Barbara Cashion: From Vina’s glory days to a beloved teacher and mentor

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Barbara Cashion sits outside the classroom in 2018 where she taught for many years at Red Bay High School. News photo/Jason Collum

Ask students who attended Red Bay High School during the years Barbara Weatherford Cashion was teacher there and they will tell you she made learning meaningful and fun. In addition to her teaching duties she also sponsored school activities. “I truly enjoyed it all,” Barbara said. “I really loved teaching and the students that came to my classes were respectful and eager to learn.” She recalls that she usually had 30 students in each of her classes and she taught six periods a day. “Rarely did I have a planning period,” she said.

A native of Vina, her roots run deep there. Her family roots run throughout Franklin County. The Weatherfords were prominent in business, politics, and banking in the county. Barbara is a living history book when it comes to the county that has always been her home. Her father, John Thomas (Tom) Weatherford was first the cashier at Vina Banking Company and later he served as president of that bank. He also served on the town council. “Daddy was serving on the Vina Town Council when I was born and he was still serving when he passed away in 1965,” she said. 

Barbara’s mother, Mary Frances (Plaxco) Weatherford, a native of Russellville, taught at Vina High School. She was home economics teacher there when she retired but she had, through the years, taught many subjects including English and Literature. She also served as school librarian.

Barbara attended Vina School grades one through 12. She graduated as salutatorian of her graduating class in 1954. In 10th grade she was homecoming queen and her senior year she was elected Miss Vina High School. She also served as cheerleader during her high school years. “I so enjoyed being a part of school activities and that is probably why I liked helping students get involved in the fun aspects of school,“ she said. “I have such wonderful memories of growing up in Vina and attending school there,” she said. Barbara remembers the school day was started with Bible reading and the repeating of Psalms 14:19: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, oh, Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”

Each time Barbara travels down memory lane, the route always turns on a Vina road. “My Weatherford grandparents and my aunts and uncles lived on the same road we did,” she said. “My cousins and I spent many happy hours playing together, going on picnics, and enjoying family dinners together in each others homes,” she said. Her grandfather, Harvey Hughes Weatherford, along with his brother-in-law, owned Weatherford Mercantile in Vina, one of many thriving businesses there at that time. “Papa’s motto for his store was “Everything you need from the cradle to the grave,” she recalled. “Vina was a thriving place then. We had general stores, a drug store, a café, a garage, and a doctor (Dr. Thorn) who, like all doctors did at that time, made house calls. The train stopped at the depot in Vina. It was a wonderful place to grow up; a place where everybody knew your name,” she said. 

After graduation Barbara went to Auburn where she attended for two years. But she met Cleveland Smith (“Spot”) Cashion, the son of a friend of her father’s. Spot’s father was in banking in Red Bay. “Mr. Cashion and Daddy were good friends because they were both in banking,” she said. “Spot had served in the Navy, joining in 1951 during the Korean Conflict. He served until 1955 when he returned home to Red Bay. He was in business in Vina for awhile and then he had businesses in Red Bay.“ 

Barbara and Spot Cashion were married in 1956 and made their home in Red Bay. David Morrow was Mayor of Red Bay and Barbara was hired as City Clerk. She was also secretary of the Red Bay Water and Gas Board. “I worked in that capacity for five years and I enjoyed every minute of it. Red Bay has fine people and it was good to work so closely with many of them,” she said. Barbara and Spot’s oldest child, Charles (Chuck), was born in 1961. Barbara left her job at Red Bay City Hall after his birth. 

She returned to college at Florence State Teachers College (now the University of North Alabama). She earned degrees in Business Education and History. “I had a great interest in both of those subjects, “ she said. “I think that is one reason I could encourage my students to have interest in what they were learning, because I was interested in what I taught and in those I was teaching.“

Barbara began her teaching career first at Vina High School in 1967-68. Her mother was still teaching at Vina then. “I’m so glad I got to teach with mother,” she said. “That was really an experience that causes me to be thankful.” In 1969 Barbara transferred to Red Bay High School and it was there she taught until her retirement in 1996. Spot Cashion passed away in 1994 and Chuck had returned to Red Bay to run the family business. After Barbara’s retirement she also began working at the company that is still in Red Bay, Cashion Thermoplastics. The company has 25 employees.

Barbara and Spot, in addition to Chuck, have two daughters, Linda Markham and Susan McRight. Linda is a guidance counselor at Red Bay High School and Susan is guidance counselor at Tharptown High School. There are five grandchildren, four grandaughters, Hannah McRight, Caroline McRight, Mary Katherine Markham, and Elizabeth Markham. Buck McRight, the Cashion grandson, completes the family. All four granddaughters are students at The University of Alabama and Buck is a 7th grade student at Red Bay High School.

Barbara’s former students have many happy memories of being a part of the learning process in her classroom, as well as being a part of school activities. Testimonials given by those who lived those learning and fun times under Barbara’s tutelage recall how she treated every student the same and wanted everyone to feel a part. “Whether it was learning in the classroom or helping with the many extra curricular activities that she sponsored, she wanted everyone to feel they were included,” remembers former student Phyllis Shewbert Williams.

