Main Line School Night, part 1 – Lower Merion High School, Upper Darby Adult School

On Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, the sixteenth semester of Main Line “School Night” starts in Lower Merion High School. The fact that it is Lincoln’s birthday is purely coincidental in this connection. The interest and importance of the event is that “School Night”, starting in a small way in Wayne in February, 1939, has grown to the point where at the Spring term of one year ago it had reached an enrollment of some 1620 in Lower Merion High School. The first joint session of Wayne and Lower Merion Township was held in the Fall of 1940. Except for a few of the war years “School Night”, either as a Wayne project or later as a Main Line one, sponsored jointly by Radnor and Lower Merion townships, has been in continuous existence as an adult education medium.

To those who were interested in this undertaking in the closing months of 1938 and the early ones of 1939 it is a heartwarming thing to walk towards Radnor High School now on a crisp October Monday evening, or a wintry one in November or early December. The building is ablaze with lights, every moment the wide front doors swing open upon some one intent on reaching his or her class on time. Automobiles are parked for blocks around – pedestrians are coming from every direction, all with one mecca–their adult education school, started 12 years ago by a small group of interested citizens, a school now strengthened and enlarged by union with Lower Merion. Wayne’s first enrollment reached the then rather startling total of over 400. The record enrollment since has been 1200.

To one man more than to any other, or even to any group of men and women, School Night owes its birth in this community–and its continued success as the years go by. Fired with enthusiasm by the success of a similar project in Maplewood (N. J.) and his belief that adult education would be supported in Wayne, Harry Creutzburg initiated “School Night” in his own community, and by enthusiasm and his hard work he has carried it on in Radnor and Lower Merion High Schools until the project has reached the pinnacle of success. From the beginning he has been not only chairman of the organization, but its most ardent backer and hardest working man of all!

In the December issue of “Reader’s Digest” there appeared an article on a highly successful back – to – school experiment that had been started in Maplewood (N. J.) four years before. It was just then joining forces with South Orange, N. J., in greatly enlarged quarters and with a more extensive program of studies. Mr. Creutzburg took the article to A. M. Ehart, editor of “The Suburban”, who was interested enough to republish the article in full in the December 31 issue of his weekly paper. By the January 7 issue of “The Suburban” plans had progressed to the point where definite announcement was made that “early in February . . . one of the most interesting and perhaps far-reaching experiments ever attempted in our community and township will be inaugurated.” Not only was the tentative date set, but a list of subjects for possible courses was presented. It was a long list–out of it some 12 or 14 were to be chosen. In the end this resolved itself into 11, ranging from “Great Personalities of History” to “Pottery”.

Soon every shop window in Wayne and the adjacent suburbs displayed posters advertising the fact that “The Registration Night Party” for “School Night” would be held on January 31 in Radnor High School. By this time “School Night” had been chosen as the official name for the new organization. It has always been the personal opinion of this columnist that Mr. Creutzburg’s simple reversal of the conventional term “Night School” had much to do with the charm and interest always associated with the Wayne experiment.

At the Registration School Night Party, Mr. Creutzburg presided at the meeting held in the High School auditorium. T. Bayard Beatty, then principal of that school, told in detail of his visit to the Maple Adult School and noted their interest in a similar experiment about to be carried out in Wayne. Mrs. T. Magill Patterson, then a member of the Radnor Township School Board, listed the various classes, describing the nature of each of the 11 and telling something of the teachers and lecturers. Dr. Theodore L. Reller, Professor of Adult Education at the University of Pennsylvania, was the principal speaker. A writer and lecturer of note, Dr. Reller told especially of the adult education currently carried on in England and Denmark. Paul Clark concluded the program with instruction on the process of the enrollment which was to follow the meeting.

