Rockford Area Historical Society for 1-24-19

By Terry Konkle – President

As we start into the year 2019, I thought that it might be fun and educational,  in the next two columns, to go back one hundred years and  look at some of the things that happened concerning our school district back then.

In 1919 there were eight teachers in the entire school system. Three of them taught high school classes. The three included the school superintendent, E.W. Johnson, the principal, Miss Edna Haner, and Miss Vesta Sturgis. Other instructors were:  Mrs. Carpenter – 7th and 8th grades, Miss Sinclair – 5th and 6th grades, Miss Anderson – 3rd and 4th grades and Miss Sturdavand – 1st and 2nd grades. Mrs. Bowers was a teacher of music for all grades. School days began with a morning session from 9:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M. An afternoon session started at 1:10 P.M. and school ended at 3:30 P.M.

Rockford was a member of the Kent County Interscholastic Athletic Association and offered the sports of football, basketball (girls and boys), baseball, track, tennis (boys and girls) and swimming. There was also a High School Oratorical Association with contests in the areas of debate, essay writing and declamation (speaking). Usually, Rockford would face students from Sparta and Lowell.

The school had a Glee Club and students received credit for participating in it. The school handbook states: “A 5% credit is given for this work, to be applied on any elective subject.” A high school orchestra was another offering provided enough pupils were interested (there was an orchestra in the 1918-19 school year  consisting of four members – Darwin Richards – piano, Richard Krause – violin, Don Hunting – saxophone and Carrol Clark – drums). There was a school library of eleven hundred books plus a reading table with periodicals.

To graduate from high school a student had to successfully complete sixteen units of credit. A unit was one year of study in an area. The required courses (11units) included four years of English (4 units), four years of history (4 units), two years of mathematics (Algebra 1 – 9th grade and Plane Geometry – 10th grade – 2 units) and one semester of current history and one semester of Physics (I unit when combined).  Students could elect their other five units from the following: Latin 1, Latin 2, Spanish 1, Spanish 2, General Science, Botany, Chemistry and  Bookkeeping  (all one unit each) or from the following one half unit offerings: Solid Geometry, Algebra, Review Grammar, Business Arithmetic, Physiography and Commercial Geography. No pupil could take less than four units or more than five in a given year.

The sixteen students who graduated in June of 1919 had experienced  very  hectic and tough situations during their years in high school. They had dealt with a flu epidemic which closed school for a time and shut down many school (the 1918 football season was cancelled) and town activities. World War I had ended in November of 1918, but many Rockford families were dealing with war memories . Some of the male graduates in 1919 had made decisions regarding the war during their school years.

The senior class of 1919 also had a yearbook, but not like those that came later in our history. Each copy was typed by hand. Most of the pages have material on both sides, so there was no wasted paper. The number of copies is not known to me, but a lot of work and patience was needed to create each one.

Next week, a look at the last half of 1919 will be covered. Readers are encouraged to contact me with further information or with questions and concerns. Corrections are welcome also. I can be reached by email (tnjkonkle@hotmail.com) or by phone at 616-866-0530. HAVE A GREAT,  POSITIVE WEEK!