[p. 75]

Boy Feud

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Longville Learned its 3 R's Here
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THE lot of the children of the pioneers was as far removed from that of the boys and girls of the present day as was that of their elders, and as the tasks and duties of their parents differed from those of the Beaumonter of today, so did their youthful pastimes and pleasures differ from the games in well-ordered parks and school grounds, visits to the movies and other recreations provided for children of the twentieth century.

Of toys there were none, save the crudest makeshifts made by hand at home; no paved streets and sidewalks whereon boys and girls might glide swiftly on roller skate or bicycles, but in their stead rough pathways through the forest or across the prairies, over which they galloped astride stick horses carrying guns fashioned from boards, in search of "wild game" or "Indians", in make-believe copies of their fathers' own recreations or duties.

In games of earlier days the military spirit prevailed. That brought about naturally the organization of companies or squads, for without opposing armies there could be no battles. Out of this spirit grew eventually a permanent factionalism in which the "town" boys and the "Long and Company" boys were drawn up in loyal ranks in opposing camps.

In the early 80's these companies were made up, on the one hand, of the boys in town, and of those living in the vicinity of the present site of the creosoting plant and attending the school maintained by the Long and Company lumber concern. The dividing line was the present Pine street, beyond which no member of either side dared venture without ample escort for his protection against capture.

These valiant defendants of their respective territories maintained a remarkably well-ordered organization and kept faithful vigil over their domain. Squads of guards were posted at vantage points, and any boy venturing into foreign territory was promptly captured and imprisoned. Emmett Fletcher was the commander of the Longville armies, and his faithful followers tell to this day with no little show of pride the story of the capture of a town boy, who was held incommunicado in the Longville prison, a lonely shack in the outskirts of the settlement, and subjected to torture, consisting of jeers and taunts and dire and dreadful threats by his captors for a day and night.

Should a boy have to come to town on an errand for his mother, he applied to his captain for an escort and a squad of strapping scouts armed to the teeth with wooden swords and guns, was summoned. And the same custom prevailed when it became necessary for a town boy to venture into Longvillian territory. Venturesome ones essayed sometimes to "slip through the ranks" in fine imitation of a regulation spy and completing his business, slip back again with many a trick of strategy that might well stand in hand an adult soldier in times of real war.

Immunity enveloped a boy only when accompanied by father or mother, and even then he was not spared the sly taunts and gibing side talk by "enemy" youngsters, at church, funeral or other gatherings.

Doubtless from the many factional alliances and antagonism that supplied vent for the youthful spirits of the boys of yesteryear grew some of the social lines, business associations and political lineups of the present day. Certain it is that the vigor with which the boy of that day played his outdoor game, and the loyalty with which he supported his clan, did much toward building up both body and character and contributed to the strength of body and soul of the men whose work was the structure of civilization that now makes the lives of boys and girls a season of ease and pleasure.

Every home in the early days of Beaumont was a schoolhouse, for up to 1881 there was no public school system in the little city and the children's education depended on home teaching or on private schools. Some of the more prosperous families employed governesses, but by far the greater number of children attended schools conducted by private teachers who charged a small tuition fee per pupil in some instances $1.50 per pupil per month.

Of these private schools there seem to have been many, and widely scattered. There was a building in a gum thicket where the First National Bank building now stands, a Catholic parochial school in the same block, on the Orleans street side, a school where the Wilson Hardware company now is, one back of the McFaddin homesite, one in a hall in Keith park. Another recalled by many of the present prominent citizens was the Beaumont Academy, which stood in a heavy forest area on Park street, between the double bridges, about where the Turnbow Lumber company now is. Here Professor George H. Stovall, assisted by Rev. William McFaddin Alexander, taught in the early eighties. Many Beaumonters got their three R's at a little schoolhouse four miles west of Beaumont on the Calder road sixty-five years ago, and now on each July 4 there is a reunion of the pupils of that school, who gather under the same spreading oaks where they romped in childhood. It's a far cry from the present-day ride in limousine to the walk of the yesteryear over plowed fields to that tiny crude building.

Under the charter provisions of 1881 Beaumont organized a city system of schools, and in 1884 purchased the old firemen's hall and negro Oddfellows hall for $567.50 for school buildings. Five white and three negro teachers were employed.

The schools were for the first year under the direction of a temporary superintendent, Rev. Thomas Ward White, then H. E. Chambers. In 1885 W. H. Fonte was elected superintendent in August and resigned in October. The management of the schools was then placed under the principals of the white and negro schools, and this management was continued until 1889, when C. F. Johnson was made superintendent. In 1890 by popular subscription and bond issue, the North End (now Millard) school was built. Up to this time there were only seven grades in the schools, and in that year an eighth grade was added. In 1892 C. A. Bryant was elected superintendent and served two years. He added the tenth grade, forming a three year high school course. He was succeeded by P. A. Dowlen, who served two years. The schools since their organization had been supported by state funds for four and five months each year, and lack of these funds necessitated the closing of the schools during 1896-97.

In March the board resigned in a body because the council refused to order an election for a 25-cent school tax. A new board was organized in May, and a 25-cent school tax voted June 12, 1897. P. S. Halleck was elected principal of the North End school, and Dr. G. H. Stovall was appointed superintendent without salary. Dr. Stovall resigned the following December and the schools were again placed under the management of the principals. On May 2, 1898, the office of city superintendent was created, with a salary and I. H. Bryant was elected superintendent. He served one month and was succeeded by F. A. Parker, who served three years. He was succeeded by B. F. Pettus who served two years, and Superintendent Pettus was succeeded by H. F. Triplett in 1903, who served 16 years, succeeded in 1919 by M. E. Moore.

In 1902 school building bonds were voted to the amount of $85,000 with which a $60,000 high school for whites, and two buildings for negroes were erected in 1904. In 1906 $30,000 additional bonds for school buildings was voted.

The schools took another leap forward in 1924 when ground was purchased, buildings erected and equipment provided for two junior high schools and two negro schools, a bond issue of $500,000 having been voted for the purpose.

The enrollment in the schools in 1884 was 427; in 1891, 699; in 1899, 902; in 1900, 1203; in 1901, 1848; in 1903, 2444; in 1907, 3102; and for the beginning of the fall term of 1924, 6266.

As now organized the Beaumont city school system has a high school with a three-year course; two junior high schools with three-year courses; and seven ward schools with the first five grades for whites, and three elementary and one high school for negroes.

Including in its curriculum work from kindergarten through two years' accredited college course, the South Park schools form a distinctive link in the educational system of the city. In 1907 the first bond issue of $23,000 was vote d for a school for the children of the workers in the Spindletop oil fields. In 1913 by a special act of the legislature the school district was made into an independent district, and L. R. Pietzsch was made superintendent. From that period to the present year the school system has been enlarged until it now includes the South Park junior college, built in 1923. high school, elementary school and a kindergarten. with a school for negroes. Only three schools in Texas claim the distinction of a public school system covering that period of years. Drawing taxes from the Magnolia refinery, the school is one of the richest independent districts in the world.

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