Some 269 registrants was the sum total of that evening’s enrollment. Later additions brought this up to over 400. Courses included “Horticulture and Gardening”, taught by outstanding members of the National Gardeners Association, the State Department of Agriculture and the Morris Arboretum; “Nearby Colonial History”, taught by S. Paul Teamer, principal, Tredyffrin – Easttown High School; “The Play Way to Health” where the age limits were from “sophomore to senility”, with Miss Elvina Castle and Leo M. Curtin, then director of Physical Training at Radnor High School, as instructors; “Public Speaking” as taught by Henry V. Andrews, Director of Speech at Girard College. Other courses included “Contract Bridge Bidding” with Mrs. Edith Wood Atkinson as teacher; “Great Personalities of History” as taught by Harold C. B. Speight, Dean of Men at Swarthmore College; “Clothing and Personality” with Mrs. Edith T. Bechtel as lecturer; “The Changing Scene” with various lecturers form week to week; “The Land of Youth” as taught by Mrs. Dorothy Waldo Phillips, popular speaker at Parent-Teacher groups; “The Lure of Rod and Line” with various speakers and “Pottery”, a course of short talks, demonstrations and handwork as conducted by E. deForest Curtis.

By the time “School Night” went into its second session it had gained such widespread fame that “news photographers’ flash-bulbs were flaring in every class room” with pictures being taken for the Evening “Public Ledger” and the Sunday “Philadelphia Record”. The New York “Times” had been “making inquiries.” An article had even appeared in the Christian Science “Monitor”.

Enrollment had jumped to 430 and was still going upward. A delegation from Upper Darby, interested in setting up a similar plan in their school, had been conducted through “School Night’s” various classes. Many communities were represented among the registrants of the School. The committee was busy refuting rumors that the teaching expenses of “School Night” were being defrayed in whole or in part by W. P. A. funds. So popular did the public speaking courses become that there were soon three sections instead of one. As many as 42 guest tickets were issued on one night. Questionnaires were being issued to ascertain the students’ preferences among some 50 courses suggested for the Fall term.

The few citizens who had been sufficiently interested in adult education to initiate “School Night” were now assisted by a well-organized committee. Those serving on it were Mr. Creutzburg, chairman; Martin L. Gill, Jr., secretary; Jason I. Fenimore, Jr., treasurer; Mrs. T. Magill Patterson, Paul Clark, T. Bayard Beatty, Mrs. F. Ashby Wallace, John R. Shaw, Dr. Seneca Egbert, Dr. Henry G. Fischer, Warren Lentz, Miss Grace A. Burdick, Rev. John Scott Everton, Leo M. Curtin, Charles R. Mintzer, Mrs. Frederick A. McCord, E. deF. Curtis, Douglas C. Wendell and Rhodes R. Stabley. After 12 years, two of these 19 maintain their membership on the board, Mr. Creutzburg as its chairman and Mrs. Patterson, whose membership has never lapsed since the beginning. Death removed Dr. Egbert some years ago. Change of residence has taken others while different interests have diverted the remainder.

(To be continued)

The old “Wayne Gazette,” part 3

In one cursory glance over the front page headlines of “The Suburban”, the reader of today obtains a quick overall picture of the local news of Radnor township for the week. not so with the “Wayne Weekly Gazette” of 80 years ago. He had to turn to the fourth and last page, where under the general heading of “Local News” there was a short paragraph or two on some of the more important happenings of the week. As stated before in this column, the front page was devoted to poems, essays and short stories, each of the latter with its very obvious moral. Indeed, so well hidden away were the local news items that this columnist did not at first discover what a valuable record they presented of life in our community in the very early seventies.

Under date of August 3, 1871, there is a very brief story of “our new post office,” a news item that would make the large headlines and a picture on the front page of any current local weekly. The “Wayne Weekly Gazette” merely states (and in very small print): “Thanks to our most excellent representation in Congress from this district, Honorable Washington Townsend, our new postoffice has been established and named agreeable with the wishes of the members of the Wayne Lyceum and other residents of Wayne. Mr. Robert H. McCormick has been appointed postmaster. The correct name of the office is Louella Post Office, Delaware County, Pennsylvania.”

(In this connection it is interesting to note that while the postoffice was officially “Louella”, the “Gazette” always refers to the community as “Wayne.”)

The last two issues of “The Suburban” have carried front page stories with prominent headlines on recent fires in the center of the town. A fire that must have been of equal importance 80 years ago is described in a few words and under a small heading of “Destructive Fire” in the “Gazette”:

“We regret to say the barn which was formerly known as the ‘Cleaver Barn’, now on the plan of Louella farm as No. 6, the property of Mr. J. Henry Askin, was burned to the ground on Thursday morning, between 10 and 12 o’clock. It contained about 50 tons of hay, and the products of about 10 acres of rye. The superintendent of Louella, Mr. George E. Askin, and his assistant, R. H. McCormick, believe it was set on fire. It was insured in the Delaware County Mutual Insurance Company.”

