One of the many fascinating angles of the work of your columnist is the unexpected help that comes along the way in collecting small bits of information which, when painstakingly put together, form stories of the past about the community in which we live.
In the midst of a quiet Monday evening at home a week or two ago, the telephone rang and the operator announced it was Milford, Pa., calling! The voice at the other end of the line belonged to none other than O. Howard Wolfe, a resident of Radnor for some 65 years before he and his wife moved to Milford.
While Mrs. Wolfe was cleaning out a closet that afternoon, she had found an “old and rare photograph of Radnor School No. 4, as it was about 1886,” to quote Mr. Wolfe himself, and within a day or two the picture arrived by mail, accompanied by a letter supplementing the information given your columnist over the telephone.
This picture is indeed an “old and rare one,” antedating by some 10 years the one sent in by Ray Yocom, of Long Beach, Calif., for use in the October 15 issue of “Your Town and My Town.” Mr. Wolfe dated the photograph about 1886 when he wrote the following: “This letter is by way of a ‘footnote to history’ and in reference to the enclosed clipping from your interesting column of October 15. However, no contradiction need or should be printed, since I am sure very few of the students are still living who attended the little one room school house at Radnor which is (and was) the one shown on the map Paul Thomas sent you. My first year in school was spent in the little school house, which stood just in the rear of the present building back of which Ray Yocom’s photograph was made. I would say its front door was just about at the spot on which the photographer must have stood. It was torn down about 1890, when the present building was erected. Architecturally, it was like most others of the period – a corridor at the entrance, on each side of which was an open closet for the hats and coats, boys’ on one side and girls’ on the other.
“In the center of the single room was a large stove. We boys sat on one side and the girls on the other, usually two children to a single desk. One of the very severe punishments was to make an unruly boy move over to sit at a desk with an older girl. Miss Ellen Buzby, our teacher, was a firm believer in the use of the rod, in this case a heavy blackboard oak ruler.
“My sister Katharine (still living) and myself were the first two students who left the ‘new’ stone school at Radnor to attend the newly-organized high school in Wayne about 1895. It is natural, I suppose, that I remember so clearly the days spent in the old one room school and I could write a whole chapter on that system of teaching which, in spite of its shortcomings, had much to recommend it. Perhaps my memory is the fresher because of more than one administration of Miss Buzby’s ‘correction’.”
According to Mr. Wolfe’s identification, the smiling-faced little boy in the exact middle of the front row is the late Colonel Robert L. Montgomery, prominent Philadelphian who lived at “Ardrossan Farms,” Ithan. On his left is Dave Casey, a retired Pennsylvania Railroad conductor when he died a few years ago. Next to him is W.W. Montgomery, Jr., well known lawyer and older brother of Robert L. Montgomery. On the latter’s Left is Jimmy Geary, who lived at what was once Upton Station, between Radnor and Villanova.
Reading the other way from Bob Montgomery, in the center of the picture on the front row is Charlie Pugh, next to him the late Charlie Fellows and on his right his brother, Walter, who is a physician, living at 2048 North 63d street, in Overbrook, according to Mr. Wolfe. On the extreme left of the second row Mr. Wolfe names the late sheriff of Delaware County, Nathan P. Pechin. On his left are Jerry Casey and Hiram Pugh. Standing at the extreme left of the back row is the late Matt Wolfe, with his brother, Charlie, the second on the left.
“The teacher,” Howard Wolfe writes, “if it is the teacher with the buttons on her dress (back row), I do not recognize. Ellen Buzby should have been the teacher at that time, so I guess ‘Miss Buttons’ might have been one of the seven girl scholars.” On her left is Agnes Neary, whose father operated one of the Martha Brown farms, later St. Davids Golf Club. Fourth from the right, back row, is Lily Schreiber.
“Continuing his identificatlon in a more general way, Mr. Wolfe writes, “There should be a Torpey or two in the picture (another Martha Brown farm family). And I am pretty sure the good looking boy on Charlie Wolfe’s left is Will Hinkle, and the equally good looking lad on the right of Hiram Pugh in the center ought to be Fred Schreiber… and I could guess at one or two others.”
Our sincere thanks to Mr. Wolfe who, on closing his letter, says, “It has been a great pleasure to me to be able to give you some slight help in collecting data of Radnor long ago.” Surely no one is more qualified to do so than the lad who grew up in the Radnor of which he writes, and who later became, not only president of the Radnor Township School Board, but president of the Board of Township Commissioners as well.