Compiled by a Committee of the Elmira Women Classroom Teachers.
To Commemorate the 100th Anniversary of The New York State Teachers Association.
Elmira, New York October 1945
"The First Elmira Academy," the cut on the front
cover of this book, is from an old drawing "made December 10, 1839,
by Sarah Ellen Congdon, 15 years old.
"This structure was built for the First Presbyterian Church and removed from the northwest corner of Church and Baldwin Streets in 1836 to a lot south of the First Methodist Episcopal Church on Baldwin Street."
We wish to acknowledge our indebtedness to The collection
of early local history at the Steele Memorial Library; The Diamond Jubilee
Edition of the "Elmira Star-Gazette"; Old Board of Education Reports; The
Quality Printers; The "Vindex" library of cuts; and The many, many
teachers and other friends who have regaled us with tales of their experiences
WE DEDICATE THIS LITTLE BOOK OF ELMIRA HISTORY AND LORE TO OUR TEACHERS WHO HAVE RETIRED AFTER MANY YEARS OF FAITHFUL SERVICE IN THE ELMIRA PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Mr. J. Herbert Bennett Miss Stella Lawrence
Mr. Arthur E. Bradley Miss Katherine Linneen
Miss Ella Bradshaw Miss Mary Linneen
Miss Mary Brady Mrs. Mabel L. Loomis
Miss Emma Briggs Miss Anna McMahon
Mr. Orval T. Butler Miss Margaret Mack
Miss Jane Clark Miss Laura Manley
Miss Margaret Collins Miss Anastasia Mullaney
Miss Mary Danaher Miss Katherine Mungoven
Miss Wilhelmina Deister Miss Minnie Murphy
Mr. Stoddard Dilly Miss Cora Ogden
Miss Anna Fitten Mr. Francis R. Parker
Miss Mary Furey Miss Grace S. Parsons
Miss M. Louise Godfrey Miss Hildagarde Prechtl
Miss Emma Haight Mrs. Minnie Prescott
Miss Alma D. Hall Miss Jennie Reardon
Mr. Edward D. Hardy Miss Edith T. Riggs
Mr. Levi W. Herrick Miss Anna S. Roberts
Miss Helen M. Hibbard Miss Rena Rockwell
Mr. Arthur Hirst Miss Mary Skeahan
Miss Nellie Hogan Miss Elizabeth Swartwood
Miss Edna Holley Miss Mida Smith
Mr. Harvey O. Hutchinson Miss Elizabeth Tashjian
Miss Antoinette Ingham Miss Ida Trescott
Miss Ada Inscho Miss Katherine E. Youmans
Miss Harriet N. Kellogg
I. Early Days
Into this pleasant, wooded Chemung River Valley came men and women intent upon building a village where the mind as well as the body would be given nourishment; where the cultural as well as the economic values would be stressed; where the church and school would be as prominent as the mill, the shop, and the farm.
The first teacher in the county, Samuel Walker, was killed by Indians, but others came, not frightened by the Indian menace. Amelia Parkhurst opened a school in a log cabin in Horseheads in 1793. A Mr. Cooper taught some pupils in the weaving room of a resident of the Town of Chemung. Amariah Hammond taught in the Town of Elmira on the Jenkins farm as early as 1798. The next year another school was opened on what is now Lower Maple Avenue. And so along with the miller and the lumberman came the teacher into our valley.
The early Newtown, as Elmira was called, centered along Front Street (now Water Street). It soon stretched from Sullivan to Lake Street. If a settler journeyed as far north on Lake Street as the present Market Street, he came to a pine-covered hill. Here in a clearing in the grove, a log cabin housed the first school of the village.
The parents of those early days were interested in the teaching received by their children. In 1803 the Reverend Clark Brown, an early resident of Newtown, wrote as follows about the teachers: "Parents are careful not to employ any but suitable persons for instructors to their children; such as are of good morals and have an acquaintance with the rules of reading, pronunciation and grammar. Considering there is no law in the state pointing out the qualifications of school-masters, or in any way regulating common schools, the conduct of parents in Newtown in this respect, must be considered laudable, and highly worthy of imitation. It is probable that there will be an Academy established in Newtown village, in a few years. There are several gentlemen who are anxious to have some of their children taught the languages."
As the village continued to expand westward and northward, other schools were established. By 1859 there were five of them: one on Lake Street near Carroll, one on West Water near College Avenue, one on William Street near Market, one next to where Park Church now stands, and one farther west on Church Street near Columbia Street.
A pupil of one of these schools later recalled the teacher, and left the following description of him:
"The teacher sat with heels elevated in good American fashion, a book in his left hand, a ruler in his right. On the floor, just to the left, was conveniently located a spittoon to receive tobacco juice. Between the flow of this, and the dictation from the book, refractory pupils were summoned to the teacher's side, a due application of the ruler administered, ordered back to their tasks, and all with this without the lowering of the heels."
II. The First Board of Education
The year 1859 stands out as a red-letter year in the history of Elmira's schools. In that year the state legislature passed a law consolidating the five districts into one union free district in Newtown. There had been the five public schools, but they were not popular and were poorly attended. More pupils went to the private schools of the village than to the public ones. Though these schools were public they were not free. The parents paid tuition under the "rate-bill system."
Under the new law the schools were to be supported by public taxation and organized under the supervision of an elected Board of Education of nine members. They hired sixteen teachers to instruct the 1200 pupils who attended the schools. Let me introduce you to the first Board of Education of our city as it met on April 19, 1859:
Erastus L. Hart, President
Elijah N. Barbour
Shubael B. Denton
Ariel S. Thurston
III. The Elmira Academy
As we scan the past century in education, we find that Elmira has not lagged behind in opportunities for those desiring scholastic achievement. About the year 1836, the First Presbyterian Church building was converted into the Elmira Academy, the steeple being removed. This structure was a white wooden building located at the corner of Church and Baldwin Streets.
The old Baldwin Street Academy was a private school and was incorporated by the Regents on March 31, 1840. The opportunities offered in the old Elmira Academy were remarkable. There was a Classical and Higher English Department for males and the same course was offered in the Ladies' Department. For the younger intellectuals, there were the Male Primary Department and the Female Primary Department. The rate of tuition per nineteen weeks ranged from $2.50 to $4.00.
Common English Branches------------- 3.00
Higher English with French
and Intermediate Algebra-------------- 4.00
Classics and Higher Mathematics---- 5.00
Drawing, Pencil, and Chromatic
Painting water colors----------------------- 2.00
Oil painting------------------------------------- 4.00
In August 1849, the curriculum included a department for instruction in the science and practice of teaching.
The year 1859 brought, by an amendment to the Village Charter, the system of free education. Credit for the instigation of free education in Elmira is due Dr. Erastus L. Hart. Thus on May 24, 1859 the Academy was re-established and became the Free Academy.