(It would be interesting to know what fire-fighting methods were used in a period so far ante-dating our efficient Radnor Fire Company. There is no mention of this, however.)

In connection with the destructive storm that swept this general section and states farther west in December, our readers might like to hear of the tornado of August, 1872, as recorded under the heading of “Heavy Storm.” “The storm and tornado of Tuesday night was very considerable about the neighborhood of Eagle and Wayne. At the Eagle, things generally have been very lively for some time. Two cows belonging to Mr. Floyd were killed and many trees blown down, etc., but no lives were lost that we heard of. At Wayne nothing very serious occurred, save some flowers and vases went over and down. No buildings, however, were in the least injured. We should be thankful that it was no worse.”

However, the section to the northeast of Wayne did not fare so well in this storm, as Charles Lyle, a gate keeper on the turnpike between King of Prussia and Norristown, was struck by lightning while sitting on his piazza talking to a neighbor. “Mrs. Lyle,” according to the “Gazette”, “found her husband upon his face, quite dead, while Mr. Bernhard recovered, but is still suffering from the shock.”

A small item of interest in the “Local News” column was that in the month of August, 1871, “20,000 quarts of pure milk were sent in all from Wayne to the City.” Just how “pure would that milk be considered now by our Radnor Township Board of Health?

Your columnist was much puzzled by the following item in an August, 1871, “Gazette”: “Kauffman Avenue is this week being graded, preparatory to digging the cellars for the ten cottages to be built by Messrs. Duncan and Richardson for the President of the Wayne Lyceum.” She knew that Mr. Askin was the Lyceum president. But where was “Kauffman avenue”, a name so entirely foreign to Wayne of today? In a “Gazette” of a slightly later date she obtained a clue in a piece about “New Reservoir” which stated that “Mr. Isaac S. Cassin, former Engineer of the Philadelphia Water Department, is now engaged in building a large reservoir, capable of holding about 150,000 gallons of water, on the high ground immediately west of the new cottages on Kauffman avenue. This point is about the highest ground on ‘Louella’ and the basin in the course of erection is intended to supply the entire plan with water.”

As this reservoir of a bygone Wayne was located at what is now approximately the intersection of West Wayne and Bloomingdale avenues, it was “immediately west” of what is now the first block of West Wayne avenue. It would seem that the latter was once Kauffman avenue! And speaking of Bloomingdale avenue it is interesting to know that “Mr. Martien and family were the first residents on this new and beautiful avenue. The family occupy the first house on the west side of the avenue, above Lancaster Pike. Mr. Martien occupies a position on the Pennsylvania Railroad; is a most worthy and excellent young man, and it affords us great pleasure to extend to him and his family a hearty welcome to Wayne.” (From the “Gazette” of August 3, 1871.)

Going a little farther afield in Delaware County the editor of the “Local News” column says of Swarthmore College: “Any one that has not seen this handsome college should take a trip that way as soon as they can. We cannot give the dimensions of the building nor rightly describe the grounds by merely driving by them. We know that it is a school for boys and girls and we think it is a Friends School. Some one that knows more about it will please favor us with a better local. This is another of the adornments of Delaware County. The building is massive.”

(If someone later favored the editor with “a better local” you columnist has not as yet found it. The above seems a little inadequate as the description of the beginning of one of the best known colleges in Delaware County, indeed, in this whole section of the country.)

That “Local News” was not without its humor is evidenced by the story under the title “A Man Forgets his Child.” It seems that “a gentleman, accompanied by two ladies and four children, got off at Villanova, on the Pennsylvania Railroad, with the ladies and three of the little ones, while the other remained quite forgotten and fast asleep on one of the seats. The father was apprised of his neglect by one of the passengers as the train was leaving the station. The bell was pulled and we stopped again, and ye forgetful parent rushed frantically into the car, seized the little slumberer in his arms amid roars of laughter.”

