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Wyandotte County, Kansas




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KCKS Public School System, 1819-1961
by Nellie McGuinn
Copyright USD 500, Feb 1966

Return to Previous Section 1921


Mr. Pearson became a friend of the children when he spoke out against homework.  If a child worked all day, he said, the evening should be free for other tasks and recreation.  Homework was usually assigned at the insistence of parents, he added.  High school students at Ninth and Minnesota were so thrilled over the talk of the great artist from Lindsborg, Kansas, Birger Sandzen, that they immediately collected money to buy one of his pictures for their art collection.  "Voices in the air" become confusing and were to be assigned to certain frequencies.

Dr. Aston, London scientist, assured the fearful that just because the atom had recently been isolated, they need not worry about the earth being blown to bits.  The affairs of Winnie Winkle, the Gumps, and Widow Zander interested comic strip readers.  A Kansas City, Missouri woman visiting at her mother's in this city, sneaked out of the house for a few cigarette "whiffs" in Bethany Park.  She was brought before Judge Don McCombs who fined her $500 or six months in jail.  When he told her that women were not supposed to smoke in public, she inquired, "Why not?  Women are doing everything else men do?"  The judge refused to answer.

The Conley sisters notified the park commissioner that signs erected in the cemetery by him must go, that the government not the city was in control.  The commissioner told a group of women, however, that Huron Cemetery would be resodded and electric lights and water put in.  On May 27, Lydia Conley defied Police Chief Zimmer by going to the cemetery and to the police headquarters twice.  Miss Conley announced that seven years before she had a fortress in the park, and that she was not afraid of the devil himself.  The cemetery harbored for several nights a "wild man" who loitered near the hotel and fled when approached.

Residents complained of "spooners" in the cemetery.  Someone recalled an old story that before white men sailed the Atlantic, a truce was declared between Indians and chiggers.  I seems that a blood-thirsty chigger once attacked an Indian on a buffalo hunt out on the plains.  The Indian drew an arrow and was about to shoot a buffalo through the heart, when he stopped to scratch a chigger bite.  Taking the Indian's act for kindness, the chigger issued an order never to attack an Indian.  That was why the cemetery was free from chiggers.

The Conleys barricaded the Seventh Street entrance to the cemetery early in November.  Commissioner Kaelin took the barricade down and it was promptly restored by the sisters.  Helena Conley, arrested for using bad language, protested that she was just "cursing the souls of trespassers into hell and damnation."   The sisters brought a bucket of water to the jail.  Helena said she had put a curse on the river and was not taking any chances.  She said he would have died in jail before paying the $50 fine that was remitted.

McIntyre Armstrong obtained permission from the Indian commissioner to bury Frank Espy, a relative by marriage of one of the Wyandots.  Two policemen guarded the grave diggers, who uncovered some Indian bones.  Miss Lydia Conley ordered them to cover the grave and to dig somewhere else.  Three hundred people attended the Espy funeral.  A police matron held Helena Conley around the waist as she muttered bitter curses during the services.  When the city removed padlocks from the gates, the sisters wired them.

After Helena Conley's curse on the river water, all of Commissioner Harry Kaelin's fish died.  She threatened to remove Espy's body herself if it was there three days later.  Mayor Burton, his family, and the police had a curse placed on them when the mayor refused to take the police out of the cemetery.

The board had its own troubles with a determined woman.  Miss Lorraine Elizabeth (Lizzie) Wooster, state superintendent, wanted clauses that governed the habits and appearances of teachers to be inserted in contracts.  Mr. Pearson announced in April that6 non "long hair," "modesty in dress," or "non-tobacco" clauses would be in Kansas City contracts.  He thought teachers here were conservative in skirt lengths, and as for bobbed hair it was better than tousled.  A judge in Arkansas had upheld a girl barred from high school because she used face powder, and Mr. Pearson remarked that a "little powder didn't hurt any teacher."

State teachers certificates information blanks from Miss Wooster's office required the superintendent to answer if applicants used tobacco, played cards, danced, attended church, and what church attended.  Mr. Pearson adroitly dodged the questions about a Kansas City man.  He himself, he wrote, went to church and saw only those who went to the same church.  Only if he met a teacher on the street would he know about the smoking.  Dances were not in his line.  What he called "walking line like a circus horse," others called dancing.  He would not know.

In the summer of 1922, the State Board of Education and Miss Wooster battled over revoking certificates of those who smoked or used a powder puff.  One teacher who went to a dance at a schoolhouse failed to have her certificate renewed.  Miss Wooster accused the state board of "acting like a lot of senseless children" when the board suspended their secretary.  The latter had been forbidden by Miss Wooster to let the board look at its own records.

The board ignored the superintendent's meetings and she theirs.  She was quoted as threatening to try to withdraw women teachers from the KSTA and the NEA because men tried to keep women from executive positions.  Clara White of Eminence brought suit against Miss Wooster because her certificate was not valid in Kansas because she danced.  Forbidden were:  tobacco in any form; dancing, or permitting it in a school; low necks and short skirts; bobbed hair was frowned upon.