On September 15, 1859, the doors of the Free Academy were opened to all and the rate-bill school system was abolished forever.
The first Board of Education chose Mr. S.R. Schofield as the Superintendent of Schools. Mr. Moses Sumner Converse, a teacher in the old Academy, became the first principal of the Free Academy. The other member of the faculty was Miss Helen M. Phillips. The trustees of the old Academy had purchased the present site on Clinton Street and one of the houses on the lot served as an improvised school building until such time as the Board should decide where to build the new school.
On April 9, 1860 the Academy was removed to the basement of the Congregational Church where Park Church now stands on the corner of Main and Church Streets. In the meantime, the Clinton Street property was decided upon and the Board offered a premium of $50 to the one who submitted the best plan for a new school building.
With the opening of the new fall term on September 30, 1860 classes were resumed in a factory building on the southeast corner of Church and William Streets where a gasoline station now stands. The building was quite a dilapidated one but seemed to serve the purpose. The first floor was converted into two rooms connected by sliding doors to separate the girls from the boys. During the recitation periods the doors were opened. In front of each room there were long benches which were used for recitation but boys and girls remained on their respective sides.
Two incidents highlighted the school activities in the Civil War times. One was a visit by Stephen A. Douglas during his presidential lecturing tour of 1860. The other incident was the arrival of a company of soldiers who held drills, marches, and other maneuvers in the immediate neighborhood.
Elmira, a town of 5,000 inhabitants, was one of three military depots, owing to its exceptional railroad facilities.
In 1862, the Hudson Shoe Store opened for business, --one of the earliest comers.
The new three-story Academy building was opened for the spring term of 1862. Because there were only a few students registered in the school after its organization, there had been no graduates. On July 25, 1862, the first commencement exercises were held with two members--one from each sex and both "conspicuously able students." One of these was James R. Monks, who later became principal of the Academy; the other was Miss J. Amelia Munson, later a member of the Academy faculty for a short time.
Mr. Joel Dorman Steele, who became principal in 1866, introduced an Honor Roll system designating the two smartest students as "First Head Scholar" and "Second Head Scholar." (Medals awarded to these students are still found among the treasures of their families.) The study halls were not supervised and classes were called by ringing of bells by the honor students. When the classes were to be summoned for recitation, a Senior "Head Scholar" marched briskly to the front of the room and clanged the bell vigorously.
Dr. Steele was distinguised as an author of textbooks too. He wrote a fourteen weeks' course of study in Chemistry, Physics, Geology, and other Sciences and "Barnes's U.S. History." He is known to Elmirans as the donor of the Steele Memorial Library. Mr. Steele broadened the curriculum by introducing Calisthenics including dumbbell drills. The boys of the Academy deemed the dumbbell drills too tame, so they outfitted a near-by barn and playground with trapeze and rings and other manly equipment, considered good for those times.
In the late 1880's there were signs of considerable growth. It was necessary to have an English department separate from the history department. There were four full-time and four half-time teachers of English by 1909. In that same year, Regents' Examinations became compulsory for all students.
In the summer of 1891, the Academy building was torn down to be replaced by a more commodious structure. Classes took refuge temporarily in the old School Six building on Lake Street. The building was in bad shape and not at all suitable, but the best available. It was infested with rats bold enough to ransack the waste baskets, during the session after the students had had their lunch. The use of these unsuitable quarters necessitated cutting classes to a minimum and some students arranged to attend classes in the morning only and to study at home in the afternoon.
The Fall term of 1892 began in the fine new building. There was no time for formal opening ceremonies because the school was scarcely ready for the new term. The plaster was not quite dry, the heating system had not been installed, and practically everyone in the school caught cold.
From the very first the building proved inadequate. Altho it seemed to cover a larger area than the one it had replaced, there were only two stories instead of the original three. A room originally intended for a gymnasium was never equipped but was used for everything but physical education. The library was housed on open shelves in the study room. A bank railing with a gate in the center was placed in front of the cases and a student acting as assistant librarian during his study periods had charge of getting books from the shelves.
In September 1899, the Teachers' Training Class was removed to School Two to make room for the increased enrollment at the Academy. Several other rooms were converted into recitation rooms, including the library room where the bank railing was removed and the book shelves enclosed in glass. Benches were placed diagonally across this room and "the aisles were narrowed to what one stout fellow called 'a fat man's misery.' "
The year 1899 saw another innovation--a new school paper. A local newspaper had printed slurs anonomously, concerning the student body. The indignant students, at a mass meeting were urged by their principal to put out their own paper to defend the rights of the school. He suggested that they call it the "Vindex," Latin for Defender. That paper, now in its 45th year, continues to flourish at E.F.A.
During the summer of 1901, Miss Louise Godfrey, by this time widely known for her published outlines for the teaching of the English classics, catalogued the 3,269 volumes in the Academy Library, classifying them according to the Dewey Decimal System. This difficult task she accomplished without having taken a library course in preparation.
At the turn of the century, the registration was 734 for a building designed to accommodate comfortably 450 at most. Thus with the building barely nine years old, there was a crying need for an annex. In 1902, the school was so crowded that the principal remarked that it was "impossible to take a step without danger of stepping on some undersized freshman." In the Fall of 1903, about 165 freshman were sent to School Two and 84 to School Three, though this was deemed unsatisfactory as far as school unity was concerned.
During this period, however, changes and additions were made in the curriculum. A domestic science class "served occasional suppers to fortunate guests, who sampled the toothsome viands prepared by the class." In 1905 the Girls' Athletic Association gave its first minstrel show to raise money for basket ball equipment and a tennis court to be laid out on the Academy lawn. "The girls had cross country runs, hare and hound chases and other athletic work of general excellence, but had to curtail many of their activities because of increased study requirements." Music as a regular subject, was introduced under the direction of Mr. George Morgan McKnight.
Today these special departments are administered by Miss Kathryn M. Pollock, Mr. Roland J. George, and Mr. George J. Abbott, city-wide directors.
Principal Francis Parker began his duties at the Academy in 1906 and served 30 years until he retired in December 1936. He was succeeded by the present principal, Dr. Albert Helmkamp, formerly head of the English department there.
The first year book was published in 1909. We owe much of our knowledge of E. F. A history and lore to this first year book.
The idea of erecting an annex to the building was abandoned and plans were drawn for a new school. The building was razed in 1911 and the juniors and seniors were housed in School One while the freshman were sent to various other schools.
The new building was occupied January 29, 1913. The new building could accommodate 1,000 pupils. It included an auditorium, manual training and domestic science rooms (known now as shops and home economics laboratories). The faculty was increased to 34 and the enrollment to 890.
Twenty-five years later in 1938 an annex was built on the north side of the Academy to make room for the industrial and vocational arts departments. The commercial department was expanded and more rooms were added to the east side of the building. The teachers found themselves competing with bulldozers, hammers and saws, concrete mixers, and derricks, far more attractive to the students (excuse, please) pupils than their daily school lessons. By the Fall of 1939 the annex was completed.
