Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Army Communications Circa 1920

The advent of trench warfare plus the development of machine guns, tanks, and airplanes during World War I created problems in communications even within one country's forces. Because the trenches of opposing forces were often relatively close, visual signals were easily intercepted and exposed the sender to machine gun fire. The allies turned to telephone and telegraph communication which required stringing thousands of miles of wire, a slow and dangerous task. 

The photograph shows a U. S. Army Signal Corps service buzzer, manufactured by the Stromberg-Carlson Telephone Manufacturing Company of Rochester, New York.

This battery-operated device could be used to send either telephone or telegraph messages.  Telegraph signals were considered more secure and easier to understand if sent under heavy (noisy) bombardment. These devices required constant monitoring and were less useful in battle when the army advanced beyond the lines or when the lines were cut or destroyed by bombing. Without good communication rapidly advancing troops had no way to let heavy artillery units know their location, sometimes resulting in shelling by their own forces.

Wireless radio sets of the era were too bulky to be easily carried and were difficult to tune when there were many frequencies operating in the same area. Radio technology improved near the end of the war but much of the development of wireless communication took place in the following decade.

Sometimes the solution was a return to an earlier technology—the sending of messengers by homing pigeons. The U. S. Army had over 600 pigeons in France. The pigeons successfully delivered about 95 percent of the messages given them.  In one instance, a group of soldiers who were surrounded by the enemy and out of supplies and encountering friendly fire sent a message out with their last homing pigeon.  The pigeon made it to headquarters in spite of being shot in the breast, blinded in one eye, and with a leg that was almost completely severed.  The bird, Cher Ami, lived and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. Click on the following URL for a picture of Cher Ami at the Smithsonian.

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

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 salute....it 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