Miss White said her community had a nice time dancing the polka, two-step and Virginia reel.  She was accused of allowing the school house to be "desecrated by a shameful, sinful dance and permitting the pupils to cut capers."  Other suits were brought by male teachers who resented signing an oath not to smoke in their homes.  Miss Wooster's friends planned to bring up a resolution at the fall convention condemning Mr. Pinet, KSTA secretary, alleging political activities against her.  They planned also to have the four sessions combined into one.

Repercussions from the affairs of the old board continued into 1922.  J. O. Emerson, attorney, said that any claim for over $200 was illegal without a contract.  He suggested a monthly audit of the books.  Accountants were appointed to examine the county treasurer's books so the board would know where they stood.  W. H. Biscomb resigned as assistant superintendent of buildings and groups.  Lester Tanner succeeded him.

The city announced a $30,871 suit against the old board members, contending that laws of 1915 made members personally liable.  Enright and Harvey denied rumors that the investigation would be hushed and said they were going to question wives of former board members.  In February E. A. Enright predicted sensational developments within a few days and promised several arrests.  Later in February he refused to confirm or deny reports of arrests.

When R. B. Smith was summoned for questioning, he refused to testify and was not pressed by Enright.  Chamber members could not talk to Enright, who pleaded business in court when asked for a conference.  Recommendation that the board install a new record keeping system was made.  Roosa had not yet gone to trial in March, 1922, but a jury was being assembled.  The board needed sassafras wood for manual training classes.  As the only source was Tschudy Lumber Company, in disfavor with the board, a substitute wood would have to be found.  Later the company offered to cut the bill that had not been paid by the board.

A jury acquitted Roosa on March 25, after Barnhart, Stanley, and Friedman had testified.  The Chamber of Commerce asked in May that W. A. Seymour, former clerk, be arrested, as he owed $725.  Seymour protested that he had an order from the board to pay out the money, but Enright said the order was forged.  Reports showed neglect, the attorney ruled, but no criminal acts on the part of others.  Seymour was released on $1500 bond.

Grant S. Landry in a talk to the Economy League asked for vindication and a cessation of the talk about the old board.  The warrant for Seymour's arrest was sworn out by a colored man, William Davis, who acknowledged in June that he did not know what was in the complaint or who was to be arrested.  When Enright offered to let him drop the complaint, witnesses said they saw Davis read it over and sign it.  Enright said there was a big howl, but no one wishes to sign a complaint.  Because of lack of prosecution, he Seymour case was dropped.  He promised restitution of the money as soon as he could obtain it.  The case against R. B. Smith was dismissed also.  The who unfortunate school board episode was closed on September 21.

Richard Hopkins ruled that Miss Wooster had no right to put into effect her rule on smoking, nor to refuse for certification credits that came from a school where the administrators used tobacco.  Only the state board had the right to rule on such matters.

Mr. Pearson had wanted a pageant at the new athletic field ever since it was graded.  On March 7 he presented plans to the board about a program of "Art, Music and Physical Education" to be called the "Triple Torch."  In the seven episodes, portrayers would be Ruth Norelius as the "Spirit of Play,"  Jeffie Edwards as "Art," and Ethel Francisco as "Music."  All were teachers.  Roscoe Phillips, Central eighth grader, would be the only reader at the pageant.  The superintendent asked that seats, a stage, and a line of box seats be ready by April 28.  The board agreed to install lights.

Eighth grade girls made costumes in sewing class.  The performance was rained out twice, and finally held on May 9.  A huge crowd filled the athletic field.  Before the pageant, Miss Janette McKellar, play supervisor, became ill and 73 classroom teachers took over the teaching of the folk dances.  Supplies for art, music and physical education classes were purchased from the proceeds.

Miss Wooster's campaign against dancing was taken up by the Reverend George Durham, pastor of the Metropolitan Avenue Methodist Church.  He said he and 300 others would refuse to pay taxes for a dancing teacher.  In a talk to the board he insisted that folk dancing be dropped and women spectators cheered his stand.  The group indicted the pageant and demanded that the "dancing teacher" draw no further pay.  When Ms. Judy said she had already resigned to become executive secretary for the Greater Kansas City Camp Fire Groups, the answer was, "None too soon!" with cheers from the audience.  Judy promised no more dancing or pageants.

Mr. Pearson and the board said that they favored dancing as used in physical education classes and in the pageant.  It was sanctioned the country over.  As for modern jazz dancing at Argentine about which the group complained, it was unknown to the principal, F. L. Schlagle.

One of the first actions of the new board was to call for bids on the unfurnished Whittier building.  The general fund could supply the necessary $30,000 for completion.  Some firms already under contract were allowed to go on when bids were submitted on January 24.  By March 26, after almost two years delay, the building was nearing completion, and teachers and pupils hoped for some time in the new school.  Otherwise some would leave for junior high without ever attending classes in any building except a portable.

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History Site created on December 02, 2002
Page last updated: 02-Jan-2012

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