Thursday, September 13, 2018

The School Day Circa 1920

The last post described what the school buildings and classrooms were like circa 1920.  This post will draw on documents in the Benton County Museum's archives to describe what the school day was like and what students of that era learned.
Alpine, Oregon school bell

Many of the school days began with the ringing of a bell.  This one from the museum's collection was used at the Alpine School in the early 1920s.  George Oakes, who taught grades 6-8, would ring the bell in the morning and 15 minutes early at noon for the upper grades as they had to get the wood and do chores.  

At Corvallis's North (Franklin) School the principal struck a triangle instead of ringing a bell.  The students lined up by class and marched to their classrooms to a march played on the piano by one of the teachers. According to an account by Doris Wiese Thomas Dreger, the day with the students standing by their desks until greeted by the teacher who then ”...took out her pitch pipe, blew a note, and we began singing lustily:
                'Good morning to you, good morning to you. We're all in out places with sunshiny faces, For this is the way to start a new day, This is the day to be happy and gay.' As we grew older, this song was substituted with “America” and the flag was a great honor to be chosen to lead the salute for a week at a time.” 

Warren King's account of Sunnyside School days notes that “We did have to raise out hands (or not) as every morning we were asked if we had brushed out teeth and washed our hands and face.  On good days we would raise the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance outside."

Doris Dreger remembered some of the things they learned in first grade.  Her teacher “...gave me a fine start in phonics and reading.  I learned the sounds well and unhesitatingly tackled many syllable words.  We sat in little chairs in the front of the room while she drilled us on the phonics chart.

“We began cursive Palmer method of writing with ink from the start.  It featured the large muscles of the arm pushing and pulling while the little finger rested on the paper.  There was no finger movements and the pen was grasped very lightly....We learned to write the upper and lower case letters and all the figures to 100 as well as to say them aloud.  We learned to tell time.”

She also remembers that in second grade they learned to add and subtract and had weekly spelling lists of 20 words.

In third grade “...we learned our multiplication tables through the 9's.  We were drilled and drilled on these....No counting on our fingers...the emphasis was mental arithmetic and push for speed."

She also remembered that sixth grade they used “...the Perry Art miniature pictures of great artists of the past.  We kept a composition book ...and wrote briefly about the author and time of painting.”

Seventh grade was taught by Mr. L. D. Griffee, the principal, who “had a way of telling stories to make geography come alive....This is the year we took the state examination in geography.”
Other state examinations were given in the eighth grade. A copy of the 1925 test is given below.
1925 State of Oregon agricultural
questions for 8th grade diplomas

1925 State of Oregon spelling
questions for 8th grade diplomas
1925 State of Oregon history
questions for 8th grade diplomas

1925 State of Oregon math questions
for 8th grade diplomas
A student needed to a score of 90 percent or better to receive the graduation certificate. How did you do?

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Benton County Schools

It's September—back to school time!  I wondered what schools were like in the circa 1920 (1914-15 to 1924-5) period covered by the Benton County Museum's current exhibition.  I consulted the museum's archives and Marlene McDonald's book, When School Bells Rang.  I was surprised to find how many school districts there were in the county (as many as 66 at one time) and how many of them were served by a single school, often with only one room for grades 1 to 8.  In rural areas, schools such as that at Aldergrove, three miles north of Hoskins, a single room school served the 10 to 30 students that lived close enough to walk or ride a horse. 

