In the 1940’s, the Junior School was a fairly new building. Opened in the mid-1930’s, along with the then newly constructed Chapel, it represented an era when the school was flush with money. Junior School was clad with white marble and had bronze entry doors, terrazzo- floored corridors and finishes that would qualify as “the best money could buy”.
Capacity was 360 boys, ages 6 to 10, divided into 12 “Sections” for housing purposes. Each Section had its individual “Governess” who, with a small staff of “House Masters”, directed every aspect of a student’s day that was not spent in classes.
The structure had three floors with a building-footprint shaped basically as an “H”, two wings connected with a central corridor. The wings were designated East and West. At the midpoint of the central corridor were dining facilities – three dining rooms and a large commercial kitchen. The first floor had 12 “Section Rooms”, 6 on East wing and 6 on West wing, along with seamstress rooms and the central corridor dining rooms. This division of Sections between East and West created intense territorial rivalries.
East Wing second floor had dormitories for Sections 1 thru 4 with a shower room and governesses’ bedrooms. Third floor was the same plan for Sections 5 thru 8. West Wing second floor had class rooms for the first three grades and the third floor was the same as the East Wing upper floors, but for Sections 9 thru 12. Over the central dining areas were resident rooms for staff personnel.
Junior School basement was probably the most interesting basement on the campus. There were 12 wash rooms, one for each Section, again in the designated wings. Each washroom had low basins lining the side walls and a shoe-shine “kiosk” in the middle of the room. Basins had a towel bar beneath each and a marble shelf above and behind the basin on which was stored each boy’s hair brush, comb, toothbrush and a round, red tooth powder can (can’t you still see those red tooth powder cans).
In addition to washrooms, the basement had indoor play rooms shared by two Sections. Large toilet rooms with “gang type” rows of toilets; a kitchen receiving area under the first floor central dining area; and a sunken auditorium, large enough to seat all 360 boys living in the building. The auditorium was used for Saturday afternoon movies, a displeasing Sunday School on Sunday afternoons and plays presented by various classes. Over all, the building was much like a small city whereby little guys never had to go outside the building in bad weather.
Junior School playground was like a large “community zoo” with kids running everywhere - fierce sports competition between the Sections in soccer and baseball - flying kites in blustery spring winds - playing in a sand “tent” that was covered with a metal roof - testing how to walk on stilts (wooden poles with elevated foot rests) - scrambling over, around and dropping through the metal-piped cubicles of a Jungle Gym - sliding down the sliding board standing up - hanging upside down with legs through metal rings suspended on chains - seeing how fast two guys could move a seesaw without one falling off - trying to get a swing to go high enough so its supporting chains would be horizontal with the ground.
Then there was Mr. Nickelson, Junior School’s senior house master, standing on the upper landing of the building’s curved steps, with his whistle and megaphone “controlling” the bedlam of afternoon and weekend play periods. One playground activity that was not enjoyed was the “grudge line” – that infamous expansion-joint crack in the playground sidewalk in front of the curved steps leading to the playground. Here was another example of the Staff’s insight, and one of its best. The process went something like this: if a boy broke a rule, such as talking after “lights out” in the dormitory; and, when asked by the staff who it was, the violator didn’t speak up, there would be no second request by the Staff for an admission; rather, the entire section was punished by standing as a group on the “grudge line” during the following day’s play period.
As previously mentioned, Junior School building had 12 Section rooms, 6 on each of the East and West wings. A Section was about 30 boys, and that group was each boy’s immediate bond of “brothers”, his “badge of group identity” and his “home within a home”. Each Section’s governess was a person of authority, first as a sympathetic, surrogate mother for the very young and later as a disciplining parent for the older boys. Governesses, or “Govies”, were fine women who each Hummer remembers as an understanding and guiding influence on his younger years.
Section rooms were all identical: a fireplace surrounded with wing-backed chairs and a sofa. In one corner was the “Govie’s” desk surrounded by a cluster of small desks, each having two boys facing each other. Each desk had two drawers, a small upper and larger bottom one. Each young Hummer kept his entire worldly possessions in that sacred bottom drawer.
The building’s center corridor was flanked by three dining rooms. Each dining room had twelve tables to seat four Sections. Each Section had three tables with 10 boys seated at each table. With about 120 boys in one room that had plaster walls and ceiling, talking was not allowed. Tables were covered with linen table cloths, plates were heavy white porcelain and napkins were square white cloths rolled inside a metal ring.
Many youthful memories of our lives in Junior School remain today!