The old “Wayne Gazette,” part 2

Seventy-five years ago a columnist of the “Weekly Wayne Gazette” wrote of the new year of 1872 just coming into being: “It is midnight! Like a strange dream, warped with troubles and woofed with blood, the year eighteen hundred and seventy one has vanished over the brink of the Great Precipice, and around the corner–the bead in the stream of time–with merry bells we hear the coming of the Happy New Year. Still clinging to the bank while so many have gone by and down forever, waiting for the wave which shall unloose our hold, let us, in fancy, weave a mantle of silk from the dirty blood-stained rags of the past . . . One short year! It seems but like yesterday since we stood at the christening of the one now dead and on its threshold laid our varied gifts–a bundle of plans, hopes, promises and expectation of the future so many are ever dreading.”

Though it is a little difficult to follow our columnist of a bygone era with his many intricate and confusing figures of speech, we gather he was pleased neither with the year 1871 just ending nor with the prospects for the year 1872 just beginning. Indeed it took two columns to express all he felt! However the poet, writing in that same issue of the “Weekly Gazette”, had a much cheerier outlook as witnessed by the concluding verse of a long poem appearing on the front page:

“Whether we greet it with a smile
Or with the falling tear
Thank God for all, and from our hearts
Welcome the glad New Year.”

For the editors of the paper the year 1871 appears to have been a good one as they take stock of it with “the tin horns still blowing” under their window as they went to press . . . to remind them that “the holiday times have not yet passed away.” For the year had seen the birth of the newspaper for its three editors, John Campbell, Miss Sallie B. Martin and Miss Leta B. Bittle–and it had seen not only its birth, but its growth from a hand written sheet to a four page weekly which was “copied by leading journals throughout the States”–a fact which in the future should add “a deal of new energy to the pens and pencils” of these writers.

On December 23, 1871, the “Gazette” was presented to its readers in its new “Holiday Clothes” and “with bright and cheery face” bespoke for its many friends “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” These “holiday clothes,” which continued from that issue on, were the elaborate designs and pictures in the heading as described in last week’s column–up to that issue the simple heading of “Wayne Weekly Gazette” in large lettering, with a small design, under the word “Weekly” had sufficed. An editorial in this issue of December 23 states that “the increasing amount of readable matter accumulating upon our table, and the growing acquaintance of our paper among a reading and thoughtful people demands that our columns be again enlarged for their accommodation. As we are desirous of doing our duty in this age of ‘telegraphic living’ we must needs be up to the times in our labor of good to the people, at which hands it always finds a hearty welcome.”

So much for the year 1871 from the viewpoint of the “Wayne Weekly Gazette”, and so much for its good resolutions for 1872.

With Christmas but two days away as the paper went to press on December 23, a goodly amount of space was devoted to that happy season. There is a quaint two column cut of Santa about to descent a chimney that for once is pictured as large enough for his portly frame. Donner and Blitzen and all the other reindeer are there with “the sleigh full of toys.” And below the picture is the well known “‘Twas the Night before Christmas” with not a word of all its many verses omitted. There is a seven verse poem entitled “Christmas Carol” and another called “Little Children, Can You Tell.” There are “Christmas Side-Views” written for the “Gazette by the Reverend T. Hork.

Your columnist looked almost in vain for accounts of Christmas celebrations in churches and school. There is, however, one story of a Sabbath School party in St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lower Merion where “the youthful army, with their many warm friends, filled the church to repletion”. The account of the Christmas celebration in the school is worthy of almost full quotation. Under the title of “Kris-Kringle” the “Gazette” says:

“On Friday before Christmas St. Nicholas made sure of his visit to Wayne Lyceum School. Fire had been put out, and Kris had contrived to get down through the stove pipe in the absence of the old-fashioned chimney. We are not surprised that he comes from his solitude at least once a year to make himself happy with the sight of many children; and we know he will never want to discontinue his visits to the happy place of Wayne. Kris had trimmed the room with evergreens . . . there were gifts of beautiful figured candies and boxes of fruit . . . with a neat little speech a leader from the ranks of the children presented to the teacher a handsome gold pencil and pen and case.”

And with two verses of a poem written by ” J. T. S.” in the January 6 issue of the “Gazette” on the subject of “New Year’s Day” we close our account of the holiday season of seventy-nine years ago in Wayne.

