Additional comments added by Neil
W. Henry, June 2000.
In 1866, the first Center School was designated a primary school (presumably grades 1-4), and called Center District No.2. During this year the classes were taught by Elizabeth H. Crosby, who received excellent reports from the School Committee. To quote one Committee member, "We have seldom met with better reading, by children so young, than we found in this school." Miss Crosby was paid $21 for 10 months of teaching. Between 46 and 48 students (depending on the season) attended this school during the 1866 academic year.
In that year there were two teachers at the school. Laura A. Bailey taught the summer and fall terms, which made up 6 months of the school year, and was paid $24 for this period. One School Committee member said, "Miss Bailey has the faculty of interesting her scholars in their studies, therefore they make good progress in them." She taught Reading, Geography, Mental and Written Arithmetic, and was commended for her students’ performance in these areas on the Fall examination.
The Winter term, which spanned four months of the school year, was taught by Mr. Hiram Berry, who earned $50 for these four months. This situation brings up two points worthy of note: first, at this time there were very few male teachers in any of the schools; second, he was paid twice as much for teaching two months less than Miss Bailey. It appears that there was a double standard even at that time! Mr. Bailey also received rave reviews from a School Committee member: "His aim seems to be to make his scholars as thorough as possible, teaching them to use thought as well as memory." He taught Reading, Algebra, English Grammar, Geography, Intellectual Arithmetic and Spelling. It was noted that his students "acquitted themselves well" on their examinations in all of these areas.
The number of students attending the second Center School during this year ranged from 20 to 39, again depending upon the season. In the cases of both schools, attendance dropped during the summer and fall terms, presumably to allow students to work on their parents’ farms.
Compared to its predecessors, this building was quite a change. It was a two-story brick structure with a basement, and the roof was adorned with a majestic cupola. At the time it was built, it was by all accounts an impressive accomplishment. There were two classrooms on the first floor and two on the second. A long, wide staircase led to the second floor. There were two sets of staircases leading to the basement. One led to the boys’ section and the other to the girls’ side. From its location, it dominated all of the other buildings in the Old Center.
In 1873 the school employed seven people, according to the town Auditor’s Report for that year. Six of these were women. Their pay rates indicate that there were four full-time teachers and two assistants. The seventh employee was a man named Albert Poor. His job description was not delinated but his salary of $154 was considerable compared to the others. The total salary budget for this year was $858.10. Oddly, the Auditor’s Reports for the years 1875 and 1876 show a janitor (Amos E. Rollins) and only three teachers. It is difficult to believe that these three could handle all eight grades, but their salaries, which ranged from $279 to $340, indicate a heavier work load, so perhaps they doubled up in some way.
In the 20th century the teaching situation seemed to stabilize at the school. Random samplings of North Andover Annual Reports from the years 1929, 1935, 1940 and 1945 show four teachers throughout this time period. It is interesting to note that the school population only increased from 158 students in 1929 to 170 in 1945 – a relatively small increase over this 16-year span. It is possible that the population of the area which the school served simply did not increase much during this time period.
Many of the students came from what we then called "out country," which meant, for example, the area of Salem, Forest, Summer and Johnson streets. Many of the latter were children of farmers even during this era. They came to school by bus – a foreign concept to us "local" kids, who walked. Even further removed were the students who lived out Turnpike Street and had to take public transportation – they caught a bus coming from Salem, Mass., which dropped them in the Old Center. [By 1944 there was a second schoolbus route that picked up those of who lived along the Turnpike from the Middleton town line to Wilson's Corner. nwh]
Because the classes were relatively small, it did not take me long to become acquainted with my new classmates. A few I remember well even today were Neil McAloon, Neil Henry, Bob Holleran and Don Elliot. At this age, I was not particularly interested in girls but three I do recall were Mary Keene (Becotte), Barbara Driscoll and Kathy Dineen, who was my second cousin. There was a definite class distinction – the older kids did not really associate with the younger – so those of us in first grade were forced to band together. [Although I started school with Skip, I was moved to third grade halfway through our second year. Thus I had to learn to break down that class distinction pretty fast! nwh]
The school consisted of four classrooms, with two grades in each room. Walking in the front door, the classroom on the left was for first and second grade, and on the right was the seventh and eighth grade. Between these two rooms, there was a long, wide staircase leading to the second floor and the other two classrooms for the third, fourth, fifth and sixth grades. There were two sets of stairs leading to the basement. The left stairs led to the boys’ section and the right to the girls’ side. These two sections were separated by a wire mash sort of wall, apparently to impede fraternization. At one point, there was a large, ornate cupola adorning the roof of the school. However, it deteriorated and became a hazard, as I understood it, and was removed before I started school.
In 1943, the first and second grades were taught by Elinor Stanley, who also taught at the school before she was married under her maiden name, Elinor Driscoll. She lived on Turnpike Street. Mary Kororsky taught the third and fourth grades, Margaret McLay taught the fifth and sixth grades, and Regina Donovan, the principal, taught the seventh and eighth grades.
