|THE KEENE STATE COLLEGE MAGAZINE FOR ALUMNI AND FRIENDS||VOLUME XXII NUMBER 3 FALL 2007|
Time and Again
The 1920s and 1930s
By the start of its second decade, Keene Normal School had grown into one of the foremost teacher-training schools in the East. State Superintendent of Education Henry Morrison and KNS President Wallace Mason created a laboratory for John Dewey's progressive ideas on education, uniting academic theory with the common-sense practice of learning by doing. "Oh, a Keene girl could get a job anyplace," wrote Florence Wheeler '17, whose vivid recollections of practice teaching in rural New Hampshire are published in Striving.
Enrollment tripled from 200 in 1920 to 628 by 1931, although it would fall back during the Depression despite the modest cost of tuition (about $100 per year). Mason expanded the curriculum in 1926, adding a four-year program in industrial arts that he figured (correctly) would attract more male students. He also organized the school into academic departments. Keene Normal School began to act like a four-year college.
KNS students began to act like real college students, too. They organized sports teams, glee clubs, theatrical performances, sororities, fraternities, debate teams, tea dances, proms, a mid-year ball, hayrides, literary publications, and student government. The more daring hung out of windows after bed check to smoke cigarettes and sneaked bottles of Padres, a Prohibition-era "blood tonic," into their rooms.
On May 31, 1939, Keene Normal School, now 30 years old, became Keene Teachers College. The dynamic "Daddy" Mason, 78 years old, retired, and Lloyd P. Young was inaugurated as president.
KNS was predominantly female through the 1920s, and all women were expected to take manual arts training to learn practical skills. One young man had enrolled in 1915 but never returned after Christmas break. Two men, Sheldon Barker and Albert Brooks, enrolled in 1921, stayed, and promptly formed a fraternity, Kappa Delta Phi. More men arrived, and Alpha Pi Tau was established in 1925. The first Dean of Men, H. Dwight Carle (below), was appointed in 1932.
In the early 1930s, the Women's Athletic Association (WAA) was formed to encourage physical activity and sport. Red and White teams competed in baseball, archery, hockey, bowling, badminton, basketball, volleyball, and swimming. Their slogan was, "A sport for every girl, and every girl in a sport." As soon as men on campus reached a critical mass, they also eagerly formed sports teams, competing against the high schools and prep schools of the region.
Wallace E. Mason
Wallace E. Mason, who presided over KNS from 1911 to 1939, was a confident leader whose bywords were responsibility and morality. He instituted dress codes, curfews, bed checks, daily devotions, and mandatory "health chores" for all students, and ruled with a stern but loving grip. Flappers with bobbed hair? Daddy Mason was horrified, but even he could not hold back the Jazz Age, and by 1929 women's bare knees were seen on campus in broad daylight.
Mason was KNS's first and best public-relations firm. When taxpayers led a "back to basics" revolt against the way KNS practice teachers had taken over the classrooms of city schools, Mason quickly adapted and worked with a group of citizens to create a better system of supervision. Realizing that federal aid to education was available for vocational programs, he came up with popular industrial arts and home economics training for teachers.
A native of New Hampshire, Mason was born in North Conway in 1861 and studied at Bowdoin College. His approach to education was to "do" it rather than think about it, and if his curriculum lacked intellectual rigor, it excelled in character development and passion. In his speech welcoming the incoming class in 1933, reproduced in the Keene Kronicle, he wrote, "Remember that the finest teachers do not teach arithmetic, geography, Latin, or any other subject, only, but through the medium of these subjects teach their students to have high ideals of Christian citizenship." He added, "You must educate yourselves. We cannot educate you. We can only point the way and assist you over the hard places."
The Campus Expands
Between 1925 and 1930, to keep up with rapid growth, KNS added the Butterfield Vocational Arts building (filled with up-to-date equipment for the T & I – trade and industry – Department); purchased and expanded Blake House for home economics; built Huntress Hall at a cost of $250,000; added a new gymnasium with indoor pool, bowling alley, and pool table, a gift from Governor Huntley Spaulding (below), on the south corner of Appian Way and Main Street; and acquired the Ball mansion across Main Street from Parker Hall, which was used as a library for KNS (its reading room was dedicated to President Mason) and later for classrooms and faculty offices until its sale to the Historical Society of Cheshire County in 1993. No other construction would take place until the 1960s.
All images are courtesy of the Alumni Office. If you have old photographs or memorabilia that would help tell the history of Keene State, please share them for our Centennial projects. Contact Susan Peery at 603-358-2122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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