SPECIAL TO THE FLASH
January 26, 2021
It is the early 1960s. John F. Kennedy is the President and Price Daniel is the Governor of Texas. The “Space Race” is underway, and the Dallas Cowboys is a new professional team in Texas. The population of the United States is 182,976,000, and Texas has 9,579,677 folks.
Per capita income is $5,315; a new house is about $12,500, a gallon of gas around 27 cents, a movie ticket $1, and a dozen eggs cost 30 cents. Erath County had a population of 16,236 in 1960. Tarleton State College had just started granting 4-year degrees in 1959. The average teacher’s salary was $4734.
That is when the Erath County Retired Teachers Association was chartered by the National Retired Teachers Association on February 3, 1961, as a local unit of NRTA and TRTA.
It all began when Ethel Percy Andrus founded the National Retired Teachers Association in 1947 to address the health insurance needs of retired educators according to their particular economic situation.
NRTA is the seed that grew into AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons. Gaining members helped bring about lower-cost group health and accident insurance for those over 65, lower-cost prescriptions, and eventually travel benefits. AARP/NRTA influence on federal and state governments continues today.
Then six local units in Texas sent delegates to the NRTA convention in Miami Beach, Florida, where they decided to meet and form a state organization in 1953 to be known as the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA). It was not financially practical in the early days to provide a headquarters office, so the earliest presidents kept TRTA files and records in their homes.
TRTA created twenty districts across the state to dispense information. The AARP/NRTA merger took place in 1982, and this led TRTA districts and local units to depend more on the state organization. TRTA finally declared itself autonomous in 1997.
Like others across the state, nineteen Erath County retired public school and college educators saw the need to band together to improve their economic circumstances, as well as organize volunteerism in the community, continue to contribute to education, and enjoy fellowship with their peers. This led to the Erath County Retired Teachers Association charter in 1961. Mr. Porter Gentry, ECRTA first president, and W.J. Wisdom (TSU Wisdom Gym) were among the charter members. The name was changed to Erath County Association of Retired School Employees (ECARSE) in 2005 to include all TRS annuitants in Erath County.
Charter members of ECRTA in 1961 were Miss Ethel Baker, Mr. Carroll Brandon, Mr. J.E. Burnett, Mr. J.S. Clendenin, Mr. S.F. Davis, Mr. C.H Dawson, Miss Mattie Ferguson, Mr. Porter C. Gentry, Miss Dollie Marie Glover, Mr. C.H. Hale, Miss Pearl Hicks, Miss May Jones, Mr. Roy Mefferd, Miss Grace Ogan, Mr. M.T. Payne, Mr. J.E. Redden, Mr. L.G. Rich, Mrs. Grace Short, and Mr. W.J. Wisdom.
For many years, ECARSE meetings were held at the First United Methodist Church, Stephenville. By 2005 the venue changed to the Graham Street Church of Christ Family Center. However, since the beginning of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, meetings have been conducted via Zoom conferencing.
Meetings are held on the first Tuesday each month, September-November and January-May.
Currently ECARSE has 150 members, while TRTA has over 94,000. Membership is open to all TRS annuitants as well as anyone concerned about public education.
ECARSE provides volunteer services to the community through church and civic organizations, hospital auxiliary, food supply and delivery, and everyday services for friends and family, among other contributions.
ECARSE provides continued help for education through scholarships to current TSU students and student teachers, retirement education, funds for books to county school libraries, and service to TSU and county schools.
ECARSE provides information on protective services, healthy living advice, legislative news, and technology support for its members as well as information on discounts of interest to retirees.
ECARSE continues to work with the Texas legislature in the interest of retirees and public education.
“Retirement is moving on to a new chapter in the book of life. I am glad to be a part of ECARSE getting up to date information, meeting with other retirees, learning new things from guest speakers at monthly programs.” – Jan Vaughn, TRTA District 15 & ECARSE Technology Chair
“What has meant the most to me is the ability to participate actively in supporting legislation that enriches the lives of retired teachers. I retired 20 years ago and my pension has never received a COLA.” – Linda Doyle, ECARSE Past President
“ECARSE was one of the first groups to become a part of TRTA, and we have been an active player ever since. Bob and Pat Fain attended numerous TRTA State Conventions, and ECARSE has had several members serve in district and state leadership roles.” – Janis Petronis, TRTA District 15 President & ECARSE member
*Sources: Texas Almanac 1961-62, aarp.org, trta.org, trs.gov, ECARSE documents & scrapbooks; accessed January 2021