Billie Thornton waits for a phone call most mornings to let her know if she’s subbing at Hackney for the day, the campus where she was a Special Education aide for 30-plus years. Mrs. Thornton has lived all of her 86 years right here in Lufkin and most of those years at the Hackney Primary campus where the 3-year-olds are housed.
She said, “I tried to retire, but I just couldn’t stand it. I love Hackney. My husband says all the time I’m going to die at Hackney, but Hackney is my home.”
Mrs. Thornton enjoys making days special for the youngest students in the district. If she’s doing a lesson in math, she may bring fruit to cut up. She likes to make each lesson fun.
She said, “ I like to make learning hands on. I might buy something to go with the lesson and show them. If you ever wake up and feel bad when you get there the kids will hug you and grab you around the legs. I love to greet them.”
Mrs. Thornton remembers a lot of Lufkin history. She went to school in Moffett and graduated from Lufkin High School in 1950. She recalled the drum and bugle drill team and how everyone who attended football games would dress up and even wear corsages. Her favorite teachers were Mrs. Buckner and Mrs. Sparks, her home economics teacher.
One of her tragic memories was during her freshman year in high school when a pulpwood truck hit her school bus.
She said, “We were on our way home and a pulpwood truck ran into the back of the bus. The seats were more like benches that lined the bus back then. My friend that was sitting across from me passed away from the wreck. I had to go to the hospital with a broken leg, and I got a cast. I still have a scar till this day. I’ll never forget what I had on that day, saddle oxfords, green-checkered skirt. We could have all been killed but the truck swerved.”
Mrs. Thornton has always worked, even when she was young, on her parents’ dairy farm. She and her two sisters would deliver milk door-to-door. She said sometimes there would be money in the bottles when they picked them up that she would keep as a tip.
She said,” We would ride on the running boards of the truck and deliver milk every day. We then moved to town and had a grocery store. I worked there when I was 14. I’ve always worked. My daughter is the same way. She worked at Sears for 40 years and now she’s still working.”
Mrs. Thornton has been married to her husband for 68 years, and she and her husband have one daughter although she claims all the children at Hackney as her children.
When asked about the secret to a long life, it wasn’t her diet or exercise that keeps her going. Some of it might be hereditary; she had an aunt who lived to be 107. But mostly she attributes it to her calling at Hackney.
She said, “Hackney keeps me going. Hackney is it.”
Thank you, Mrs. Thornton, for your humble service to our little ones.