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Success and Failure 1910 - 1920 - Part 1

Four bond elections for school construction were held in the 1910-1920 decade with three successes and one disastrous failure.

On November 9, 1913, the School Board decided to build a grade school adjoining the high school because "many children were being turned away owing to the lack of accommodation." A bond election was held December 6 of that year for $45,000 in five and one-half per cent, 20-year construction bonds for the new school. The issue passed 192 to 17 and the contract for plans and specifications for the 12-room structure was awarded to Henry O. Jaastad on January 19, 1914. The rooms were to be large enough to hold between 45 and 52 students each; central heating was to be installed and an assembly room seating 125 was to be built.

At the time of the awarding of the architect’s contract, the Board, composed of Dr. W. V. Whitmore, John B. Wright and George J Roskruge, took under consideration the naming of the new elementary school. The minutes of the Board report that "The question as to a name for the new grammar school building then came up and it was moved and seconded that the same be known as the 'Roskruge School'." The modest and well-regarded Roskruge protested and according to reports of Tucson residents of that era, he stalked from the meeting room. Whitmore and Wright voted for the Roskruge name in Roskruge’s absence.

The new grammar school was built by Reed and Dow for a base price of $22,828 on the Fifth Street side of the present Roskruge Junior High and Elementary School location, a square block bounded by Fifth and Sixth Streets and Second and Third Avenues. Steel fire escapes for other buildings in the district, heating and plumbing for the new Roskruge School and equipment for it accounted for the remainder of the $45.,000 bond issue. The new Roskruge building was accepted by the Board on August 14, 1914.

In 1931, alterations and additions were; made by the J. J. Garfield Construction Co. The home economics room was remodeled in 1950 but no new work has been done on the building since that time.

George J. Roskruge was born in Cornwall, England, on April 10, 1845, and in 1870 he departed from England and came to Denver, Colorado, where he remained two years. In 1873, he decided to seek his fortune in the Territory of Arizona. His first home was in Prescott, where he, along with others, fought off raiding Apache Indians.

He first worked as a cook and a packer for the Deputy United States Surveyor and rose under the deputy to become a foremost mapmaker and surveyor. John Wasson, Surveyor General of the Territory, hired Roskruge as his chief draftsman in the Tucson office. Roskruge arrived in Tucson on July 22, 1874. His first Tucson home was the "government house" which he shared with Gov. Safford, Edward F. Dumas, Coles Bashford and Wasson.

Some of the important posts which Roskruge filled include county surveyor for four years, city engineer for three terms, vice-president and president of the Tucson Building and Loan Association, and United States Surveyor General from 1896 to 1897. The Roskruge Mountains on the Papago Indian Reservation were named after Roskruge when he was Surveyor General. He probably had nothing to do with the naming.

Roskruge became interested in education and served on the first Board of Regents for the University of Arizona and was elected to the School Board for Tucson School District 1 a number of terms between 1902 and 1915. He held a high rank in the Masonic Lodge.

Roskruge married Lana Wood in 1896. She was the daughter of a well-known pioneer, Judge John S. Wood, of Tucson. Roskruge died on July 27, 1928. Before his death, on June 4, 1927, the Arizona Daily Star had this to say about him:

"Not because mountains and a school and a hotel are named after him, not because he is a crack rifle shot, do we elect him to the Tucson Hall of Fame, but rather because he entered so whole-heartedly into the land of his choice and gave so generously of his effort toward its welfare.

"George J. Roskruge has carved a name for himself in Arizona that time will not erase."

The second bond issue of the decade was for $150,000 which built the new Safford Junior High School and the Dunbar School, equipped these schools and paid for repairs to existing buildings.

The formal resolution calling for the bond issue was passed by the Board on January 19, 1917. It pointed to the "greatly overcrowded condition of the school rooms now existing" and said that it was "absolutely essential that immediate action be taken toward providing additional school facilities so that all school children of said district may be properly accommodated." The resolution took note that the district’s assessed valuation was $17,361,254.55 and that the total bonded indebtedness was but $155,500 "being much less than four per cent."

The call for $150,000 in new construction bonds placed interest at five per cent with bonds to mature within 20 years.