Today, 1945, the registration at the Academy is about 1400 and the faculty totals about 65.
IV. School Number One
Thomas K. Beecher School
COMPLETED! 1868 !
A free public school in District One for children of Elmira not yet old enough for attendance with ladies and gentlemen at the Academy.
Completed! On land purchased June 2, 1866, from the John W. Wisner estate, a great red-brick colossus two stories high, without lights, steam-heat, or running water, costing $25,000. It towered over the little Old Log Cabin Court House beside it. For many years the little Old Log Cabin Court House crouched behind a protective high board fence, as the thud of many threatening tiny feet passed over the narrow board walk down Sullivan Street to join the clamour and bustle of the new public school for little folk.
1868! Elmira was growing up! In five more years she was to extend her firm reach to Grove Street and north to embrace Elmira Female College, then in its thirteenth year. Evidences, here and there, remained to testify to an Elmira not yet full-grown. Houses there were in abundance and streets made beautiful with young elms and oaks and maples.
For five years now, the very latest in ladies' dresses could be bought at Rosenbaum's and a newly patented hoop-skirt at Barton and Wilson's at 108 Water Street. Or, a saddle and harness for horse and carriage could be found at Sheeley's 243 West Water Street. In two more years, coal for the new school could be supplied by J. Langdon & Co. In four years, the ladies of Elmira could choose their finery at two apparel stores---Rosenbaum's and John J. Flanagan's, both on Water Street, while the gentlemen could shop farther down the street, at H. Strauss's not far from Friend and Flett's meat market.
News of these great Elmira firsts must have made exciting reading in the Elmira "Press and Gazette," the "Advertiser," and later the "Saturday Evening Refiew," and "Sunday Herald."
The Board of Education at the time of the opening of this Number One District school included David Decker, President; Thomas K. Beecher, for whom the school was named later; and George M. Diven, Virgil B. Reed, Levi Averiell, Robert Smith, and Gabriel Smith.
Among the first principals of this school were Mr. Luther C. Foster, who, we are told, was later a very successful superintendent of schools for Ithaca; and Mr. W. R. Prentice who later went to Hornellsville. Miss Cornelia S. Norman was at School One for a long time; later, in 1892, she went to the Academy. Miss Norman was a member of one of the oldest families of the valley. Another early woman teacher there was Miss Anne Hotchkiss. There was a music teacher in early days, who, besides drilling the young idea in do-re-mi-fa-sol, kept the study hall upstairs for the fifth and higher grades.
Following Mr. Prentice as principal, many will recall, were Mr. Beardsley, later superintendent of all the schools, and Mr. R.J. Round, who also became superintendent for a few years and later principal of School Number Five. He was followed by Mr. Orson Warren, and then, in 1907 by Mr. Levi W. Herrick, at School One for 18 years and later associated with School Two. In 1925 Mr. J. Herbert Bennett became principal, retiring in 1939.
That same year the seventh and eighth grades became known as Junior High, absorbing also those grades from School Number Eight.
In the 1880's the school made its first concession to overcrowding: a wing of four rooms was added; and in 1898, an annex. Still standing and very much in use today, it is known over at Number One, as the "old building" or the "primary building." In 1916 Mr. Don Bliss ordered the school overhauled--innovations in heating and sanitation. And the old slits of windows gave way to large full-sized windows for better lighting.
But still the city grew and became, perhaps, a little ashamed of the old school which could no longer serve suitably the changing theory and practice of public education. On January 12, 1934, Number One School, then the oldest remaining building in the city, was razed. Old Number One was gone! And in its place, a decade ago, there rose a new and lovely building, small and unpretentious, yet in grace and beauty ranking today with Elmira's newest.
Nuber One School, now known officially as Thomas K. Beecher School, the first to be known by name instead of by number, under the direction of Mr. Frank W. Bartlett, still serves the community well, to keep faith with 1868.
V. School Number Two
SCHOOL Number One, in 1868, near the eastern extremity of Elmira. School Number Two, 1869, near the western extremity--Davis Street.
School Two today stands much as she did 75 years ago. Built on the same plan as the other new school over on Sullivan Street, it had six primary rooms downstairs, a central hall 8 feet wide and double circular stairway leading to cloak rooms, assembly hall and classrooms upstairs. In the large assembly room equipped with 153 double desks and seats, the older children met for study. Off of this large room were smaller rooms now occupied by the city-wide school music department band and orchestra under the direction of Mr. George J. Abbott. In this westside school there were lacking also light, sanitary improvements. But, as at School One, excellent teachers were not lacking.
There were the Misses Julia C. and Augusta J. Durbon, and, to quote a local historian, "she who at one time wrote her name Annie M. Campbell, the wife of Mr. George Palmer of Elmira, widely known in the literature of the county as Mrs. George Archibald, the given names of her husband." Mrs. Archibald was well known as a writer for children and "more mature readers."
Among the outstanding principals of the elementary schools was Mr. E.J. Beardsley, who was associated also with Number One and who in 1885 was appointed Superintendent. Mr. Beardsley is remembered as being quiet and dignified and having an interest in the child and community. It is said that he took only one-half day vacation during his four years of superintendency. Mr. Beardsley taught in Elmira as early as 1858. Mr. Arthur Benedict who later went to District 8 School was known as severe, but strict and fair and very loyal to his teachers. Mr. Levi Herrick was recently principal, having retired in 1937. Since that time, Number Two has been sharing her principals with other schools: Miss Louise Reynders, Miss Laura Manley, Mr. Fred Leverich, and Mr. John McWilliams.
A well-known pupil at School Two remembers Arbor day long ago. With fife and drum, with military precision, left, right, left, right, out of the building, onto the lawn, into a circle--to plant a tree--a tree in memory of Longfellow, Whittier, or some other of the country's great. Little Susie (as we shall call her) wanted oh! so badly, Longfellow tree because Longfellow's whiskers were prettier; but--they had a Whittier tree.
Later Susie was a teacher in that same school, with 13 others, under Mr. W. X. Crider, Principal, when the drawing supervisor, in the early days of drawing supervisors, visited the school. Altho drawing had been taught in the Elmira schools for at least 20 years, it had not captured the fancy of the people. The Superintendent reported to the Board of Education in 1898: "Drawing is hardly appreciated by the people of the country." The drawing supervisor had one box of paints for the whole city, kept in her office and used by any specially favored teacher, but in the supervisor's office. Each teacher divided a 9x12 drawing paper into 8 parts for her young Michelangelos and Da Vincis to use thus sparingly. But the teachers at Number Two were not dismayed in 1897. Only 30 or 40 years ago their parents and the Indians had made their own colors. So could they! They soaked butternuts in water for weeks to get a rich sepia with which their pupils painted. The results are reported as being good. But oh! the smell! Today, under the direction of Mr. Elbert W. Ryerson and Miss Emma L. Gaver, drawing is quite another thing. Besides, a fund provided by Mr. Mathias H. Arnot provides a fairly extensive picture collection in the schools. Gradually, since 1898 our supervisors have increased the popularity of art.
