My old memory recalls that The “Brick Building” on Knowlton Street became a wonderful solution to education in Camden. The Elm Street School once held all the grades, including the high school. There were district schools in different parts of the town, because all children had to walk to school..no buses. There was one on the corner of Cobb Road and Mechanic, one on the corner of Washington Street and Molyneaux Road, another was the brick building on Mountain Street (now Long Funeral Home),and a one room schoolhouse given to the town by John Dailey on Dailey Street. Then in the mid 1920's, the beautiful “Brick Building” was built on Knowlton Street. It held all grades from kindergarten through the eight grade.

Dorothy Walsh had one half day for kindergarten at the Elm Street School and one half day at the “brick building.” She was so sweet to all the little children that they loved her. Many felt it difficult to leave home for the first time, as we were all brought up to be seen and not heard. We did not speak unless we were spoken to. Miss Gould taught the first grade, who had taught at the one-room school on Dailey Street several grades,

Teachers then were dedicated only to teaching. They had to leave if they got married. They could belong to no political party, and went only to school functions. Most of them roomed together or several lived on High Street in Bessie Robinson's house, and she only had teachers there. Their lives were one of complete dedication to teaching the children.

The second grade was taught by Miss Steen, who was also very kind and gentle to us little kids. Evelyn Ryder taught in the third grade. How we all loved her. At Christmas time, she married Orman Goodwin and had to leave school. We were heartbroken and Miss Calder took her place. She and Orman lived on Sea Street, and I used to stop on my way home to Harbor Road to pay her a visit. It was an unannounced visit, but I knew I couldn't stay but a few minutes, as we were told to come directly home from school. If we went on another street, my Mother had been called by any resident who saw me. Camden was so small, they all thought we were their children, and kept track of us. What a telephone net-working-system they had.

The fourth grade was Mrs, Young and the fifth grade we had moved to Chestnut Street, so I had to leave the “Brick Building” and go to the Elm Street School. Instead of Miss Edith Arey, I had Miss Nettie Knight. She was strict, much like Mary E, Taylor, and was principal at the Elm Street School., that now went only through grades five. I really liked her. When you had a good paper, she would sing ”Stars and Stripes Forever.” If your penmanship was good, you could write with red ink the next day. Anytime you did not want English lessons, you could write and produce a play. I loved that. I only saw her get upset once, and that was when Billy drank his inkwell. Guess he thought it might be some kind of soda. That was one of my favorite years.

Back to the sixth grade I went to the “Brick Building.” They had two sixth grade rooms. One for the “A” students and another for students who perhaps were a little slower to learn. I do not know why that was the only grade like that, but no one thought anything abut it. However, you were not passed from grade to grade, unless you did your homework and passed all you were supposed to. I believe that is not the case today, and no one is kept back.

In the seventh and eight grades, we had four rooms we passed to, for Math, English,etc. Mary E. Taylor taught Math and Eva Rideout taught English. We could not whisper, talk or chew gum in passing. How I looked forward to being in high school, because they could walk in the road, if they wanted to. You did not dare to try it in grade school, because Mary E. Taylor would see it and get after you. Even the boys behaved themselves in grade school or on the school grounds, because M.E.T, had a big black razor strap hanging on her blackboard. Year later I said to a devilish classmate, at a class reunion,”I don' think Miss Taylor ever used it, it was just a deterrent. He told me, “Yes, she used it, and I am living proof that she did.”

They were all excellent teachers. We had to learn many long, long poems, and 79 years later I can still recite some of them. In social studies we could write to a foreign pen pal. For some reason, I thought it would be nice to write to a French boy. Was I ever disappointed when I received a letter back from a Hawaiian girl. (Hawaii was not then a state.) We carried on the correspondence until two years ago, when she went into a nursing home. It was many years before I told her how disappointed I was, and she just laughed. She and her husband came to visit me three times, and I had many invitations to visit them at their home or condo on Waikiki Beach, but never made it.

When I was leaving the grade school and going into Camden High School, May E. Taylor said,”Don't let anyone talk you into taking a commercial course; you take a college course.” I told her we were Depression kids and I would not be going to college and did not want to work in an office. She told me to take a college course only, which I did. I loved math and begged to take trigonometry my senior year as that was all offered. The teacher first said,”No, no girl has ever taken it.” Two weeks later, he must have given it thought, as he said,”You can take it, but you will never use it.” I did take it and liked it, but never used it.

I graduated with a college course, but there were no scholarships for girls, I was told. So I got the first job I could find in a store. Then, I read in the Camden Herald that the shipyard needed help for the war effort, so I went over to be a painter. The personnel manager laughed his head off. "No, I shall not hire you to be a painter, but we need you in the payroll office." So I reluctantly went to work in an office and got out forty-four years later on good behavior. I bought a set of speed-writing books (as I had no shorthand.) I studied a bookkeeping practice set and later enrolled in a three-year course of accounting. It was a university and I had to send my assignments in and received them back ranked. I had to type before I had learned to type. So I break no speed records.

After a while I became office manager and accountant for the shipyard. I did like it, even though I had planned never to work in an office.

They later named the “Brick Building” the “Mary E. Taylor School.” It was and still is a wonderful building, just as Mary E. Taylor was one of the best teachers ever to enter its doors.

That is my history from 1930 to 1942 of the schools on Knowlton Street.

 

Barbara F. Dyer has lived all her life, so far, in Camden and is the official town historian.