The election was called for February 17, 1917, and the people gave the issue a hefty 229 to 28 vote approval. A week later the Board called for competitive plans and specifications for a $100,000 school to be known as Safford School. Plans of Henry O. Jaastad were accepted for the building to be constructed at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 13th Street. It would adjoin the Mansfeld School to Mansfeld’s north.

The contract for the new Safford facility was awarded June 22 to W. H. Young at $102,910. The school was completed and accepted by the Board June 28, 1918.

Originally, Safford Junior High School had 26 rooms and an unheard-of-feature--a swimming pool. Under intensive newspaper criticism over this "frill," the Board quickly deleted the swimming pool from the plans and also saw some reason to cut out the boys’ showers which were included in the original proposal. Other changes in the original plans cost the district an additional $4,839.21 which was to come off the third bond issue in the decade.

The contractor for the building of the school, W. H. Young, reported to the Board on September 5, 1918, that he had lost $5,000 on construction of Safford "due to the war." Delays in supplies and the unavailability of labor were listed as war-caused. Young had been bonded by four bondsmen in Tucson and they were the ones who would have to pay the $5,000 difference in construction costs. They appealed to the School Board for relief but the Board refused on an opinion by its attorney that it had no "legal right to pay."

The Safford School was a durable one and still is. Other than normal wear-and-tear repairs, nothing was done to the school in the way of remodeling until 1953, when Harold Ashton was awarded a $32,623 contract for general repair of the entire school. Lunch room facilities and remodeling to provide a crafts shop were completed on January 29, 1955. Shops, showers and a locker room were installed in 1956 by Craven-Hague Construction Co. at a cost of $57,908 and 16 classrooms were remodeled in 1961.

The Dunbar School, also financed by the February, 1917, $150,000 bond issue was the result of a series of events which led to racial segregation of Tucson Schools at the beginning of the 1910-1920 decade.

An assessment of the school district enrollment on December 5, 1910 revealed "over 2,300" students in the five schools, including the high school. Of these, 41 were Negroes attending the first eight grades. None of the 41 were enrolled in high school.

In the School Board's minutes for September 9, 1912, a notation reads: "A committee of Negroes, men and women, of the number of seven, with Rev. Dixon, appeared and presented a petition re-segregated schools." The minutes do not describe the petition nor what it asked (nor do newspaper accounts) but the minutes said that the matter was to be submitted to the attorney general for his opinion.

What the opinion was is also not shown in the minutes.

(Newspaper accounts often do not report school events because the School Board meetings were not regularly attended by reporters. As a matter of fact, it was the custom of the time not to inform newspapers of Board meetings in advance and meetings were not scheduled by statute. Oftimes they were held in the home of the President of the Board or one of the members. Minutes were kept, but these were sometimes edited).

It is known, however, that the Territorial Legislature, in 1909, enacted a law permitting the segregation of school pupils "of the African race from pupils of the White race, and to that end (school districts) are empowered to provide all accommodations made necessary by such segregation."

Since the territorial law was permissive, it may be assumed that the petition presented by the committee of Negroes asked for a separate school.

At any rate, in the fall of 1913, a "Colored School" was established. Hired as principal and teacher was Cicero Simmons, a graduate of Booker T. Washington's School at Tuskeegee, Alabama, who was to be paid $90 per month.

According to the Arizona Daily Star in its September 18, 1913, issue:

"For the first time in the history of Tucson, Negro pupils will have their own school and their own teacher when the city schools open next Monday.... Last year there were 47 Negro pupils enrolled in the public schools with an average attendance of 35, and it is expected that the attendance this year will be somewhat larger...."

The new teacher, Cicero Simmons, comes very highly recommended and is one of the leaders of his race in the Southwest. Not long ago, in a public address in Tucson, he publicly advocated the employment of Negroes for the purpose of teaching Negroes in order to foster race pride and to aid in race progress.

"Professor Simmons has been very active in the work of uplifting his race in Phoenix and on his departure for Tucson yesterday, he received some very flattering press notices . . . In Tucson, he will receive $90 a month and will be expected to teach anything from the primary class to the high school classes, a range of work which requires considerable ability."

The School Board did not build, immediately, a school for the colored students. It leased a building to be used as schoolroom for $35 per month. The building, altered now, still stands at 215 E. 6th Street. It served as and was known as the "Colored School" until Dunbar School was constructed and then it was taken over by George A. Stonecypher to be used as a bakery shop. Today, the building is the location of the Chinese Community Center, with its updated address as "221 E. 6th Street."