Tho drawing had not caught the fancy of the people, the same could not be said of music. Superintendent Round in 1898 spoke enthusiastically of progress made in music. Two years earlier, Superintendent Evans had written in his report concerning music in the schools, "Most intelligent persons believe now that education consists in developing the whole nature." And "The experiences in vocal music are thoroughly enjoyed by the pupils; and, I believe, are having an elevating and refining effect on their character."
In 1899, Superintendent Round reported that the Number Two School building had been painted outside and the furniture varnished: "The greatly improved conduct of the school in scholarship and discipline had doubtless been aided by the improved appearance of the building." Was Mr. Round ahead of his time, to be theorizing upon a matter which our present-day psychologists advocate as a sure thing?
VI. School Number Three
Parley Coburn School
"Mr. Flynn, it's a sin
Not to let the children in."
Thus sang the pupils of Number Three School in the 1880's when they arrived too early on a cold winter's morning and found themselves locked out. In those days Number Three was the only school in the city south of the Chemung River and many children had to come great distances. Mr. Flynn was the janitor, but he was an important person in the lives of the young people who attended Number Three. Another janitor remembered as having great influence upon the children was Grandpa Gallivan.
The school had had a long history before the 1880's, however. The first building was on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue (then South Lake Street) and Sly's Lane. It was built in 1838. Later, in 1845 the school was moved to a new wooden building on West Hudson Street. That building, which cost the taxpayers of Elmira $1,200, still stands, being used as a storage place.
In 1871 another building was erected just behind where the present Parley Coburn now stands. It cost $37,000 and the contractor made so little on it that his business failed. The opening of this new building was an important event in Elmira's school history and an impressive occasion for the pupils. They were lined up three abreast and marched from the old wooden school to the new one.
In the new school many notable Elmira women taught under the direction of the principal. Mr. Parley Coburn, who had come to Elmira in 1865 to be principal of Number Three. He retained this position for 33 years. He was a capable, conscientious man, --a man among men. He had great influence upon the boys who came under his care holding them up to high ideals and spurring them on to great endeavor.
According to the rules of the Board of Education in 1880 examinations were held twice a year for the teachers. The superintendent had the job of making the examination under the supervision of the teachers' committee of the Board. Teachers were graduated according to the percent they received on the examination. Those in the so-called first grade were the ones who had answered 85% or more of the questions correctly. Those who answered 75 to 85 percent correctly were second-rate teachers, while those receiving between 65 and 75 percent on the tests were third-class teachers. The examination included arithmetic, grammar, geography, familiar science, and miscellaneous questions. Let us see if you could pass the quiz.
In the arithmetic a typical question on this May 1880 test was "When the dividend is concrete will the divisor and quotient be concrete or abstract? Analyze the following example and apply your answer : If 46 men eat 158 lbs. of flour daily, how long will 12,-482 lbs. last them?" or this one: "When it is noon at the prime meridian, where will it be nine and one-half o'clock A.M.?" In grammar the person had to be able to conjugate "I don't sit" in modes and tenses "admitting the contracted, negative emphatic form." Questions from "familiar science" included "What distinguishes an herb from a shrub?" "What is the cause of twilight?" and "Explain why beating carpets cleans them." Under the title miscellaneous were the following questions: "What is the source of the teacher's right to govern and inflict penalties on pupils?" "What is treason?" "How and where do peanuts grow?" "What is the 'Buckeye State'? 'Keystone State', 'Granite State'? Now where do you stand on this test? All the teachers of Number Three had to be able to pass it.
At the nearby corner stores the pupils spent their pennies. The Mirteenes sold home made taffy of delectable flavor, while "Em and Alice's place" had real "store" candy, as well as the more practical slates, pencils, and rulers.
Old Number Three was made up of many groups of differing interests. The "silk stocking crowd" came from Hudson Street. There was also the Button Woods Gang, the Tannery Gang, the Old Number Seventeen Gang, the Northern Central Shop Gang, the Pickaway Gang, and the gang from the Dump, and a gang from the Patch. Rivalry was often sharp among the groups and there was many a bloody nose, but often class distinction was forgotten as they coasted down the hill on barrel staves or geography books.
In 1931 the old Number Three was replaced by a new school named after the beloved principal Parley Coburn. The new school was the first of the new type schools having a large kindergarten room, a gymnasium, an auditorium, cooking room, and shops, a rest room for teachers, and large airy classrooms, among them the ideal three-room library group which has never been used for that purpose. School architecture has progrossed far since the wooden building was built on Hudson Street a century earlier. This new school has been directed by Miss Mary Conley and Mr. Frederick Leverich, who is also principal of the Evening School.
But no matter how fine the present Parley Coburn School may be, the "old boys and girls" still dream of the old days when they skipped to school with slate in hand and some of the Mirteenes' taffy in their cheeks.
VII. School Number Four
George M. Diven School
When free public schools were first opened in Elmira, the pupils of District Four were housed in three small buildings, one at "Pigeon Point," at the junction of Lake and Oak Streets, one on Baldwin Street, and another on the Academy lot. In 1862, while Elmira was still a village, a new brick building was constructed west of Lake Street near the old Junction Canal, which, at one time connected the coal fields of the Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania, with western New York. This school, a few years later known as Primary Number Four, was located near the present Workshop for the Blind.
The School Board of 1862 had wished to do something that would attract people's attention to the public rather than the private schools, because, when the system was organized, only one in every 700 children in Elmira attended the public schools. The new school cost the tax payers $2,992.80. Unfortunately, four years later, the building was burned, but it was immediately replaced by a brick structure, which had four rooms downstairs, and three classrooms and a study hall up. Its faults soon became evident as water from the canal seeped into its cellar so that it had to be filled in with ashes and cinders. Two portable furnaces provided heat to rooms that were small and low, making ventilation very poor. Soon increasing registration made it necessary to house the junior department in a small, one-room frame building in front of the original one. All in all Number Four was not a school toward which the Board of 1872 "could direct strangers with pride."
By 1870, the Elmira public schools had a teaching staff of 65 teachers, a great increase over the 16 employed in 1859. A new Number Four was completed on Division Street in 1875, a very elaborately ornamented building, much admired in its day. In planning the new structure, the Board had proposed that it be fitted with steam heat because such a method was no longer believed to be unsafe. Water closets were favored because of the "unseemly appearance of outside privies." Parents of District Four pupils in the 1870's could complain of "new-fangled" ideas, since in that period, vaccination became compulsory. The Board took a step forward and hired Dr. Frank Abbott, because of the prevalence of smallpox at that time.
A few years after the new school was completed, old Number Four was re-numbered, and, as Number Six, continued to serve the city until 1898.