“Poets have o’er it snug
Bells have been o’er it rung
Guns by eager watchers shot
As ‘old and ‘new’ changed about.
Be cheerful, unhappy soul
You will reach a happy goal
Ere many another year
Is laid on the dreadful bier.”

The old “Wayne Gazette,” part 1 – Wayne Masonic Hall

On the “over size” book shelf of the Radnor Township Memorial Library are two thin volumes containing copies of a Wayne weekly published some years before “The Suburban” came into existence. These bound copies of the old “Wayne Gazette” or “Wayne Weekly Gazette”, as it was variously called, are of the years 1871 and 1872. Whether its publication covered a greater period is not apparent upon a first cursory reading of the two volumes. Your columnist has been told it was published “intermittently”. Perhaps new information may be forthcoming by next week from some of the “old timers” who read this column.

Very different from our present local weekly is the one of almost eighty years ago. Where the title of “The Suburban” now stands in bold, clear type, was a most intricate design in which the name “Wayne Weekly Gazette” is interwoven with three pictures of prominent buildings then standing in Wayne.

On the left is one of the Wayne Hall. Whether this building is still in existence in some altered form is not clear to your columnist. It has been suggested to her that it is the Wayne Masonic Hall, one of the oldest buildings in Wayne. In the center of the design at the head of the weekly is a picture of the Wayne Lyceum Hall, later called the Wayne Opera House. At present it is the center of all attention to Wayne shoppers as the building at the northeast corner of Lancaster Pike and North Wayne avenue that is undergoing such extensive alterations. At the time the “Gazette” picture was taken it faced entirely on the Pike and was much smaller, as it did not have the western addition of a later date.

On the right of the design was a picture of the “Wayne Church”. We of today recognize it instantly as the chapel of the Wayne Presbyterian CHurch, since its appearance has little changed in these intervening eighty years. In these days of many Wayne churches the picture could scarcely carry the distinctive caption of the “Wayne Church”.

The “Gazette”, to all outward appearances, was not a very exciting publication. It was uniformly four pages in length, its type was almost microscopic, and there were no headlines throughout those four pages. Its editors were Charles Robson and Miss Sallie Martin. The front page was made up of poems, essays and short stories. The inside pages contained notices of various kinds, particularly those in regard to the Wayne Lyceum, poems, more essays and some advertisements, though of a very different character from those of the present. A typical one read:

Messrs. Ramsey & Bro.
Bryn Mawr and Rosemont
Every article to be found in a
No. 1 country store
At the lowest city prices
Can be had at either store.


Duncan and Richardson, “Dealers in Lumber, Sand and other Building Materials,” had offices at “Wayne Siding”, which was “immediately East of Wayne Station, Pennsylvania Railroad”, where prospective buyers were invited “to call and examine quality and prices.” It was evidently quite ethical for doctors to advertise, as in the same column with these advertisements of a country store and lumber yard appeared the following:

Dr. William M. Whitehead
Office Hours:
Wayne 7 to 9 A. M.; 6 to 8 P. M.
Bryn Mawr 3 to 5 P. M.
Residence–First House west
of Wayne Avenue, North Side
Lancaster Pike
Dr. Charles S. Seysham
Graduate Pennsylvania University
Office–Newtown Square
Delaware County
No regular office hours

On one of the inside pages there ordinarily appeared a column entitled “Answers to Referred Questions.” THese were no idle queries, either. In the issue of July 20, 1872, one reader asks “What is the Apollo Belvidere?” Another writes to know, “Why are drops of rain or dew upon the leaves of plants generally spherical or globular?” And still another inquires: “What would a body weighing eight hundred pounds upon the surface of the earth weigh when one thousand miles below the surface?” To all three questions comprehensive answers of some length were given.

A column entitled “Humorous and Otherwise” had these two items in this same issue of July 20, 1872.

“A lady entered a drug store and asked for a bottle of ‘Jane’s Experience’. The clerk informed her that Jane hadn’t bottled her experience yet, but they could furnish Jayne’s Expectorant.'”

“There is a place in Maine where they have had no rain for four weeks and no whiskey for six. The consequence is that just now they are the dirtiest and the dryest people above ground.”

(To be continued)