Spotlight on Miss Annie Fales
By Tara Howard
Miss Annie Fales was born in Walpole, MA on July 17, 1867. Her family moved to Westborough when she was seven years old. She graduated from Westborough High School in 1885 and Worcester Normal School (a teachers’ training school now called Worcester State College) in 1888. She lived to the age of 104.
She began her teaching career in Upton. Her first class there had 44 students ranging from 4th to 7th grade, all in one room! For this huge task she was paid the unbelievable sum of ten dollars per week. Living here and working in Upton made for an impossible daily commute. She was driven to work on Monday morning in her father’s horse and carriage, stayed all week at her uncle’s house in Upton, and was driven home to Westborough on Friday.
After four years in Upton, Miss Fales found a teaching position in Westborough. It was then she got her first raise! School life was different from today. Classes were larger and the school day was longer. Corporal punishment was permitted. Miss Fales told of striking recalcitrants with rattan switches but only after she called the janitor to witness the “lesson”.
Miss Fales taught 5th through 7th grades for nearly 50 years and also served as principal of the Eli Whitney School. She retired in 1937 after touching the lives of over 1,000 students.
In an interview on her 95th birthday, Miss Fales said that music was her greatest interest outside her teaching career. She studied voice in Boston and played several instruments. She was choir soloist and organist at the Westborough Unitarian Church. For many years she served as pianist for special events at the Westborough High School.
Miss Fales could also cook pretty well. One long-time Westborough resident recalled that on Saturday nights when she was a girl, her father would drive her over to Miss Fales’ house with several Mason jars. She would enter Miss Fales’ kitchen only to see a huge crock on the stove. Some money changed hands and the jars were filled. Many families in Westborough enjoyed Miss Fales’ baked beans with their dinner each weekend.
Miss Fales was modest and kind and felt uncomfortable when people made a fuss over her. She was reluctant at first when she learned of the dedication of the Fales School. Stating with characteristic humility, “People will be sick of reading about me”. Later she said, “I realized people thought so well of me, I was really happy”.