In 1873, Regents examinations for all Elmira's elementary school pupils were held in the study hall at Number One. Thirty-two children attained passing marks in all subjects that year. Eight of District Four's candidates were successful, but, no doubt, many a pupil scratched his head in despair when this puzzler greeted his eye: Write in words-- 224,000,000,600,317,010. (Pupils then, of course, had no knowledge of our present national debt.)
One of Number Four's earliest principals, Elias Beardsley, was followed by Comfort Brown, who died in 1876. Some Elmirans can still recall a later principal. Professor Norton, as he drove sedately toward school in his phaeton. But, perhaps, the most colorful principal in early years was Miss Jennie Brook who endeared herself to two generations of school children, first as teacher and then as principal. Miss Brook, dressed in her full black skirts, presided over the study hall with her ever-ready rubber ruler, which she kept in waiting, concealed in a long, narrow pocket of a second skirt worn under the top layer. Many a lad later regretted his transgressions after a stern reprimand from Miss Brook.
A system similar to junior high organization was even then used in the seventh, eighth and ninth years at Number Four. All the upper classes were called together for opening exercises in the large study hall, where drums and piano provided the necessary rhythm for classes marching to and from recitation rooms. There one might have seen young Thad Emblen beating on the drum--the same Thaddeus Emblen who later directed the rhythm of young Elmiran's penmanship.
A flight of stairs in old Number Four led up to a third story, which consisted of a barn-like, unfinished room. Here, the pupils, who were forbidden to play on the plot that gave promise of some day becoming a fine lawn, would go for recreation in swings hung from the rafters. Here also, in this barren attic, the delegates to the New York Teachers Association were entertained in 1884 at a luncheon served by the school girls, who had to carry the food up three flights of stairs to the guests.
Still further growth in registration made necessary the addition of an annex of eight rooms in 1902. When the new George M. Diven School was opened in 1930, the old annex was known as the Opportunity School. However, it has since been named in honor of Mr. John R. Harding, the examining psychiatrist.
Serving one of the oldest sections of the city, the new George M. Diven School, which recently has been supervised successively by Principals Orville Butler, Wallace Howell and Lyle Hildreth, may well look back with pride upon Number Four's achievements in Elmira's educational development.
VIII. The N. E. A. in Elmira, New York
THE gavel pounded the oaken desk, President Birdsey Grant Northrup, Secretary of the State Board of Education of Connecticut, called to order the Thirteenth Annual Session of the National Education Association. The place? The Opera House on Lake Street in Elmira. The time? Tuesday, August 5, 1873. Among the speakers were Dr. Charles W. Eliot, president of Harvard University, and Dr. James McCoch, president of Princeton. Mr. George M. Diven, president of the Elmira Board of Education, gave a welcoming speech:
"The present era of the world is distinguished by the preeminence given to the cause of education. No one who has made the slightest observation can have failed to notice how much greater attention is devoted to educational interests now than a few years ago; now they have become subjects, not merely of local, but largely of state and national importance.
"Proportionately to this greatly advanced interest in the cause of education, teaching has grown to be an art; a teacher, one trained in his art--educated expressly for it and devoted to its pursuit. You, who gather here today, are devotees of this art, come together that you may compare your varied experiences, interchange views, and consider how best to advance your calling. As such, we welcome you, and would extend to you every facility in our pwer to aid you in your purpose. We know and feel the importance of the subjects you are to discuss, of the ends you have in view, and of the sacred trust imposed upon you by your calling. You are toilers for the future--reaping far in the future your highest reward. Patient, quiet workers, shut out for the most part from the strifes and turmoils, and debarred the richer material rewards which tempt the many into more demonstrative pursuits, we would by the warmth of our reception make you feel that we do not understand your true worth and position. We trust your meeting may afford you all the pleasure you may have anticipated from it, and in every way fulfill your utmost expectation."
IX. School Number Five
George Washington School
When in 1874, a small, inadequate frame building of four rooms located on the south side of Fifth Street between Columbia and Davis, was deserted for a new $50,000 structure on Washington Avenue, the pupils were indeed proud! Did not the Board of Education consider this fine edifice "a vast stride in advancement which suggested few improvements to be desired in future structures"? Located on a rise of ground, its two stories of brick construction with cut stone trimming rose in elegant splendor accentuated with many turrets, one of which rose to a height of 81 feet. On top of the highest tower was a weather vane on which perched a brass eagle admired from afar by many a youth. On windy days, it seemed that the shiny bird might soar off as it swayed dizzily in the breeze.
Since the "experts" in those days believed that the higher the ceilings the better the ventilation, the rooms in the new building were eighteen feet in height. However, this did not facilitate the heating problem since five furnaces, known as Gold's sanitary heaters, failed to provide sufficient warmth. In order to help remove bad air from the study hall, a wood-burning stove was installed in the tower, but tossing wood up to the third floor was not a favorite occupation of the janitor of that era; hence the ventilation system was a failure.
Old Number Five had every modern improvement of that day; water closets were installed in the basement, while drinking water was available at an iron pump in the school yard, where one could pick up a tin cup from the wooden box with holes in the bottom, and, after drinking, toss the cup back. Later, chains secured the cups to the pump for obvious reasons.
Number Five School could boast of the city's first woman principal, Miss Hannah Rhodes, who served in 1882. In those days the principal was known as the principal teacher and earned about $150 per month.
In the 1880's the pupils in the primary A class did their sums on slates with a hard slate pencil, or, if they were more furtunate, they used a more expensive pencil of soapstone with a shiny cap on it. "High-toned" pupils cleaned their slates with sponges kept in tin containers for the water, but those less meticulous, employed a more vulgar method and wiped slates off with their shirt sleeves. Older pupils pored over the "Analytical Reader," stumbled through Quackenbo's "Arithmetic" or learned definitions from Cornell's "Geography."
Among Number Five's past principals the name of Elias Beardsley, later superintendent of the Elmira system, Alonzo Lewis, William Badger, James C. VanEtten, Robert J. Round, and Frank W. Bartlett are prominent in the memory of Elmirans. Principal Round made popular the stereopicon lectures which he conducted for patrons of District Five in the early 1900's.
The noted prison reformer and writer, Warden Lewis E. Lawes, received some of his early instruction at Number Five, as did also many other prominent Elmirans.
Little did the 1874 Board of Education members dream that some sixty-five years hence, their pride and joy would be replaced by the attractive building known as the George Washington School, principal of which is Mr. J. Gerald Loughlin, formerly principal of the John R. Harding School.
X. School Number Seven
As Elmira's population steadily mounted, relief for crowded conditions as School Three was met in 1890 by the erection of School Seven, now called Riverside. Miss Adella Crane, the eighth grade teacher at School Three, was appointed principal of the new school. To show their esteem, some of her former pupils at School Three presented her with a fine rocking chair, at a farewell party in her honor. Even after her retirement twenty years later, she continued to retain the respect of her many pupils and associates.
