Friday, June 29, 2012

Memories of high school in Nashville in 1911 (Not my memories, LOL)

in 1980, a relative of mine, Mary Lindsay White McBurnett, wrote a book about her memories, including those of her years in high school.  In 1911, she was among the first students in the brand new Hume Fogg High School.  It sounds to me as if her education was still very much in the classical style.  She writes:

"To me it was the most beautiful building in the world.  I loved the Grecian finish at the top. I loved all four floors.  In ever minded running up and down those wide stairways for the next two yeasr.

"To me, everything in that school was superlative -- my teachers, my studies, classrooms, my friends.  I never stopped being amazed at being a student in such opulent surroundings, with such truly great personnel.

"My German teacher kept us on our toes.  She declared it was impossible for us to correctly speak German.  I never could say 88 in German to please her, but I did learn by heart some German songs, such as 'De Lorelei.'  That pleased her.

"Ancient History, I learned to truly love because my teacher, Mr. Kamerer, loved it too, and made it all so real to us.l  He gave us hard tests, I remember.  The day following a test I would rush in early, afraid that I had failed.  Mrs. Kamerer would smile and say, 'You made only 90.'

"In Latin, my first year teacher was Mr. Fisher, a kind and gentle man.  It was easy to learn Latin under him.  In my senior year, my Latin teacher was Mr. Kirkpatrick.  Virgil's 'Aeneid' seemed very romantic under this tutelage, especially, when I remembered that he had dated my aunt years ago. "The Aeneid' is pure romance anyway."

She goes on to describe various math classes and English classes.  She  sums up her high school experiences in this way:

"Those years I spent in Nashville high schools were very special to me.  All my teachers were highly intellectual and every well educated.  Things they taught me have been most helpful all along my pathways.  They will always live in my fondest memories." 

Mary lived with her aunt's family during her high school years.  Her parents had moved to Texas and had become established there.  However, there was no high school in the area at that time.  Her parents reluctantly sent Mary and a sibling back to Tennessee to finish their educations.  

Mary speaks of her aunt:  "That family made me feel as if I were one of them.  they were delighted when my report cards were good.  They provided me with suitable clothes, books, food, and a pretty room of my own.  Often, we went to the opera and to important plays at the Ryman Auditorium and to the Bijou Theater.  Once we went to the Ryman Auditorium to hear a fine lecture by William Jennings Bryan.  That lecture, his wonderful voice, I never will forget."

For her graduation in 1913, she wore a white, hand sewn and hand embroidered dress.   She and all the other girls in her class carried a shower bouquet of pink sweet peas.  Hume Fogg was coeducational, but she does not describe how the boys dressed.

Among her graduation presents were a chartreuse evening gown, a cameo lavalliere, and a train ticket home to Texas.  Later, Mary returned to Tennessee to live.


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