Aldergrove school, 1915
In addition to transportation issues, the cities encompassed a much smaller area circa 1920 so schools that today we might think of as in a city, were then part of separate school districts.  Examples of districts outside the Corvallis city limits of the times include Sunnyside (school near 9th and Elks Drive), Witham (school on Witham Hill beyond the cemetery), and Lincoln (in what is now south Corvallis).
Witham School, Benton County, Oregon
What also surprised me was how many students of the circa 1920 era attended school in relatively new buildings.   The districts with schools built  in 1910 to 1925 include Alpine, Auxiliary, Beaver Creek, Bellfountain, Fairplay, Fern Ridge, Fir Grove, Greenberry, Hazel Glen, Hoskins, Independent, Irish Bend, Lincoln, Monroe, Mountain View, Pleasant Valley, Roy Rickard, Devitt, Sunnyside.  In addition to building a high school in 1909, the Corvallis district added three new elementary buildings:  the 8 room South or Roosevelt School (1912), Washington or East School (now the Benton Center) in 1923-24 and Harding or West School in that same year. The Central School then became the junior high school. Philomath added the four-classroom West School in 1900 and a high school in 1911.
Philomath Public School, Benton County, Oregon
What were these schools like on the inside?
The museum's archives contain a manuscript written by Warren King that describes his time at Sunnyside School. “I started school at Sunnyside, District 45, Benton County, sometime in early September of the year 1918....It was a one room, eight class school.  As I remember, there were four rows of desks and about eight to a row with most of the smaller desks in front....The room was heated by a wood-burning heating stove.  I believe the teacher received five dollars extra a month for coming early and building the fire. The students split most of the kindling and cleaned blackboards and erasers....The restrooms were outhouses—a new one was built about 1920, but it didn't do the boys much good as the teacher assigned it to the girls and herself...”
Sunnyside School, Benton County, Oregon
City schools were somewhat different.  The archives contain several manuscripts describing Corvallis's North or Franklin School.  The school was originally built on Sixth Street in 1903 to relieve congestion at the Central School.  It was cut in half and moved to a lot across from the current Franklin School in 1909 to make room for the high school.

North School, Corvallis, Oregon
In North-Franklin School 1919-1926, Doris Wiese Thomas Dreger says “Our rooms were conducive for learning. We were comfortable from many radiators of steam heat in each room.  The furnace in the basement burned large slab wood and was fired by the janitor....Black blackboards lined two walls and part of a third.....Above the blackboards was a cork strip for posting pupils' good work, pictures, the alphabet and numbers in the lower grades, etc...Below the blackboards was beautiful wood paneling....The floors were wooden. The janitor soaked them in oil about every week to keep down the dust...I think the desks were fastened to thick boards so they could be moved for floor cleanup and for adding and re-arranging the desks.”  She also noted that there was “a wonderful large playshed” available for the children to play in on rainy days. Doris lived on a farm somewhat over a mile north of the city limits and was actually in the Witham School District.  But to get there when the roads were impassable (“about seven months of the year”) required a much longer round-about route, so her parents paid sixty dollars for their three children to attend Corvallis schools.
Alice Anderson Herrick Jensen Teeter also attended North-Franklin School and writes “at the south side of the building on the second floor they put in a slide for fire drills.  I think that came when I was in the sixth grade (1924).”  She also notes that “we had regular inside toilets in the basement—one for girls and a separate one for boys....In the room we had a pencil sharpener, world globe, some books, and sometimes decorations on the windows....I believe there were charts that either pulled down like a shade or flipped over.”
The 1915 photograph below shows of one of the 4 classrooms in the 2-story Alsea School of 1909.
Alsea School, Benton County, Oregon
By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Corvallis Chickens

Now that the forest fire smoke has cleared out, I’ve been writing while sitting outside on my deck.  One problem with this is that I get distracted watching the neighbor’s chickens running around freely in their backyard.  These chickens are attractive but not the same as those that made Benton County famous in the period circa 1920.  Those chickens were mostly white leghorns.

The growth of the local poultry business followed the establishment in 1907 of a poultry department at Oregon State University (then Oregon Agricultural College) under the leadership of James Dryden.  Dryden believed, as others did not, that selective breeding would result in more productive chickens.  Others had tried but failed. But by 1913, the OSU Poultry farm had improved both the White Leghorns and Barred Rocks and a hybrid call “Oregons.”

Oregon Agricultural College poultry farm 
One chicken, called Lady McDuff, won a lot of recognition for the program by laying a record-setting 303 eggs in 1913. The change was dramatic as the average hen then produced less than 100 eggs per year.   Newspapers around the country carried stories about this feat. She was not the only productive hen. Pens of OAC chickens also laid more eggs than other pens at the Panama Pacific Exhibition and at other egg-laying contests.

In 1911, Jess Hanson came to Oregon to work under Dryden at the agricultural experiment station.  In 1913, he established his own poultry farm on land along Western Blvd. in Corvallis.

He acquired stock from the OAC program and then commenced his own breeding program, developing the Hanson Strain of White Leghorns which produced over 200 eggs per year and won numerous egg-laying competitions

He incubated the eggs and sold over 105,000 baby chicks to buyers, making Hanson’s the largest business of its kind in the state.
The success of these two breeding programs attracted others to open their own poultry businesses in the area.

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon