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Byesville High, Part 3
Written July 7, 2009

 

Background:  I'm serving as ghostwriter for my late mother's "memoir" of her high school days in Ohio from 1927 to 1931.  My main source:  the 23 issues that she saved of the Byesville High School student newspaper, The Blue and White.

In Part 1, Ann Buckingham told about such matters as the principal and the radio fad.  There was also a column she wrote for the paper about the unruly crowd at a basketball game.

In Part 2, BHS won a basketball championship, Ann won the title of prettiest girl in school, and she also won a boyfriend, Durward McKee.

In this final installment:  plays, poetry, and humor.

 

In January of 1930, The Blue and White quoted some funny advertisements that had appeared in other papers.  For example, “Bulldog for sale; will eat anything; very fond of children.”

But their own ads were sometimes unintentionally funny.  The Guernsey Hardware Company offered “Wash Ba3ins.”  The First National Bank said, “We invite your parsonage.”  And the City Restaurant, whose ad for some reason included a little picture of an upside-down airplane, reminded folks to “Ask for a hot sandwitch.”

In that same issue, the paper also ran a list of New Year’s resolutions, proposed by a sophomore, Tom Frame.  Here are some of them, slightly edited.

Before giving an exam, the Faculty resolve to deprive themselves of all books, notes, etc., and take said test.  In case the teacher makes a grade of 5% or more, the test shall be given to the class.  They also resolve to see that the words in biology are written in English, and to have a drinking fountain and pencil sharpener at each desk.

By the end of that month, Tom actually did convince the school to install pencil sharpeners in the classrooms, although only one sharpener per room.  The paper reported, “This new arrangement is proving very unpopular with some of the students as they no longer have an excuse to go to the hall, for a ‘conference’ with a fellow or sister student.  This suggestion has put Tom on the unpopular list for the present.”

The Sophomores resolve to have a better line of excuses to offer when caught loitering in Freshmen rooms, as the present ones are so well known by the members of the faculty that they can repeat them a word ahead of us.  We also resolve, when in the library, to be armed with a reference book, paper and pencil in case the Bull of the Woods — pardon me, Scourfield — comes in, and to increase our vocabulary of names to hurl at that vulgar, inferior, insignificant, sordid, unrefined, vernacular, plebeian, subordinate, trivial, contemptible, insinuating, ingratiating janitor who comes in and blames us for crimes which other people do — such as scattering paper on the floor or failing to clean our feet.


The janitor was “Ike,” or more formally, Mr. Isaac Lightowler, D.C., the Custodian of Buildings.  The D.C. was an honorary title conferred by the students.  It meant Dirt Chaser.

We never saw Ike all dressed up in a coat and tie like this, but one Sunday afternoon he was prevailed upon to go to Cox’s Photo Studio and have a portrait made for The Blue and White. 

Practically all the girls in school were members of the Girls’ Chorus, which numbered almost 80 singers.  In October they chose half of us for a smaller group, the Girls’ Glee Club.  We practiced every Monday after school, at 3:45.

Then in January of 1930, Miss Elizabeth Craft selected me and five other Glee Club girls for an even smaller ensemble, the Girls’ Sextette.  Our first performance was before 350 people at the County Teachers Meeting on February 1.  At the afternoon session, we sang “My Task,” “Rose of My Heart,” and “Can’t You Hear Me Callin’, Caroline?”  Then we sang three other selections for the High School Commencement in May.

I was also part of an Octette that our class put together for our Junior Assembly on February 22.  We gave this “entertainment” in the high school auditorium.  The program began with a Scripture lesson and prayer.  (In those days, people didn’t see anything wrong with preaching and praying in the public schools.)  Then there were two short plays, three solos, and a couple of monologues, including Bernard Heskett on “The Art of Kissing.”  Our Octette sang half a dozen songs interspersed throughout the program.

And I finally got to be on stage.  After a long series of tryouts, Miss Craft and Miss Nicholson chose me to be in the operetta that we presented at 8:15 pm on March 28.  It was called In the Garden of the Shah and was set in Persia, or Iran as we call it nowadays.

I played the Shah’s daughter’s nurse, an old woman by the name of Nowobeh who was also a sorceress.  Not only that, my character had an eye for the hero’s servant, a black man named Sam.  He was played by Bernard Heskett, wearing blackface makeup.  That’s me and Bernie in the center of this picture, between the lanterns.  We sang a duet in the second act, “What We Were and What We Are.”

The Home Economics classes helped with the costumes, but most of them were rented from the Kampmann Company in Columbus.  Durward McKee was one of the soldiers in the chorus.  Admission was 35¢ and 50¢.

Speaking of blacks, there was a little boy in the area who went around giving performances as a comedian.  Here’s what The Blue and White reported about the upcoming Alumni Banquet.  “Prof. Calvin Ball, the colored orator, of Battle Ridge Seminary, Center Township, Guernsey County, Ohio will also appear on the program and give a number of negro dialect selections as only Prof. Ball can give them.  Calvin is a pupil in the grades at the above school and has acquired a reputation as an interpreter of the humor of his race.”

