Many remember dedicated, nurturing teacher

By Regina Villiers. Originally published January 28, 1998 in The Suburban Life, added January 14, 2017.

After her retirement from teaching, Catherine Bain spent much of her time traveling around the world, seeing places she had always dreamed of seeing.

After her retirement from teaching, Catherine Bain spent much of her time traveling around the world, seeing places she had always dreamed of seeing.


When the subject of school and teachers arises in conversations with long-term Madeira residents, the name “Miss Bain” usually pops up.

Catherine Bain taught first-grade in Madeira for so long that she figures prominently in the childhood recollections of many people, and people frequently suggest her as a subject for columns.

But she hasn’t been an easy subject. She is no longer living to be interviewed, and she’s a fleeting image of most those who remember her. Much of the information I have about her has come from faded, old newspaper clippings. Such information can be tricky, at best, and it’s not always accurate.

Her only remaining, living relative in the area is Drucilla Bain, her niece, who is the granddaughter of Madeira’s first mayor, Samuel Druce.

Drucilla, until her retirement, was a also a teacher, like her aunt.

Drucilla’s most vivid memories of her aunt are also childhood memories, because her aunt was her first-grade teacher too.

Drucilla recalls her frustration as to what to call her aunt at school. Finally, Miss Bain told her privately that it was OK to call her “Aunt Katie” as she did at home. But Drucillla says she was uncomfortable doing this.

“Usually,” she said, “I just avoided calling her by name at school.”

According to an old clipping, Miss Bain’s father and his family came to Madeira in 1899, moving here from Milford. They lived on the old Dones property and farmed a big area.

Young Catherine attended Madeira School during the time when the legendary Zachary Taylor DeMar was principal, and he was her teacher in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.

Later, when she became a teacher, Mr. DeMar was her principal for a time.

One clipping states that she started teaching in madeira in 1923, in the newly constructed elementary school, which would have been the old Perin School, which no longer exists. She had previously taught three years at Concord and five years in Montgomery.

At the time she started teaching in Madeira, there were only four teachers in Madeira. No high school existed in Madeira at that time.

Alice Craig had Miss Bain as a first-grade teacher. Alice does not recall any personal traits of her former teacher, but she does recall the difficulty of Miss Bain’s job and the large size of the classes.

“There must have been at least 35 kids in the class,” Alice said, “and she had extreme patience and an understanding of small children. There was no pre-school or kindergarten. This was absolutely the first time these children had coped with school and had been away form home.”

Russ Ward also remembers rapport with young children. He recalls the first time he ever saw her, which was before he first started to school.

“It was in front of the place which is now Adrien’s,” he said. “it was my first meeting with my first teacher. I never forgot her.”

Judy Morrow remembers that Miss Bain was a strict teacher. It was still permissible to punish students in those days. Boys, especially, got taken to the cloakroom for a couple of whacks. Judy says. She remembers that on her first day, at the first recess period, she was afraid to leave her seat to go out to play. Miss Bain had to come and assure her that it was OK to get up and go play.

An undated newspaper clipping states that Miss Bain taught in Madeira for 36 years. This would make her retirement about 1959. Judy Morrow thinks these dates are probably correct.

During all those 36 years, except for the very last year she taught, the clipping says that she taught in the same building, in the very same room.

Though her teaching situation remained unchanged, she saw many changes come to Madeira schools. She saw Madeira’s first high school built just across Miami Road from her school. That building is now Sellman School. The building of new high school necessitated the hiring of many more teachers.

When Miss Bain retired, the PTAs and alumni groups of Madeira gave a dinner in her honor and presented to her a watch and certificate. On this night, she is quoted as saying among her former students were three doctors, two ministers, several nurses, and about 40 teachers.

Also on that night, Superintendent Marshall Sellman pays tribute to her by saying that she always kept up with new methods of teaching and with progress in the teaching field.

“She also had a world of patience to deal with small children for all those years,” he said.

In newspaper interview around that time, Dr. Theresa Kirby, the assistant superintendent of Hamilton County schools, spoke of Catherine Bain’s reputation with her supervisors.

“She has been an inspiration, because she has remained young,” Kirby said. “She continued to grow and to change her teaching practice to keep up. To keep up with change is a rare quality. Most people resist it.”

Her niece, Drucilla, says that after Miss Bain retired, she used her time to travel and to see parts of the world she had always wanted to visit.

If any readers or former students have stories or personal memories of Catherine Bain, I would appreciate hearing them or reading your letters. They would help me to augment and to record the story of a dedicated teacher who devoted much of her life to Madeira’s young children.