1896 photo of the children of Radnor School on King of Prussia Road

21_image01Among the many fascinating pictures of old Radnor that have been sent to your columnist by Ray Yocom, of Long Beach, Calif., not many will bring back more nostalgic memories than this one of old Radnor School No. 4. The picture, Mr. Yocom writes us, was taken in 1896. It shows Miss Clara Thornbury, the teacher of that school at the time, and about 30 of her pupils.

Such a picture is a real find, since cameras were not the commonplace possession that they are now. When groups like this wanted to have a picture made of themselves, they had to arrange with “a photography artist” to stop by. This particular picture was made by just such an artist, L.A. Sampson, of Berwyn.

In the sedate and orderly crowd with eyes to the front, as “teacher” probably ordered, there seems to have been a sligntly disturbing element in the way of one small boy in the exact center of the picture.

Although Mr. Yocom cannot identify all of his schoolmates, he can name the following as being in the picture, in addition to himself: Cecilia Hobson, Sylvester Sullivan, Abe Hobson, Frank Quigley, Joe Casey, Eddie Layfield, Johnny Gallagher, Johnny Murray, Cliff Croll, Harold Righter, Dorothy Wolf, Margie Dillin and Emma Lane. (If any of our readers can add to this list, the names they send in will be printed in a column of a later date.)

A map dating back to 1873 that has been lent to your columnist by Paul Thomas, of “Radnor House,” shows that this small stone schoolhouse was in existence then, and probably for some years previous to that time. It is definitely one of the oldest school houses in Radnor township, dating back to a time when the children of the township obtained their education in one room school buildings in seven widely scattered districts.

This particular small school building has been preserved to this day, although in altered form and for other purposes. Standing still on its original site, on King of Prussia road, it is now J.J. Ryan’s gas station, located directly adjacent to St. Martin’s Sunday School building, which is located on the corner of Glenmary lane and King of Prussia road. At the time this picture of the old school was taken, the Shea family lived in a house that stood on the site of the present Sunday School building.

Among his momentos, Mr. Yocom has kept two of his early report cards, one for the school term of 1898, the other undated. It shows that Miss Thornbury taught her pupils a wide range of subjects, from reading to nature study. There was also spelling, writing, arithmetic, geography, grammar, history, physiology, music and drawing. In those days a teacher must needs be versatile, indeed, in her talents!

A note at the bottom of the report card states that “an average below 75 is not satisfactory,” a fact that apparently needed to bother young Ray Yocom not at all, since his average was always many points above that. On the back of the card were spaces for the signature of “parent or guardian.” Young Yocom’s were always signed by his uncle or aunt, Mr. and Mrs O.S. Dillin. Mr. Dillin was owner of the Old Store, with whom Mr Yocom spent all of his younger days.

In regard to the pastimes of a group of young people such a those shown in the picture, Mr. Yocom writes that while they apparently did not have much to do, they still “certainly found lots of fun for themselves… in the spring we could hardly wait until it was warm enough to go in swimming in the old Engine House Dam at Radnor, or the Fenimore Dam at Wayne.

“Then there was fishing in Gulph Creek and jigging for suckers at night with lanterns in the Darby Creek. Duch and Davy was our favorite game in the cattle pen at the railroad station… Fox and Geese in the old Radnor School yard. And we had the old swimming holes at the Gulph Creek… played some baseball, caddied at St. Davids Golf Club … I would trap for’ muskrats in Gulph Creek (never caught one though). All the boys had guns of some kind, we would hunt rabbits… of course, sledding and sleighing and skating on Mott’s Dam . . . shinny on the ice… we always cut our shinny sticks from shapely saplings in the woods… we also tried to ride cows out in the pasture, holding on to their horns for handle bars.”

And so Mr. Yocom’s memory travels back over a happy boyhood in Radnor – centering always round the Old Store, which was his home for some years. Next week’s column will continue with reminisences of the somewhat older boy, and his pictures.

(To be continued)