In May, 1916, Simmons' salary for teaching at the colored school was increased to $95 per month. On October 13 of that year another committee of Negro citizens presented a petition to the Board asking that an assistant be furnished Simmons. The Board noted at this time that but 19 students were enrolled in the school and "did not deem it advisable." Simmons was permitted to set up high school classes in the school and was instructed that if any 9th grade students appeared to enroll, he could teach them at an added $5 per month.

Apparently Simmons was paying the $3 per month fee for a telephone at the school out of his pocket. His salary in the fall of 1913 was raised $1 per month "to help pay for the telephone at the Colored School."

In May, 1917, the School Board decided to build a "Colored School" on land it owned at 300 W. Second St. Bids were called for and on July 6, 1917, the construction firm of Doe & Graf was awarded the bid for $5,969. It was completed and accepted by the Board on January 8, 1918. The Board had named the school after Paul Lawrence Dunbar, in honor of the well-regarded Negro poet. After achieving national fame for his poetry in dialect, Dunbar died at 34 years of age. Residing in the east, he had never seen Tucson.

The Dunbar School originally was constructed with two rooms. Miss Mable Bland was hired to assist Simmons in teaching at the school.

A two-room basement addition was constructed in 1921. Two rooms were also added in 1930, 1936 and 1940.

Additional ground was purchased in 1948, for $20,000, and a contract was let for the construction of a modern junior high school for $375,000. This included 12 new rooms and remodeling of the old building. The finished school had 23 classrooms, offices, a cafeteria-auditorium combination. In 1951, segregation of Arizona schools was ended and the name of Dunbar Junior High was changed to John A. Spring Junior High. Spring's history is recorded earlier in this volume. Latest construction at Spring was a library started May 17, 1966 at a cost of $43,842.

Spring continued to operate as both an elementary school and junior high school until it became exclusively a junior high in June, 1961. Elementary students were sent to Davis and Roosevelt Schools the following fall.

The third bond issue of the decade was called by the Board November 5, 1917, and was in the sum of $50,000 at six per cent to mature in 20 years. The bonds carried in the election 158 to 48 and by April the following year two small schools were in the planning stage. These were Menlo Park and University Heights.

Bids were advertised for the two-room schools and E. L. Willcox was low bidder for both. The bid for Menlo Park, at 11 00 W. Fresno, was $8,899.99, and the one for University Heights, at 1201 N. Park Avenue, was for $8,984. Land for the two schools was purchased out of bond money, with part of the "Schwalen Farm" purchased for Menlo Park at $2,500 and the land on Park Avenue for University Heights purchased for $2,250.

That spring the new superintendent, Fred Arthur Nims, of Flemington, N. J., was also instructed to proceed with repairs on the Old Adobe School, bid by a Mr. Tophoy at $3,860. It was discovered a year later that the title of the land on which the adobe school stood was not clear and the Board paid Frank Hereford $500 for a clear title to it.

Menlo Park remained a two-room school until 1921, when two rooms were added. Two more were constructed in 1927 and in 1930.

The school was completely remodeled in 1949. Two more rooms were added as were toilet facilities, offices, a nurse's room, work room and a community room. Approximately four acres were added to the site in 1949.

The remodeling left a total of 14 classrooms.

University Heights remained a two-room school until 1921 when eight rooms were added at a cost of $41,159. Six more were built in 1930, costing $44,973. Two basement rooms were converted into an all-purpose room and nurse's room in 1948 costing $19,035. In 1958, a complete remodeling contract was awarded to Abplanalp Construction Co. at $97,600.

The "disastrous" bond proposal was made by the School Board on April 5, 1919. The Board was then composed of J. E. White, president; L. E. Smith; and Mrs. Clara Fish Roberts, clerk. The bond election was called for May 5, 1919, and asked for a record amount--$375,000 at five and one-half per cent to mature in 20 years.

The Tucson Citizen carried a story the following day that received the bond news with luke-warm acclaim. The bonds, the newspaper noted, were to build a senior and a junior high school, a small building for first and second grades at 10th Street and Park Avenue (the site of the Old Adobe School ) and another school building in the vicinity of the Yaqui Indian village.

On April 11, the Citizen wrote a cautionary editorial stating, "We must be conservative in our expenditures." It noted that a $200,000 city bond issue was in the offing and, although the editorial did not condemn the school bond issue, it was cool toward it.

