Music & Musicians

School District Discovers 8th-Grade Essay Written by Patsy Cline

The country music icon's 1948 homework assignment was donated to the Patsy Cline Historic House.

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Patsy Cline – one of the greatest voices in country music – grew up in Winchester, Virginia, where the school district recently discovered a handwritten essay she wrote in the eighth grade. It’s the oldest artifact related to the singer.

While in the eighth grade at Gore High School, Cline wrote a three-and-a-half-page essay for her history class about her dream of becoming a cosmetologist.

At 15, Cline wrote she thought cosmetology would be a good career path for her because, “I can do more with my hands than I can with my head.”

The essay has been kept in her school files since 1948, only recently discovered when the school system began digitizing student records.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Karen Helm, board president of Celebrating Patsy Cline. “I really could not believe that they found a document like this in an old archive school system paper records, so we’re really lucky that it wasn’t touched and handled or somebody didn’t realize what they had and took it.”  

Friday in the living room of the family home in Winchester where Cline spent her teen years with her mother and siblings sharing one bedroom – now the Patsy Cline Historic House – the school superintendent presented the letter as a gift.

“We were so excited to get this document,” Helm said. “We don’t have anything belonging to Patsy that is this old or was hers at that young of age.”

In the essay written in the winter of 1948, Cline wrote her plan for the upcoming summer was to save money to help her follow her dream of being a cosmetologist, but fate would have a much different path in mind. She went on to become one of the most influential recording artists of the 20th century.

Her home now displays some of the outfits she designed and her mother made for her to perform in and her cowboy hat that still has her name and her mother’s name inside.

There’s also the camera that was used to take the last known photograph of Cline before she tragically died in a plane crash.

Now, a homework assignment written by one of America’s great vocalists will be cared for and treasured by the people who preserve her memory.

“It’s very intimate to us,” Helm said. “It’s in her own handwriting and her own thoughts.” The nonprofit dedicated to preserving Cline’s legacy will consult with an archivist on the best way to preserve the essay. A copy will be made for Cline’s daughter.

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