Looking back now with 37 years of teaching behind me, I am amazed at the energy and patience these teachers had. They went from one class to the other teaching various subjects throughout the day. They would give one class work to do on a particular subject then teach the other class something different. After doing this, they would give work to this class and return to teach a different subject to the other class. For the teachers, it must have been an incredible task. While teaching one class, they could not completely ignore the other as there were always rowdy students who had to be disciplined. As a teacher myself, I cannot imagine having to do this sort of thing. These were certainly extremely dedicated people. [As noted above, there were 170 students in the school in 1945, an average of 21 per grade, over 40 per classroom. By 1949, however, the first and second grades had grown to be much larger, and additional teachers were added at that level. nwh]
Mrs. Stanley and Miss Kororsky seemed to have the most difficult jobs, as children of early elementary age do not have a long attention span. They were very gentle and understanding women who never seemed to get angry or frustrated. I remember that frequently if I finished my work quickly when I was in the third grade, Miss Kororsky would let me sit in on what she was doing with the fourth graders. This always made me feel rather special. Mrs. McLay was a strict disciplinarian, and probably had to be with fifth and sixth graders. After my fifth-grade year, she left the Center School and moved to another school in town. She was replaced by Miss Clough, who was also quite strict and kept us in line with a firm hand.
The principal, Miss Donovan, holds a special place in my grammar-schooler’s memory, and deserves special mention. Records show that she was principal in 1935, and she likely started even before that. I recall that she taught in other schools before coming to the Center School. Though I never had her as a teacher (I will explain this later), her presence permeated the school at all levels. Her first name, Regina, is derived from the Latin word for queen. This was an appropriate name, as she ruled the school as a monarch ruling a small kingdom. She meted out the punishment for a school’s worst offenders at a time when corporal punishment was still acceptable. I think that the worst I ever received was an ear pull or a tweak on the cheek. When there was a major offense, Miss Donovan would administer punishment with "the rattan." The rattan, a bamboo stick still used in Asian countries today, struck fear in the hearts of average students. Miss Donovan would apply it to the open hand of the worst offenders. To be sentenced to the rattan, one had to do something really wrong.
At the end of my sixth-grade year, Miss Donovan retired and a radical change took place at the school: the first man was appointed principal. This was Daniel McCarthy, who later became the principal of the North Andover Middle School and was still there when my own children attended. For the students, this was a new experience – we had never had a male teacher before, and he was a formidable figure, even after our experience with Miss Donovan. [Not only male, but a generation younger than the women who had dominated the school for so many years. Two years in his classroom was terrific preparation for the all-male secondary school I attended. nwh]
Mr. McCarthy was my seventh-grade teacher and I enjoyed him very much. His tenure was short-lived, though, as at the end of my seventh-grade year (in 1950), the Center School closed and we all moved to the brand-new Kittredge School. This marked the end of a long era of schools in the Old Center.
Air Raid Drills:During the war years, we had air raid drills; when the town sirens went off, everyone would file in an orderly manner down the stairs into the basement and curl up into little balls until the air raid sirens stopped. These sessions usually lasted for 20-30 minutes. They were always a great treat for the students because they broke up the monotony of the daily routine and we would get out of class for a little while.
Recesses:The way in which recess was handled depended entirely upon the weather conditions. Normally they were held in two sessions with grades 1 through 4 together and grades 5 through 8 together. In the good weather, most of the activities during both recess and lunch took place on the Drummond Playground where there were baseball and softball fields as well as a sandbox, slide, and merry-go-round. In the fall, the boys would play various games such as tag, dodge ball or touch football. In the spring, it was mostly baseball. In the winter, if it was not too cold, there were always snowball fights and contests to see who could roll the biggest ball. The snowball fights had to be well away from the school building.
In bad weather, the recesses took place in the basement of the school, which was a dark, dungeon-like place. As previously mentioned, the sections for the boys and girls were divided by a wire wall. We invented games such as basketball where we would use a volleyball and throw the ball between the steam pipes in order to score points.
When the school closed in 1950, I lost track of most of the teachers except for Dan McCarthy. At the Kittredge School, we had all new teachers and a new principal. It was quite a change from what I had experienced in my first seven years of elementary school.
The janitor:It might seem strange to devote time to discuss a school janitor. However, this janitor was something of a legend during my school years. His name was Jiggs Donahue and, despite having only one arm, he fulfilled his duties with dexterity. He was a large, burly man who had been a great athlete before losing his arm. His duties included keeping the furnaces running in the winter as well as the normal maintenance of the school. When we had indoor recesses, Jiggs was in charge of the boy's section as the female teachers monitored the girl's side. He had very little difficulty in controlling us. Sometimes in the early fall and in the spring, when he had time, he would hit us fly balls. We were always amazed at how he was able to manage this and how far he could hit the ball with is one good arm.
The vacant school building stood for a few years but was finally demolished and one would never have known that there was once a large building on that spot. Progress had taken its toll and there was never another four room, eight grade school in North Andover. [The Center School, about eighty years old when it was demolished, was an important link to our grandparents' generation. I wonder if the Kittredge, now 50 years old, will be as influential on its current crop of students. Architecturally, the building was far too urban for the neighborhood, although similar to deserted ones I occasionally see in rural Virginia today. I wonder what was said when the town debated its placement and design back in 1870. nwh]