Two days later, the Citizen chilled. It stated flatly that the "new high school is not needed and it will be folly to junk the Holladay and Mansfeld Schools." The "junking" of Holladay was planned to make room for the new high school but the replacement for Mansfeld was not explained.

On April 15, the Citizen declared open war against the bonds. An editorial headed, "Railroading the Bonds," said:

"It is evident that the purpose of the School Board is to railroad the bonds through without any further investigation of the subject." The editorial went on to say that the Board accepted the recommendations of Supt. Nims "and is asking the taxpayers to vote this vast sum on the suggestion of one man and that man has been here only about nine months." It said that Nims "probably has not more insight on (local conditions) than the man who put a swimming tank in the Safford School."

The assault by the Citizen continued almost daily. On April 18, the newspaper produced a table showing the cost per student of education. In the grammar schools, it said, the cost per student rose from $37.82 in 1915-16 to $50.48 in 1918-19 The cost per high school student rose from $71.25 in 1915-16 to $102.50 in 1918-19.

On April 27, the Citizen centered its attack on Nims, calling him a "typical political school master." It accused him of "lobbying in the Legislature" and said that he was campaigning for the bond issue "through the children." On May 1, the paper said that "We don't need money for schools, but we do need a good superintendent."

Shortly after these latest accusations, Edward Van der Vries, principal of the high school resigned. Then, in a blistering story, the Citizen reported that seven other high school teachers had resigned and called the resignations an "open revolt against the efforts of F. A. Nims, the superintendent, to use the school organization to put through his Six-Six plan and a bond issue of $375,000."

(The Six-Six plan proposed a grammar school of the first six grades and a high school of the second six grades--a popular educational idea at the time. Just what the Citizen had against the plan, was not explained.)

The resignations of the principal and the teachers were announced two days before the May 6 bond vote and on the day of the voting, the Citizen editorialized that "The Czar of the public schools must be dethroned."

The bond issue lost.

The Citizen carried its own battle, while the Star did not fight the bond issue as such. Often critical of Nims, this time the Star was silent, saying only: "There is but one obligation every qualified voter has--he or she should vote and express that preference he or she may feel on the matter."

After the defeat of the issue, six of the seven high school teachers were hired for another year. Van der Vries was not retained as principal and there is no indication that he asked to be retained.

Nims had another year to go on his contract and chose to-exercise the option. He stayed during the 1919-1920 school year but was replaced by C. E. Rose in the spring of 1920 with George J. Peak as his assistant.

Following the Citizen's attack on the bond issue, L. E. Smith, the newly-elected trustee, resigned. The other two trustees--J. E. White and Mrs. Clara Fish Roberts, remained in their posts.

Other than the defeat of the bond issue, the 1910-1920 decade was a smooth and progressive one in school affairs.

Teacher requirements were elevated as the decade began. On January 1, 1910, the Board set new standards for hiring. It was resolved that only "graduates from colleges of unquestionable standing," who have had successful experience in teaching their chosen subjects, would be considered eligible for positions in the high school. Graduates of normal schools or colleges would be given preference as grade school teachers. As far as promotions were concerned, the only two things to be considered were the efficiency and length of service of the teacher.

A new holiday was inaugurated in 1910, two days being given off May 5 and 6 for the Mexican celebration "Cinco de Mayo." Periodic medical inspections of children were provided for in the budget for the coming year. Five hundred dollars was budgeted for a physician to make the examinations. Dr. Meade Clyne was hired as the part-time school physician.

Salaries for school teachers on the grammar school level in 1910 ranged from $75 to $90 per month. High school teachers received from $1,000 to $1,200 for the nine-month term, with the principal being paid $1,400 on a 12-month basis. The head janitor of the system received $100 a month during the school year and $75 per month during the summer.

Manual training and domestic science classes were first formed in the 1911-12 school year.

The school census for 1911-1912 showed that the total number of children in the school district between six and 21 years of age was 3,386--1,719 boys and 1,667 girls. Attending the public schools were 1,840 children. Private school enrollment was 403 and 1,143 children within the six to 21-year range attended no school at all.