There was an artist in town by the name of Howard Blanchard Potts, or “H.B. Potts” as he was known.   He painted landscapes and pets, and he designed the Snow Drop pattern for Cambridge Pottery.  Mostly, though, he wrote poetry.  Some of his poems were published in The Blue and White after they had appeared in the Cincinnati Times-Star.  Here are a couple, reflecting on the difficulties of his art.

THE PROSPECTOR

I
Pan,
Lustfully,
The barren sands
Of my poor claim—
An inheritance—
For the gold
Of poetry.

I
Delve
Delightfully,
Yet discouragingly.
It is unproductive,
But
I still hope
To find
A nugget or two.

I
Observe
Rich claims
And their products
And covet them.
But
An inherent
Honesty
And desire
For originality
Deters me
From filching
One frail fragment
Of their rich dust
Knowingly.

I
Have found
Much fool’s gold
On my claim.

DESIRES

As
Clattering
Copper coins
Are my crude songs;

O, that I might
Make them to ring,
Like the musical jingle
Of singing silver!

Then—

Perhaps
The tender
Transmuting years
Might murmur
My melancholy musings;

And—

In the misty tomorrows,
Make them
Classic gold!

On a lighter note, Lulu Hadley, one of my classmates, wrote this “Vegetarian Love Song.”

She beets all other girls by far.
Oh, dear, lettuce have peas!
Her face, some people caul-i-flower.
Her beauties never cease.

Her radish cheeks and turnip nose
Make my love sprout anew.
She’s bean a memory dear to me,
But I feel pumpkin blue.

She is so very popular
I cannot even date her!
But cheese the girl for me, I know,
And I’d be glad to-mater.

I’d give the world if she could see,
But squash! goes every hope.
She’s 18-carrot gold to me;
Too bad we cantaloupe.

Here’s something else from The Blue and White.  You know that saying about what to do if life hands you a lemon?  This must be the unabridged version.  “If you hand a pessimist a lemon, it sours him on the human race; but if you hand an optimist a lemon, he will increase his daily earnings by adding some sugar and water to it and dispose of it as lemonade.”

Mr. Davis was handed a lemon one morning.  He was the Manual Arts instructor, and he almost cut his thumb off on a circular saw.  They had to take him to the Wells Hospital in Cambridge to get stitches, and he missed several days of school.

On Friday, April 11, 1930, Mr. E.R. Cox came to school to take pictures.  He got this one of the Girls’ Sextette.  I’m on the right, standing next to the other alto, Addah Armstrong.

The following Friday was Good Friday, and the Ministerial Association held special services in the various school buildings.  The pastors of Byesville started preaching to us at 2:30 that afternoon.

The Friday after that was Arbor Day, and again we conducted special exercises in all the buildings.  At the High School, the Biology Class was in charge.  Everyone was supposed to plant at least one tree, according to Governor Cooper’s proclamation.

And the following evening, Saturday, April 26, we juniors hosted the annual Junior-Senior Banquet.  I was on the decorating committee.   (I believe you were on that same committee for your Junior-Senior, weren’t you, Tom?)

 

SENIOR YEAR

For 1930-31, part of the Center Township School District was added to our district.  Byesville High School set a new record that fall with 243 students.  That was double the enrollment of ten years before.

Breaking it down by classes, my senior class had 40 members, of which 23 were girls and 17 boys.   Then there were 41 juniors, 57 sophomores, and a huge mob of 105 freshmen who took up all the room upstairs.

The first day of school was September 2, and on September 5, freshmen were still wandering around in the halls looking for their classrooms.  I don’t know where they all came from.  There must have been a local baby boom in 1916, for some reason.

We continued to achieve close to perfect attendance, except when the flu epidemic hit in March.  Then there were as many as 35 high school students absent at a time.  According to a satirical “Faculty News” column, “A.C. Scourfield is hunting for a substitute excuse writer.  For the past few days most of his activity has consisted of writing excuses for pupils who claimed they had all been sick.  Anyone desiring this position, please inquire at the office and 500 excuse blanks will be given him.  A contest will be held and the position given to the fastest writer.”

There were still 12 teachers on the faculty, but Miss Craft, the Supervisor of Music, moved to St. Clairsville and Miss Merriam Chenoweth was promoted to take her place.  Miss Chenoweth had a degree from West Virginia University.

In the fall of 1930, there was a big push to get the voters to approve a renewal of a three-mill tax levy for operating expenses.  This was during the Great Depression, so a lot of folks had lost their jobs.  However, the school board told us that without this renewal, our school would lose its charter and we would no longer be accredited.  Fortunately, on November 4 the levy did pass, and by a 3-to-1 margin.

Nearly half the boys in high school, about 50 of them, turned out for the start of basketball practice on November 17.  But there were some key players missing.  I forget the reason behind it, but Paul Peyton, our star from the year before, wasn’t on the team this year, and neither was Durward. 