Perhaps some Elmirans can still recall the high board fence that separated the old brick school from the "jungle" that is now Riverside Park. That, in turn, may bring to mind the chastisement sometimes necessary when temptation led a few adventurous spirits to jump over the fence and chase the horses pastured there.
A former janitor at Riverside, named Simon Decker, was an inspiration to boys and interested them in working at his bench in the basement. He was very handy and invented ingenious devices that aided the teachers greatly. About the year 1900, fire drills were introduced in the system. Old Number Seven had a homelike entrance, and, here, Mr. Decker installed a bell to be rung for a fire alarm. It was the custom, at that time, for a visiting committee to inspect the schools, and therefore, it so happened one day that an official visitor called at Riverside and unsuspectingly rang the bell. Much to his suprise, he was almost overwhelmed by a sudden onslaught of pupils intent upon a fire drill.
In the first decade of Riverside's existence many improvements were made in Elmira's school system: writing was changed from slant to vertical; teachers were hired by merit alone; and a new truant law was put into operation.
In 1910, Miss Susan Thompson, a woman of most forceful personality, followed Miss Crane as principal. As a progressive educator, she always welcomed new ideas and encouraged literature, art, and music. One term during her administration, all the teachers were induced to take private lessons in the art of folk dancing so that their students might present later a most delightful lawn festival with music provided by a phonograph.
Since she was a firm believer in education of the hand, as well as the mind. Miss Thompson encouraged a class in manual training. It was at Riverside that a class for hand-minded children was held, prior to the opening of the Harding School. At the time of her retirement, Miss Thompson had rounded out fifty years as teacher and principal and had become dean of Elmira's educators.
Although the old Riverside School has been replaced by a handsome, modern school, of which Miss Emma Kingsley is now principal, pupils can still truly say, as did Miss Crane in her farewell speech so many years ago, that "R.S." stands not only for Riverside School, but also for "right spirit."
XI. School Number Eight
In 1893 the city established a new school district on the east side. A new building was to be erected on the site of the old Primary School on Madison Avenue. The old school had been built and occupied in 1878, "affording much relief to the crowded main building of the district (Number One)". At the time, it was considered to be "one of the most shapely and convenient of school buildings." The four teachers remembered there, were Miss Mary Potter, Miss Knapp, Miss Ann Higgins, and Miss Cora Hildebrant.
The new school was to be a 16-room building known as Number Eight. This would relieve both Number One and Number Four schools. It was to be ready for use in 1894.
The first principal was Mr. William H. Benedict. He took charge on the opening date, coming from Number Two School. There were six grades at the opening, but by 1896 it was a full eight-grade grammar school with 16 teachers.
Mr. Benedict was a strict disciplinarian. The children formed lines outside the building and marched in, to the strains of martial music of piano and drum. Teachers were stationed on landings, in halls, and between doors of rooms. No pupil must be out of step. The strap was never on display, but when occasion demanded, it was not spared.
Mr. Benedict was very proud of his school. He often boasted of all the different nationalities and races gathered there. At one time, he had a Chinese boy, several Ukranian pupils, a few Armenians, Syrians, Greeks, Italians, Germans, Polish, Dutch, Russians, Swedes, Americans, Negroes, Negro-Whites. It was the most cosmopolitan group in the city. But the great melting pot which is America, through this school as through all of her schools, has molded hundreds and hundreds of boys and girls into distinguished Americans. Our present Mayor is a graduate of Number Eight; and so is Danny Mathews, better known to all the world as Ellery Queen, Detective.
In 1925 Mr. Benedict, after 31 years of tireless devotion, was obliged to retire because of rapidly failing health. Miss Mullaney, along with her own work, ably ran the school until Mr. Charles Hetherington could be released from his position in Connecticut. Like most new-comers Mr. Hetherington brought about radical changes. He was appointed Director of Grades in 1927. Mr. Arthur E. Bradley was appointed principal in his place and for 17 years was head of the school until, beloved by pupils and teachers alike, he retired. It was with great regret that the school said good-bye to such a patient, understanding head.
Number Eight completed last June, 52 years of service. During its 52 years, the school has had but four principals. Mr. Virgil Langworthy succeeded Mr. Bradley last year.
The atmosphere of the school has always been one of co-operation and harmony. Today as always, School Eight faces gallantly the problem of the amalgamation of "all sorts and conditions of men."
XII. Number Nine School
1946!--A Golden Jubilee !
When 1945 rounds out its full 12 months, Number Nine School will celebrate its 50th anniversary. The school was opened January 1, 1896, with Mr. Theodore Kolb as first principal and head teacher for one year, after which Mr. Charles Wasson became principal with nine teachers. Four years later, in 1901, one Edward D. Hardy took over and administered the school for 41 years until 1942 when Miss Louise Reynders became principal. Mr. Hardy was, during all those 41 years, a vigorous, forceful leader in education in Elmira and was to develop a basic philosophy of education which served well even in a changing world and could hold its own against new and untried theories so numerous in the last two decades.
Number Nine School was often referred to as Mr. Hardy's school and rightly so.
Early in his principalship, the school grounds, once a swale covered with rush and cat-tails, were filled, graded, and made into a playground, the envy of all the south side.
The tall oaks and elms now surrounding the grounds were carried in from near-by woods by his boys and planted on Arbor days and other festive occasions.
Mr. Hardy recalls one very special experience: Under the guidance of Rufus Stanley, on one Friday afternoon in the fall of the year when the leaves were in their prime and the birds were flocking over head, he took the whole school, above the second grade, on a 5-mile hike to the top of South Mountain. It was a glorious and exhilarating experience. The panoramic view of Elmira below, the white clouds floating against a deep blue sky, and the forest coloring must have made for richer and nobler lives among those children.
In the history of Elmira and Elmira's schools a large space should be given to Rufus Stanley and his 4-H club work among the growing boys of our community at that time.
It can be said that he was one of the founders of the YMCA in Elmira as one of its first secretaries in 1886. It was Rufus Stanley, a man with a vision, who founded and started the 4-H clubs right here in Elmira that now flourish clear across our broad land. He was often called to near-by cities to explain and demonstrate the meaning of Head, Heart, Hand, and Health and to organize 4-H clubs there.
Nature study in the schools was at one time, 1899, under the direction of Miss Alice McCloskey of Cornell Bureau of Nature Study. She organized Junior Naturalists Clubs.
In 1910 under Mr. Stanley, for whom Stanley Woods has since been named, the Chemung County Achievement Club, at first known as the Chemung County Agricultural Club "was planted" in Elmira. "The Honorable Mr. J. S. Van Dwyer watered it generously with a contribution of $25 and for three years nurtured the young shoots which sprang up." Regular school hikes developed from this organization. On given days the entire school population left at 10 o'clock for at least one hour's walk. The lower grades walked two miles; 5th and 6th grades, four miles; and 7th and 8th grades, six miles; while the Academy students walked ten miles. The walks were correlated with the work in physical training.