Charles H. Tully, the census marshal, explained that the reason for the large number of children not in school was "extreme poverty among many families who have to employ their children in order to earn their living." He said, "A large percentage of the children of the poorer classes quit school at the age of 15 for poverty reasons." An added reason for nonattendance, he said, was the fact that school age had been increased from 18 to 21 and that children in that age group did not want to go to school and didn't.

Among teachers hired in the spring of 1912 was the late J. F. (Pop) McKale who became the district's first athletic coach, coaching football and teaching mathematics at the high school. He was to reach fame in coaching at the University of Arizona.

McKale coached sports at Tucson High School during 1912 and 1913. According to McKale, interviewed before his death June 1, 1967, the football team averaged but 145 pounds per man, yet defeated Bisbee twice, Phoenix twice, the University of Arizona second team once and lost only to the University varsity. His baseball teams also defeated the varsity UA squad and finally, in 1914, the university hired McKale away from the school district as coach for all sports.

In the spring of 1912, tuition for non-district students was charged for the first time. High school students paid $4 per month if taking a full course while grammar school students paid $2 per month.

A full-time librarian, Mrs. Annie W. Kellond, was hired during 1912 at $95 per month. She later became the first full-time secretary for the School Board, and a school was named after her in the district.

In the early 1900's it was as difficult to obtain a transfer from one school in the district to another--for the convenience of the student--as it is today. On October 7, 1912, James R. Dunseath, representing H. V. Anaya, appeared before the Board and asked that Anaya's children be transferred from the Drachman School to Safford School because "all the children at the Drachman School speak Spanish and Mr. Anaya prefers that his children hear English spoken on the playground." The Board refused the transfer.

The Territorial law against corporal punishment in schools was rescinded in 1912. Because of this, the Board passed a resolution that "Teachers in this school district are authorized to administer corporal punishment. This may be done only in extreme cases of continued insubordination, open defiance or disrespect for authority on the part of the pupil. Teachers must be discreet when resorting to corporal punishment; they must be free from anger; the principal of the school must be present; the punishment must not be excessive and the pupil must not be humiliated."

The Board continued to frown on married school teachers (except widows) and the following entry in the Board minutes of April 1914 is an interesting one:

"The Board then considered the matter Miss Weddel, a teacher of the sixth grade in the Safford School, who is about to be married a Mr. Green of Arizona. It was the unanimous action of the Board that in the event of Miss Weddel's marriage, her contract as a teacher of the public schools of Tucson would immediately cease."

Pianos for the schools were first purchased in 1915 when the Board purchased five from the Murdock Furniture and Piano Co. at $225 each. Physical culture for high school girls was established in 1915 when Miss Edna Davidson was hired to teach the subject three times a week after school hours. Fifty-four girls signed for the course.

The school budget was formalized for the first time in 1916, with lined-out budgeted expenditures. The operating expenses for the high school were set at $21,435.50, and $82,404 was budgeted for the grammar schools for a total of $103,839.50. One item was for $50 for library books for the high school, none for the grammar schools.

An agricultural teacher was hired for the high school in August of 1916. Two years later, seven acres of land were leased on St. Mary's Road, just west of the Santa Cruz River, for a school farm on which practical agriculture could be taught. The district has no project of this kind at the present.

In September, 1916, a policy statement was issued to teachers which probably led to the determination of the high school teachers that they should not work for the ill-fated bond issue in 1919. The statement was issued by Dr. W. V. Whitmore, member of the Board. The policy holds true today.

"A word concerning the activity of teachers in school elections. Of course, we have known that, in the past, certain teachers have been quite active at these times. But we had the mistaken idea that you did it because you like us. We were very surprised to learn that any of you felt that you had to do this. We have no right to ask you to fight our battles. This would cause you embarrassment, worry and even worse, should the election go the wrong way. So, the School Board has asked me to bear to you this message: That we will consider it an 'unfriendly act' for you to take an undue activity in such elections. This, of course, does not mean that you can not go to the polls and vote. We could not take that right away from you, if we wished, and we have no desire to do so. As I interpret it, it does not mean you can not take more interest and activity than simply voting. But it does mean that, whatever you do and with what vigor you do it, it shall all be voluntary."

The first school orchestra was started in October, 1916, when an extra appropriation "not to exceed $40" was ordered set aside by the Board to purchase instruments.

First Hundred Years, By James F. Cooper, Edited by John H. Fahr, Tucson, Arizona, 1967