When they drew up the basketball schedule for 1930-31, they used a less haphazard method.  The dates and places were all decided before any school knew when, where or whom they would play.  For example, Team 6 was scheduled to visit Team 2 on a certain Friday night.  Then a representative of each of the county’s seven Class B high schools drew a number, and that school took the place of that number on the schedule.

Every team played every other twice, home and away, mostly on Fridays.  With an odd number of teams, on each league night there was one team with an open date, which they could use to play a school from outside the county.  Outside opponents could also be played on Saturday nights.  We scheduled Cambridge on a Friday and Newcomerstown and Caldwell on Saturdays.

Byesville High School had never had a school emblem, until we held a vote at the end of January.  From then on, our team would be known as the Byesville Falcons.

But it didn’t help.  Despite the new bird on their uniforms, our players just weren’t as good as the year before.  The Falcons finished with an 8-9 record and then lost in the first game of the county tournament.

We received our senior class rings and pins in November of 1930.  That was a sign that graduation day was not far away.  Maybe we seniors started coasting downhill, academically speaking.  I became a part-time target in a ring-toss game, according to a little column that The Blue and White ran that month.

As “Snooping Susy” made the rounds of the various session rooms during the eighth period one day this week, she tarried longer in the Senior room, and herein gives a report of the Senior activities at the time.

Richard Kilpatrick, with a ring from his note-book, was trying to throw it over Ann Buckingham’s first finger.  Bill Finley was writing a French letter.  Rachel Riddle powdered her nose, while Marjorie Tucker combed her hair.  Verle McLaughlin was talking to himself, while Dave Burt was fast asleep.  Harold Laurer asked to get a drink of water.  (We’re glad he named the aqua pura.)  Eldon Braden dissected an Ingersoll watch, and Lillian Watson was STUDYING.  The remaining thirty Seniors were admiring their newly acquired class jewelry.

In other humor, a “Faculty News” column reported, “For several weeks now Ila Nicholson, instructor in dramatics, has been trying to do two things:  occupy an easy chair by the radio in the office, and impress the value of concentration upon the minds of the less ambitious members of the Senior Class.  She remarked that she almost wished she had an Austin Car to convey her on the many trips she is forced to make, in chasing the scattered members of the Senior flock back into their room.”

And someone called “The Style Editor” gave a fashion preview of our commencement, to be held in May, by going on at great length about the standard suits, shirts, and shoes the boys would wear.

It promises to be a promising affair in view of the many costumes to be worn by a bevy of senior boys.  Much time and energy have been devoted to planning every detail of their ensemble.  The three-piece suits will undoubtedly plan an important role in outfits worn by the men.  Wool in a great variety of weaves and patterns will appear as the most popular fabric.

Semi-fitted line and wide lapels stamp the coat of the stunning creation which David Burt will wear.

Richard Kilpatrick will add chic to his commencement costume by wearing one of the cotton fabric blouses of the tuck-in variety.

Smart Oxfords, either in brown or black and white, will strike the keynote in accessories.  Style enthusiasts are eagerly waiting to see whether Welcome Reed chooses the three- or four-eyelet patterns in footwear.

The girls of the class will wear the conventional white.

The December 19 edition of The Blue and White was dedicated to the oldest member of the faculty and one of the most popular, Dan R. Wallace, who taught Commercial courses.  He would turn 71 on Christmas Day.  His age made him the “dean of Guernsey County’s teachers,” but he was also “the life of any high school function and our most ardent fan at the athletic contests,” in Superintendent Nicholson’s words.

There was some talk that Prohibition should be repealed so that people could once again legally drink alcohol nationwide, but on January 6, we heard a talk given by Mr. Shreiver of the Anti-Saloon League.  He was against repeal, of course.  Then on January 23 there was a Temperance Day observance.

Our Junior-Senior Banquet was held at the Cambridge Country Club.  That was quite an upgrade from the previous year's dinner at the high school that our class, as juniors, had put on.  This year, we were the honored guests.  There were roses and candles on the tables, and dinner music while we were eating.  Then speeches were given by some of the students and all of the faculty.  Durward was the toastmaster.  Afterwards, the tables were removed and we had dancing and games for the rest of the evening.

I got to appear in one last play before I graduated.  It was our senior class play, Cat o’ Nine Tails, a mystery.  I played Theodora Maitland, a friend of the family who ran a lodge in northern Maine.  Again I had a lot of fun.  (And that’s why later, when you were in high school, Tom, that I urged you to try out for the plays.)

Our final days went by in a rush.  The senior play was on Thursday evening, May 14.  The Baccalaureate services were on Sunday evening, May 17.  And the Commencement was on Thursday evening, May 21.  At the Commencement, our Senior Girls’ Sextette sang “Bendemeer’s Stream.”

I didn’t much care for our class motto; whoever wrote it didn’t know the difference between a fiddle and a piano.  The motto was “On the Violin of Life, We Strike the Chords of Success.”

Anyway, here’s our senior class picture.  And there I am in the second row.

Thus came to a close the high school career of Ann Buckingham, Byesville High School Class of 1931.

TBT

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