Main Line School Night, part 3 – Wayne School Night

From its beginning in the late winter and early spring of 1938 until the fall term of October, 1940, Wayne School Night followed in a general way the original pattern set by its founders when they first conceived the idea in December, 1937. As stated in earlier columns, our local adult school was an adaptation of a highly successful experiment conceived a few years earlier in Maplewood, N. J. Then in the fall of 1940 Lower Merion joined forces with Radnor, thus inaugurating Main Line School Night. Plans called for a fall semester in Wayne each year, and a spring semester in the Lower Merion High School in Ardmore.

For four terms this joint program continued in existence, at first a highly successful one enthusiastically backed by the people of the two adjacent townships and participated in by many from neighboring communities. During the fall term of 1941, however, war clouds were darkening the horizon. In December the catastrophe of Pearl Harbor shook America from coast to coast. The fall term was almost over . . . the School Night board hesitated before launching on its plans for a spring term.

Eventually the decision to continue was made . . . the new catalogue invited the public to “take a vacation from trouble and care . . . come to School Night.”. It was a time of unrest and uncertainty . . . the beginning of a year that saw America’s entry into a war that was to last four long years, for her. Citizens of Lower Merion and Radnor townships and all their neighbors were busy with other matters than “School Night”. There were Civil Defense meetings and classes, Red Cross was organizing classes in First Aid and Home Nursing, Nurses Aides, Gray Ladies. The suburbs were buzzing with wartime activities.

Enrollment in “School Night” classes dropped off from their former high level. Attendance in these classes grew less and less. And then came gas rationing . . . With School Night finances at a low level never before experienced, its Board gave up the struggle. There were no more sessions until March, 1948, when the cheery caption on the on the catalogues stated that “By popular request, School Night again brings you an adult Education Program.”

This brief summary, however, passes over far too lightly the story of School Night up to its revival in the Spring of 1948, the School Night as it will go into its 16th semester on Monday evening, February 12, in Lower Merion High School. To go back a bit . . . on March 27, 1939, the very first annual meeting was held, with thirty members of our community sufficiently interested to serve as directors. Following the general meeting, these directors elected an Executive Board composed of Harry C. Creutzburg as president; T. Bayard Beatty as vice-president; Jason L. Fenimore as treasurer, with Mrs. T. Magill Patterson, Douglas C. Wendell and Paul Clark to complete the Board.

The semester just ending has offered 28 courses. Of the 844 registrants at the time of the annual meeting, 454 had come from outside the township while 390 were residents of it. The significance of this was a little difficult to determine. Perhaps it was because the fame of Wayne’s Adult Education program was spreading all the while. At any rate, before the semester was over, the total registration was approximately 1000.

Thirty courses were offered in the fall of 1939, when registration could be made to William L. Caley, of Wayne, registrar, by mail or in person. There were also registration stations in Ardmore and in Norristown. “Marriage and Family Relationships”, with the Rev. John Scott Everton as moderator, was one of the specially featured courses for those “18 years or older”. Mr. Everton was then pastor of the Wayne Baptist Church. A “Last Minute Flash” announced a Current Events Course “covering world news combined, whenever possible, with a critical analysis of the main currents of propaganda flooding into America over the air and on the printed page.” This was given by Joseph H. Forrest, of Radnor High School.

Other Wayne instructors included Leo M. Curtin, then Director of Physical Education at Radnor High School, who kept three games of indoor baseball going every Monday night. T. Bayard Beatty, Jr., taught a class in pencil drawing; Elizabeth B. McCord conducted a course on “Books of the Day”; Franklin F. Trainer, Jr., had a class in photography so popular that there had to be two sections of it while Henry V. Andrews had another two-section class in public speaking. Isabel Jacobs Ruth taught “Dynamic Diction”, O. Howard Wolfe had a lecture course in “Money and Banking”, C. Chauncey Butler, then instructor in Mathematics in Radnor High School taught “Mathematics for Fun!” Charles C. Smith, also of the High School faculty, had a class in “Frontiers of Modern Science”. Mary Jacobs Wright and Edith Wood Atkinson taught “Contract Bridge”, while James Veeder had charge of “Social Dancing”. In short more than half of the 30 courses had local instructors.

(To be continued)