Another inportant club of the time, under Mr. Stanley, was the Omega Club for Working Boys, organized in 1901. The purpose of this club was "to give city boys of limited means the opportunities of country boys--a chance to work."
Out of these clubs grew the 4-H, a kind of advanced degree to membership in the Achievement Club.
The Board of Education demonstrated clear vision and wisdom in having on its payroll Mr. Rufus Stanley, a leader in boys' club work in the schools.
The combination of Superintendent Don Bliss, Mr. Rufus Stanley, and Mr. Edward Hardy could not help but win. All who remember Superintendent Bliss speak spontaneously and admiringly of his keenness and inspiration in making the classroom a living, vibrant thing.
For statistical purposes, Superintendent Bliss asked Mr. Hardy to conduct his arithmetic class for one month without the use of pencil and paper. All work was to be done mentally and orally for training in how to read properly and interpret problems, enumerating succeeding steps and procedures, with approximate results. Tests were given before and after the experiment to prove that there had been much valuable growth during the month. But were those children glad to get hold of a pencil again!
The original Schol Nine comprised 12 rooms, somewhat on the plan of Number Eight. The new addition was formerly opened September 1934 and gave to the school a much needed and appreciated combination Assembly Hall and Gymnasium.
The original old belfry, for safety's sake has been removed but the same old bell rings out its call to the neighboring children to announce the time of day. Long may it ring--a symbol of American Liberty.
1946--the half century mark of Number Nine School. All but nine of those years, the school presided over by Mr. Edward Hardy. Surely it would be appropriate were the school to be named and henceforth known as the Edward D. Hardy School of Elmira.
XIII. School Number Ten
THIS is the Centennial Year of School Ten.
In 1895 Elmira's expansion northward resulted in the school system's bringing forth a tenth offspring in the form of an attractive two-story structure on Thurston Street. At first three teachers were sufficient to instruct the pupils of the five grades that assembled in Number Ten, but, by 1903, the school had grown up. Four rooms had been completed on the second floor, and the building was considered a credit to the city, so fine was its appearance. Its recessed steps and vestibule proved so attractive to spooners that the unromantic Board of Education deemed it necessary to embellish the entrance with an ornate iron gate, which was locked at nightfall.
The ever-growing city, which by 1900 had a population of 35,000, made necessary many changes in the educational system. Superintendent of Schools, C.F. Walker, ever alert to new ideas, ini 1903 recommended school baths, especially in Schools One, Five, and Ten. "In these schools," he said, "it is easy enough to find children whose bodies are actually dark-colored because of neglect in cleanliness, and one may easily assume that total abstinence in bathing is scrupulously observed from fall to spring."
A teacher's training class, which in previous years had been conducted at other schools, was conducted at Number Ten by Miss Esther Satterlee. Teachers were trained here for one year, and, after passing examinations, were often later employed in Elmira's schools. At that time teachers' salaries ranged from $250 to $480 per year.
The idea of free textbooks was opposed by both the superintendent and the school board of 1900 on the grounds of health, responsibility, and decency. "Why not furnish free clothing and food?" said one superintendent. However, in his annual report he proved that he was progressive since he advocated manual training and was of the opinion that girls should be taught about the duties of the home, such as building fires and scrubbing sinks.
The first principal of School Ten, too, was a person with a sincere interest in children. It was Miss Susan Thompson, later principal at Riverside, who instituted garden projects in the school yard, which as yet ungraded. The children vied with each other too see which room could grow the best vegetables. Miss Thompson, a naturalist herself introduced bird study, and many a hike was enjoyed by principal and pupils after school hours. Miss Thompson was succeeded by Miss Esther Saterlee and later by Miss Laura Manley. Since Miss Manley's retirement in 1944, Mr. John McWilliams has been acting principal.
After five decades, Number Ten still stands, a symbol of the interest Elmira took in the education of its youth in the fading years of the 19th century.
XIV. School Number Eleven
FOR 30 years since Elmira opened her first district grammar school, the growth of the city had been west as well as south and north. Grove Street had ceased to be the western boundary. School Number Two no longer could accommodate the west side population.
In September 1907, the new Number Eleven School was opened with Mr. F.C. Ruffhead as principal with 3 grades and 3 teachers--the primary grades. Though the school was large enough for 10 classes, the introduction of the grades was gradual, beginning with the primary, in accordance with the practice of relieving congestion by means of opening additional primary grades, that the littlest ones need not walk so far.
By 1904, the number of grades had been increased to 8. In that year, the first class was graduated. According to the Black Book (each school kept its records in a huge, ledger-type, black book, until about 1912, when Superintendent Don Bliss introduced the card system) according to the Black Book, the subject of that first graduation was 'Evangeline.'
1905---Children of Japan
1907---A Second Trial
1911---On the Death of Lincoln, by Henry Ward Beecher
1912---The Name of Old Glory, by Riley
1914---The Lost Child---John Ryley Robinson
The 1910 class song was "A Belated Violet." In that year, Mr. Bliss introduced the mid-year promotion.
It was in one of the first years of this school that Susie, the same who as a little girl wanted the Whittier tree and School Two, was assigned to substitute at Number Eleven during her training school days. She was admonished to wear her hair up and her skirts down, that she might the more look the part she was learning to play. In the principal's office that first morning, besides the principal, was a bunch of switches tied over the desk, right handy for good use.
Among the more recent principals, Miss Cooper, Mr. Edson, later principal of Southside High School, Mr. Romayne, now director of elementary grades, Mr. Frank Bartlett, at present principal of Thomas K. Beecher School, and Miss Mary Conley, now at Number Eleven, may have wished often that a bunch of switches ready for use could have continued to adorn the office upstairs.
For a long time Number Eleven was known as the "Silk Stocking" School because those building new homes in the district were possessors of a fair degree of this world's goods.
Number Eleven was to have an addition as time wore on--a capacious kindergarten room, kitchen, and assembly room as well as two regular class rooms. In 1942 one class room was converted into a pleasant library room, as part of the city-wide program to equip all elementary schools with a centralized library in charge of a trained librarian. As yet the school has no suitable play room nor gymnasium.
The Number Eleven kindergarten was the first in the Elmira public schools, introduced about 1913. At that time the Parent-Teacher Association first taught the vision of the great creative field of co-operation possible between parent and teacher. The first outstanding project of the Elmira organization was the establishing of a kindergarten at Number Eleven. Since the Board of Education could not be persuaded, after much argument, to initiate the movement, the P-TA with the Board's permission, financed the equipping of a room and the hiring of a qualified teacher for three months. After that time, the Board, convinced of its worth, assumed responsibility for its maintenance.
Number Eleven P-TA pioneers led the city in fighting for special departments and special equipment, even to investing association funds when the Board has been slow to adopt new ideas.
