Janice Croom left her office in the Manila High School at the end of the 2010-11 school year thinking she would return -- just as she had for the last 49 years.
"It just seemed like the time is right and it is the thing to do," Mrs. Croom said. "It was not an easy decision because the school has been a big part of my life."
Croom graduated from Manila High School, went on to school for a little while and then accepted the position as high school secretary in 1962. She was hired by Superintendent Roy Ashabranner.
She has worked for seven superintendents and six principals. Superintendents include Ashabranner, Lesley Speck, Ben Smith, W.C. Clark, Roland Wells, Charolette Wagner and Pam Castor.
When she started her long career at MHS James Andrews was principal. Other principals she has worked for include L.E. Mobley, Mike Chipman, Happy Grayson, Pam Chipman and Robin Baugher.
"This is the only job I have ever had," she said. "Even Loy Jackson was a young boy when I started. I guess that is why he now refers to me as Old Woman."
She has always said her filing system was her job security.
"Stuff can cover a bunch of material," she said.
She has gone from the typewriter to the computer age. She can remember when she didn't need a password to access her files.
"When I started work in 1962, there was a precious lady, Elizabeth Miles, who took me under her wing," Croom said. "The best advice she ever gave me is to treat all people the same with respect and dignity. This is what I always strived for. School is like a separate world. It is a small community within itself. We share each others joys, sorrows, disappointments and all aspects that go on in the daily life of everyone involved in running the school. By the end of the year, we know each other well.
"Everyone I have had the privilege to work for had their own way of getting things done."
She said the one thing they have always shared is putting the students first.
"It takes everyone from those who cook the meals, clean the buildings, teach our children, and those who take care of all the administrative ends," she said. "I value the many friends I have made in the 49 years at MHS."
There were times when Croom wore several hats as everyone does in the school business. She has worked the lunch line, ball game gates, play gates, and even showed films in classrooms with the old-fashioned projectors.
"Many of my student office workers talked to me and asked my opinion from personal matters to how to get a date for the prom," she said. "Manila has been my home always. This town has always been very important to me as well as my job at school. When you work as high school secretary you work not only for the school but for the community, also.
"It is with joy, yet sadness, that I am retiring. I will miss the day to day interaction with the students and faculty since this has been such a big part of my life for so many years. I have worked for several superintendents and principals that I learned to love and respect and feel they are an extension of my own family."
Mrs. Croom said she was well known for putting her foot in her mouth. She shared one humorous story she remembers.
"We were having parent/teacher conference," she said. "It was almost time for the conference to end and I got on the intercom and was sending a 'coded' message to the teachers. I announced loudly, 'red alert, red alert.' Then I hummed a little tune letting them know it was time to go. It was before the new gym was built and I had forgotten there was a ball game going on. My voice came over the speaker loud and clear in the gym. The superintendent told Ann Wells to hurry down to the office and stop me because no telling what I would say. I was a little more cautious on the intercom after that."
Mrs. Croom is leaving with a lot of memories including happy ones, funny ones, and even some sad ones, but all in all she can't think of anywhere she would rather have been for the last 49 years.