“Going back in time to the mid 70’s, walking the halls of Red Bay High School, one could hear those clicking typewriters in full speed,” Phyllis said. “Taking those speeding timed typing skills given by Mrs. Cashion was quite an experience,“ Phyllis said. “Hers was a class of fun and learning all in one. 

“We would run over each other to be the student fortunate enough to grab a seat with an electric typewriter!,” she said. “Those electric ones were considered high tech for our times and little did we know Mrs. Cashion was preparing us for a world of technology that hadn’t arrived yet,” Phyllis said. “Those typing skills still remain significant in today’s high tech world of computers and texting. But we did not know then, we were being prepared for a future of using these skills on a daily basis.”

Phyllis vividly recalls her favorite teacher. “Mrs. Cashion was a classy, well dressed, respected teacher that loved connecting with her students,” she said. “Homecoming week at RBHS was always a fun time for the student body. Mrs. Cashion seemed to enjoy it as much the students,” she said.

Phyllis recalls that Barbara was also paper staff sponsor. “As the Paper Staff sponsor, she would load us up in her station wagon and take us to get whatever was needed to make our Homecoming float. Mrs. Cashion was a teacher that students loved having in our midst. Parents trusted her and were assured their children were always in good hands when they were with her,” Phyllis said. “Homemade treats were sold to raise money each year for the Homecoming Queen’s court. Mrs. Cashion would invite us to her house and we’d spend hours making homemade caramel apples for selling the next day,” Phyllis said.

Phyllis recalls how Barbara Cashion always loved good conversation and laughter. “I still love to see her get really tickled,” she said. “Mrs. Cashion remains a positive influence in my life today, and I consider her to be a lifelong friend of mine and my entire family.” Phyllis has enjoyed a career at Tiffin Motor Homes using the skills she learned in Mrs. Cashion’s classroom. “Those bookkeeping skills that she taught in those days of long ago, still are put into use” Phyllis said. “She recommended me for a bookkeeping job many years ago that I remain working at today. The company I work for does business with her family business, so she can still check my bookkeeping skills!” her former student said.

Phyllis has two favorite quotes that remind her of her favorite teacher. “It is often said, ‘To teach is to touch a life forever.’ Another quote is, ‘The influence of a good teacher can never be erased.’ These quotes definitely apply to Mrs. Barbara Cashion’s as a dedicated teacher,” Phyllis Williams said.

Another former student, Emily Fabianke Kadue, now a resident of Minnesota, also enjoys sharing her happy memories about Mrs. Cashion about how she brought such caring and creativity to everything she did. “She was an excellent teacher and all her students looked forward to her classes whether it was typing, shorthand, accounting or anything else she taught. But she was so caring and that’s what I think of when I hear her name.” Emily said. She said there is a word that comes to mind when she thinks about Barbara Cashion. “Inclusive—all inclusive,” Emily said. “I think that perfectly describes the way she treated students,” she said. “She didn’t want anyone to feel left out. To Mrs. Cashion all students were important in the classroom and in every school project undertaken,” Emily recalls. 

She also remembers the beautiful prom settings that Mrs. Cashion orchestrated. “We began planning our Junior /Senior Prom in September by deciding on a theme. Then we would select the decorations needed and decide what projects we would do to fund them,” Emily said. “Mrs. Cashion was such a fun and inspiring sponsor. She got parents excited about the projects and they enjoyed helping us. She was very creative and caring,” she said. “That is a wonderful combination for a teacher.“

The prom was held in the school cafeteria when Barbara Cashion was sponsor. “That cafeteria was transformed into a setting that was so beautiful,” Emily said. “The cafeteria was not even recognizable as the building we saw every day at school. It was so beautiful!“

When prom night came Mrs. Cashion made sure every student had a way to the prom. “She wanted everyone who wanted to come to have a way,” Emily said. “She was (and is) such a caring person. I am so thankful that I was a part of “the Mrs. Cashion era,” Emily said. “She set a wonderful example as to how we should treat others.”

After Barbara’s retirement she remained active in the family business as well as church and civic activities. She also got to take a trip that was a once in a lifetime experience. She and her family were friends with another Vina native, Congressman Carl Elliott. She was his assistant as he interviewed people for The Oral History of Red Bay book that was sponsored by the Red Bay Civitan Club. “I worked with Carl on the book and heard every interview,” Barbara said. “That was quite an experience.” Her friendship with Elliott was the reason she and her family were invited to travel with the him to Boston in May of 1990 when he was selected from 5,000 nominees to be presented the first John F. Kennedy Profile In Courage Award. The award is presented each year to honor those who took stands that required the courage of their convictions rather than popularity. “We were very proud of Carl and honored to go to the ceremony,“ Barbara said.

She and her family met the Kennedy family and found them to be very cordial. “They were warm and welcoming to us,” Barbara said. “They were down to earth and did everything possible to make us feel welcome,” she said. 

Now, when most who are retired are taking life easy, Barbara continues to work at the family business and enjoys activities in her church and with her family. She and her family are active members of Red Bay First United Methodist Church. “I have wonderful memories and I continue to take an interest in this place I call home,” she said. The memories Barbara shared of growing up in Vina are so interesting they will be used in future issues of The Red Bay News Heritage, published monthly.