Five and a half years ago, the DeKalb County Board of Education named the theater at DCHS in honor of Ina Ruth Bess.
Although Ms Bess has always been appreciative that the school board would pay her such an honor, she had never publicly thanked the board.
Recently, fifth district school member W.J. (Dub) Evins, III visited Ms Bess at her home. Ms. Bess said she wanted to personally thank him. "I consider it a great honor," said Ms Bess.
Having retired at the end of the 2006-07 school year, Ms. Bess completed almost 60 years as an educator, a profession she began in 1948. Much of her career was spent at DeKalb County High School, where she taught and directed class plays over the years. "I directed plays ever since I began teaching high school in 1954. I had a play about every year," she said.
During his brief visit with her, Evins recalled having been in plays directed by Ms. Bess during his high school days. "I never had a lead role because I didn't want it. Pat Wallace and I were in a (play) at one time. We were supposed to be caretakers of an insane asylum. We were coming to get a couple of people who were needing to go to the asylum. But from the looks of things when the play was going on, we were the ones who should have been put in the straight jackets instead of them. I didn't want a major role. I enjoyed it just as much (having a small role). I appreciate all she (Ms Bess) did all those years. I don't now how she dealt with us but she tolerated us and must have enjoyed it," he said.
On another occasion, Evins remembered that a cast member failed to show up on the night of a play performance and how that Ms. Bess had him (Evins) go looking for that student. "Sam Morgan Love. He's deceased now. But it was time for him to go on stage. Eddie Hyde and John Ours were already on stage but Sam was no where to be found. Ms. Bess summoned me up. It was a little while before I had to go on stage so I got in my $750 Mustang and went looking for Sam. I found him at the Dairy Queen. There was an audience full of people and John and Eddie did a great job (killing time). They just made up lines as they went. There was a scene where they went to bed and were talking in their sleep, having dreams or nightmares. So the lights went off and on. They did a great job (killing time) for ten or fifteen minutes until I could find Sam Morgan. But when I found him and got him back, Ms Bess got a hold of him. She got him out there on the stage and he knew he was in trouble after the play was over," said Evins.
"Another disaster is when a character didn't show up for a night performance for the audience," said Ms. Bess. "We waited and waited but he didn't show up. No one (cast member) wanted to do it because they already had parts. My grandson Scott Bess was there so he put on this gun holster and went out there with a play book and did this guy's part. It was hilarious. They all enjoyed it. We offered to give (public) their money back but they said no that was really good," said Ms. Bess.
If there was anything she enjoyed more than the play performances, it was play practices. "Play practice was fun. We laughed a lot and fussed a lot," said Ms. Bess. "It (practice) was after school and at night. Two or three nights a week, and the rest of them after school," she said.
"I'm amazed she (Ms. Bess) pulled it off as many times as she did," said Evins. Most of the time they (plays) were flawless. There's always going to be a time when somebody may forget a line but when it really came down to it everybody had respect for her. We all did (respect her) in the classroom and in the auditorium. She did a great job and she didn't have to. She did it because she loved it," he said.
As for naming the theater in honor of Ms. Bess, Evins said "I only wish it had been done sooner".