association for many years, having served as president for nine years.
Finally, Nola says that it was a thrill to her to become a member of the Huajilla Unit of the Texas Retired Teachers Association with Henry Moss, Anthony Petri, and Martha Ontjes and being able to see them at meetings when they first moved to Hondo.
Nola concludes that there were many, many people in Devine “who made me what I became,” and she regrets it if she left anyone out.