Number Eleven was the last of the elementary school districts. For nearly 50 years accommodation for increasing population has been made by additions to existing elementary schools. We are now well along in another period of overcrowding. In the parlance of the day, "Here we go again"--continuing the recurring cycles of overcrowding and building.
XV. Southside High School
IN 1924, at the end of January, 933 eager teen-age boys and girls walked expectantly into a brand new building--the new South Side High School. It was a brand new building! In fact, it was so new that the plaster still smelled and many of the "finishing touches" such as lights and clocks had to be installed after school opened.
This did not dampen the enthusiasm, however, nor diminish the zeal of the pupils and teachers, for it was not the new building that put its stamp upon the character of Southside High, but the man who had been chosen to be its principal. Mr. Frank Edson, the principal of Number Eleven School, was elevated to the leadership of Southside through the wisdom of Superintendent Harvey O. Hutchinson. Mr. Hutchinson had the knack of selecting good men and women to fill positions of responsibility.
Mr. Edson was interested in the growth and development of every boy and girl under his jurisdiction. When the first graduating class presented to the school the flagpole, in accepting it, Mr. Edson made a very characteristic statement, when he said that he hoped that each senior would be like it in years to come, standing staunch and true.
His idealism was contagious, as all who entered the school during his administration could realize. In the 1931 yearbook a student well expressed the spirit. "I believe in Southside High School as an ideal institution in which the boys and girls of Elmira may be educated; a place where they may learn the joy of study, the delight of acquaintanceship with books, the discipline of intelligent learning, and the excitement of studying the world with an open mind. I believe in Southside's teaching that no achievement is worthy of high respect unless it goes hand in hand with accuracy, reliability, honor, truth; and that service is the privilege and responsibility of the honest student.
"I believe that Southside High School is the great lamp which lights the way for me and all its students to live an honest, serviceable, and beautiful life."
The Southside High, through the efforts and ideals of Mr. Hutchinson and Mr. Edson, marked a milestone in educational growth of Elmira. The school had three departments, academic, commercial, and vocational. These were welded together on an equal basis into a unified school.
The Elmira Vocational School had been opened in 1913 in the building that had been Number Six, near the D. L. & W. Railroad. There boys had been taught pattern making, cabinet making, wood working, plumbing, heating, and drafting. The school was under the direction of Mr. Clifford McNaught, who later followed Mr. Edson as principal of Southside High School. The Vocational School was financed partly by local and state funds, and partly by the federal government. Each boy spent three hours a day in training for his chosen vocation and three hours a day in related book work. This school was the foundation for the vocational department at Southside High.
Mr. McNaught retained direction of the vocational department, while Mr. Clifford Harding had charge of the commercial department and Mr. Osmond Wall of the academic department. Today the vocational department of all schools is under the direction of Mr. David Allee, while Mr. Harding and Mr. Wall also administer city-wide departments.
Another feature of the school, unique in the locality, was the six-year division. Pupils entered as seventh graders and stayed through their twelfth year. It was a junior-senior high school. This plan was later abandoned and Southside is now, like the Academy, a four-year school, the seventh and eighth grades being centered as junior high schools in Beecher, Diven, Coburn, and Washington.
Southside High School was a busy place!! Friday was a day to anticipate keenly, not because it was the last day of school for the week, but because it was the day for assembly. The assemblies were so varied and so well presented that the whole school looked forward to them. The teachers of all subjects, English, shop, home economics, music, physical expression, worked together for weeks to produce fine programs when their turns came. Many places were written by the students, and those who produced them, both teachers and pupils, could look upon them with justifiable pride.
Most of the teachers also sponsored other activities. There were classes whose organization taught the pupils to take care of business affairs and to employ correct social procedure. There were many other organizations: an honor society, a debating club, the student council, glee clubs, dramatic clubs, a craftsman's guild, the ushers' club, a sketch club, and many others. Each was designed to interest and train some group of pupils.
In 1935 the year book was named the Edsonian in honor of the first principal, who had died in 1932. A tribute to the effectiveness of his philosophy is expressed in the dedication of this book: "Mr. Edson viewed his school as a valuable asset to the community and strove to make it so. It is our hope that, as Southside High School students are future citizens of Elmira, so may Mr. Edson's name be a permanent symbol of those ideals of thinking and conduct which he desired for all true Southsiders."
XVI. America at War
THIS has been the fourth major war that the Elmira school system has experienced. In 1862 the pupils of the Academy looked out upon the drills of the soldiers carried on under the windows of the school. In 1898 the boys were just getting accustomed to the idea of war and beginning to enlist when the war was over. 1917! America sent men to Europe, but high school boys were too young to go. They held war jobs at home and girls knitted for the soldiers and sailors. Teachers worked in the summer at unusual jobs, one woman high school teacher even surveying local railroad tracks.
1941! War again, and this time the schools have been affected as never before. Even before America was attacked, the Elmira schools felt the heavy burden of a world at war.
Between 1940 and the present year, 12,000 men and women were trained by the public schools for work in war plants. The high schools and the Ground School had classes 24 hours a day preparing these men and women. Without that work the local plants producing munitions of war would have been badly handicapped because of lack of trained workers.
Superintendent of Schools Oscar F. Kerlin has been untiring in his devotion to this branch of service in the public schools. Now that the war is at an end the Board of Education has set up a plan for retraining returning veterans.
Through the efforts of the schools, nearly $620,000 worth of war stamps and bonds have been sold to help buy munitions for 10,000 boys and girls who left Chemung County to fight for our liberties. Of these, more than 300 gave their lives for us. To realize what this means, consider that in the 1945 graduating class of 148 at Southside High School, only 41 were boys; whereas ordinarily, there would have been about 100 boys.
The Junior Red Cross has done its part, too. They have enrolled the pupils of the city 100% and have produced for the comfort and help of our sick and wounded service men and women 25 afghans, 322 utility bags, 38 writing boards, 20 shuffle board sets, 90 ash trays, 14 lap boards, 500 Christmas cards, 250 tray napkins for invalided soldiers. Besides making these and many, many more items, the Juniors raised over $600 for their work.
When it became necessary for mothers to work in munitions plants or to hold other jobs, it was the Elmira school system that established child care centers, where children have been competently cared for and mothered.
Everyone knows of the strenuous efforts on the part of all to make a good showing in the Scrap Paper Drive-- over 4 1/2 million pounds collected by school children.
In the first two years of the war, the public school teachers of Elmira gave about 75,000 hours of voluntary service toward the war effort. Rationing, canteen work, motor corps service, knitting, office work, home nursing, aid in hospitals, air raid warden duty and watching, and registering men for the armed forces occupied after-school and week-end hours of large numbers of the teachers.
Yes, the Elmira schools have done their part in the war so that future generations of our boys and girls will be able to live out their lives in peace and usefulness in this community.