The school I attended from 1928 to 1934, situated on the north side of the street across from Capital University’s theological seminary, was known as the Main Street Elementary School, although the inscription above its portal proclaimed it as simply “Bexley School.”
It was the first school building erected, probably about the turn of the century (Editor’s note – 1907, predating the Village of Bexley by just one year) in what was then a village on the eastern outskirts of Columbus. The structure is long since demolished in favor of residential housing for seminary students and their families.
When I was a pupil there, the Main Street School accommodated only a kindergarten and six primary grades. The plan of the old Main Street School was simple:
- From the main entrance one ascended a broad flight of stairs to a spacious central hallway.
- From this opened four classrooms, one occupying each corner of the building.
- Another stairway at the rear of the first floor led to a landing where the principal’s office was located.
- From the landing a divided stairway led to the second floor where the layout was exactly the same as that of the first floor.
Thus, there were eight rooms for seven classes; one room was vacant except for storage.
There were approximately 25 pupils in each class. The staff consisted of seven teachers, one principle, and two custodians. The principal was Miss Ruby Borden, a kindly woman and dedicated educator. The senior custodian was a slightly stooped, gray haired man named Johnson. We called him “Pop.” The assistant janitor was a young man by the name of Bob Petzinger, who lived with his family on College Avenue, only a block from the school. His brother Ray delivered our daily newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch. At 8 o’clock each school day morning, Bob stationed himself at the curb of Main Street in front of the school and escorted the children across the busy street. Bob constituted our safety patrol.
I can recall vividly all of my grammar school teachers. In those days it was customary for primary school teachers to be unmarried; once wed, a schoolmarm’s tenure was in jeopardy.
Our first grade teacher was Miss Wilt, an indulgent woman of short stature and homely features. She became Mrs. Karsh during that school year, and shortly thereafter relinquished her vocation.
It was at the end of the first semester of my first-grade class that my mother received a telephone call from Miss Borden. Would my mother object if I was to be transferred to the second grade class? This was known as “skipping a grade.”
The reason for the proposal was that the second-grade was short by one pupil; perhaps the first-grade was one in excess. In any case, my mother approved, I was flattered, and one year was subtracted from my grammar school education.
Now I found myself a year younger and still smaller than my new classmates. Otherwise I can recall no jarring consequence of the unexpected promotion.
My second-grade teacher was Miss Hummel, a soft-spoken, somewhat retiring young woman. I have a fond recollection of Miss Hummel, and I have preserved a photograph of our second-grade class.
The third-grade was presided over by Mrs. Smith, married and motherly, but a teacher who brooked no nonsense.
It happened that two years later Mrs. Smith also became our fifth-grade teacher.
My fourth-grade experience stands out in my memory because we were introduced both to advanced arithmetic in the way of long division and to Miss Sanders.
Miss Sanders was young, bright, and pretty. Whether it was my age or hers, I developed a “crush” on Miss Sanders – an awakening emotion I suspect was shared by more than a few boys in my class.
When we reached the sixth-grade, Miss Breckenridge considered it her stern duty to be sure we were properly prepared for junior high school. She was firm but fair.
There were two itinerant, adjunct teachers as well. One, whose name escapes me, came to our Main Street School from time to time to introduce us to art. This was Art with a capital “A,” art on a higher plane than coloring outlined figures with crayons or pasting together stylized flowers.
The visiting music and nature study teacher was Miss Johnson, a prim, purse-mouthed, middle-aged woman whose high-pitched voice had the tone of an oboe in its upper ranges. Of her instruction in the wonders of nature, I recall little or nothing. Of her attempt to inculcate an affinity for music, I remember she wore about her neck a pitch-pipe on a string and in her hand bore a device that held five pieces of chalk, with which she could quickly draw five parallel F-clef signs and explained the difference between whole-, half- and quarter-notes.
In our kindergarten class she organized a little band, the instruments being the triangle, the tambourine and the drum. I was assigned no instrument. I was the drum-major. I was loaned a fancy hat and given a baton to wave in front of the ensemble.
Behind the school was a large playground. In the center was a teeter-totter (or seesaw). Toward the rear were two slides: a small one with a gentle slope for the younger children and a higher, longer slide for the more daring. Beyond the graveled ground was a grassy field for impromptu ball games; no scoreboard or benches, just a grassy field. The playground was well populated, weather permitting, during the twice daily morning and afternoon recess periods. At each recess period a teacher was assigned as playground monitor, but disputes were few, and she was seldom required to intervene.
A game of tag was the simplest diversion. The girls seemed to like jumping rope. A favorite game for boys was “marbles.” Standard equipment for almost every boy was his bag of colorful “glassies” and “aggies,” each carefully selected and jealously guarded.
Such is my recollection of halcyon days long past and of a school fondly recalled but now to be visited only in the faltering memories of a few former pupils.
Adapted from article By William S. Haubrich
Bexley High School Class of 1940
Originally published in Historical Herald, November 1999
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