Let’s Talk Clovis: Clovis Union High School, 1915

By Peg Bos, Clovis Museum

The following story is based on the 1915 “Manual and course of study of Clovis Union High School.” The opening statement: “During the past three or four years, the Clovis High School has not made the progress which a normal healthy school should have.” It is noted that youths were not required to attend school after the age of 14.

The school had experienced a 33 percent increase from the previous year with 124 pupils enrolled in 1915.

Schools that composed the high school district were: Clovis, Friant, Jefferson, Nees, Garfield, Lincoln, Pollasky, Red Banks and Wolters. English teacher Perry H. Benson also served as Principal with a staff of eight faculty members.

Courses required to enter college were available as well as vocational classes in Manual Training and Home Economics.

A significant emphasis was placed on language. Anna L. Tryhall taught Latin and Spanish. Latin was identified as valuable because of the relation of that language to our English words. Classes were based on the writings of Caesar, Cicero and Virgil.

Spanish was of particular interest since a large number of Spanish speaking people lived in California. It was recommended to all students.

Louise F. Wood taught German and English. The manual stated: “German may be classed as the most generally useful modern language. It is especially recommended to all students preparing for scientific or engineering courses.”

The study of literature was to instill high ideals through contact with literature to “form a character worth while.” Emphasis was placed on the story in prose and poetry. Classic myths’ “Lay of the Last Minstrel” and “Ivanhoe” by Scott and Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” and “Julius Caesar” and “Silas Marner” by Geo. Eliot and Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography “Poor Richard’s Almanac” was also part of the curriculum.

Debating was also taught. Writing and delivering short argumentative speeches, the field of argument, the brief and principles involved in formal debate were studied.

The History Department was divided into four courses: Ancient, Mediaeval, Modern, and American English. “The aim of this course is to develop breath of vision, judgment and understanding of cause and effect in human affairs. Vice-Principal E. G. Thompson taught history

The American History was designed to give the student a working knowledge of the history and development of our national life from the Colonial period to the present time. Civil, Federal, Sate and local governments were emphasized.

Bertha L. Warthorst taught mathematics and science. General science discussions were: “Water Supply and Sewage Disposal” “Nutrition of Animals” “Forestry and Its Effect Upon the Water Supply” and “Disease Germs and Their Distribution.” Algebra, geometry, solid geometry and trigonometry, advanced algebra and physics
were highly recommended to students.

The manual also stated: “This is not a vocational school, nor do we pretend to turn out skilled workers in the vocations but we offer courses in Manual Training and Home Economics because of their good practical value in life, regardless of the vocation followed.”

Belle B. Millward taught Domestic Science. Cooking information from the textbook, “Foods and Household Management” in addition to experimenting with flour etc. were taught. Sewing emphasized patching, darning, alterations of patterns and sewing a lingerie dress or graduation dress. The creation of two winter and two summer hats with an emphasis of various stitches were required.

John M. Cox, his son Cecil would be the first Gold Star Hero of WWI, taught commerce and art, bookkeeping, commercial law, business correspondence, arithmetic, geography (identifying industrial and commercial locations), shorthand, typewriting and penmanship: “The ability to write a good hand is a recommendation in every business house, and a common passport to commercial success.”

Mr. Cox was an accomplished calligrapher (artistic, stylized or elegant handwriting or lettering). He created ink blotters and pictures that he gave to his students and their parents.

“The Athletic Association is composed of all boys interested in athletics, and has control of all sports under the personal supervision of the Principal. Athletics must not interfere in the least with school work, but are handled for the good of the pupils and the school.”

Our early pioneers recognized the importance of a quality education. That rich heritage continues today.