Tuesday, December 18, 2007

WRA Alumnus Related to Noted Library Director

Recently I had occasion to share with my colleagues at the John D. Ong Library that I had grown up in the Cleveland Public Library system, worked at a branch, later at Main Library, and returned there to become a department head in the 1960's. During all this time CPL's book collections were arranged by a modified Dewey system devised by the noted Librarian William Howard Brett (1846-1918), who was Director of the Cleveland Public Library from 1884 to 1918. Indeed Mr. Brett was a great administrator and innovator. He pioneered the author-title-subject catalog in the 1880's, opened library shelves to free access, started a system of neighborhood branches, and organized the Main Library into subject departments. He was the founding Dean of the CWRU Library School and a President of the American Library Association. He is considered one of the great names in U.S. library history.

Our associate in WRA Archives, Lynna Piekutowski, alerted me that one of our alums, Peter Lewis Brett, class of 1945, might be a descendant of Mr. Brett. On further inspection, we learned that he was the grandson of the great library pioneer, and his own father was also named William Howard Brett. Since Peter Brett is listed as the class agent for '45, I gave him a call and we had quite a conversation about the legacy of his distinguished grandfather. Peter Brett was proud of the fact that his grandfather had served in the Civil War, entering as a drummer, and that he later attended Western Reserve College in Hudson for one year, 1870-71. But all four of Mr. Brett's sons were college graduates (West Point, VMI, Dartmouth, and CWRU) and all went on to noted careers. Three served in World War I, one later becoming a 3-star general in the Army Air Force.

Peter confirmed his own happy years at WRA where he was captain of the football team in the fall of '44, played baseball and served on the school council and in the "R" Club. He has great memories of the WRA masters of that time, especially Rusty Cleminshaw (pictured to the right), Scotch McGill, Chan Jones, Ray Mickel and others. He has lived in the Washington, D.C. area for years and soon will move into a new condominium in Reston, Va. He mentioned that his older brother had done much work on genealogy and had recently presented some family materials to the Cleveland Public Library. Both Peter and his brother, William Howard Brett III, continue to be proud of the achievements of their grandfather. An excellent book about Mr. Brett is Open Shelves and Open Minds by C. H. Cramer (1972).

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Autos on Campus Help Tell the WRA Story

A few years ago while looking through photos to put on the yearly WRA calendar, I saw many student and faculty photos with cars in the foreground or background, and I thought that it might make an interesting theme for the calendar. Others were not much taken with the idea, so I just filed it away. But having recently written an article where I used a photo of Headmaster Harlan N. Wood taken in 1929 at the spring relay race, the idea surfaced again. That photo shows Mr. Wood and a couple of runners in front of a pace car that could be a Packard or a Pierce-Arrow. It led me to chase down a few more photos of cars on campus.

I'm fairly certain that this photo of Howard R. Thompson, WRA Class of 1918, is the first one we have of a car on campus. Howard is seated on the hood of his car which sports an Ohio license plate for 1916, the year the school reopened. Howard lived in Aurora, so he must have needed his car to get to school. Another large car can be seen behind his.

A favorite classic photo shows seven students from the Classes of '34
and '35 pictured with five cars and two motorcycles. The photo was taken in June 1934 and the two men seated on the ground in front of one of the cars are Louis A. Tepper, the faculty member who ran the machine shop, and Headmaster Joel B. Hayden. A similar photo taken 34 years later in 1968 shows a group of six faculty-owned VW bugs with their owners.

Other faculty members were often identified with their well-traveled autos, including Mr. Shirley Culver's bulbous 1950 Mercury, Mark Worthen's 1948 Jeep Station Wagon with the wooden panel doors, and of course our own Headmaster Skip Flanagan's "HOO WAA" MG sports convertible which ended up as the centerpiece for a couple of senior putzes. But that would be yet another story we'll explore at a later time.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Howard Hayes, Athletic Equipment Manager, Recalled

Word was recently received that Howard Hayes, who served as athletic equipment manager for WRA for 23 years, passed away at the age of 82. Howard (as he was fondly known to the student body) came to the school in 1961 and once described his job as "maintenance of the athletic equipment, inventory, seeing the dry cleaning is done, maintenance in the gym and pool, and helping Mr. Helwig" (Athletic Director George L. Helwig, 1959-1974).

But Howard Hayes was so well liked by the students that in the fall of 1968 when WRA was facing a crucial game against long-time rival Cranbrook, he was asked to be part of a student rally held in Ellsworth Hall. The Friday night rally was a takeoff on the popular musical Camelot and featured a joust where the WRA knight defeated the Cranbrook challenger. As the "stricken" Cranbrook jouster lay on the floor begging for a towel to soothe his wounds, Howard emerged from the depths of a dark corner and cried out, "No towels today!" As the crowd of WRA fans rose up cheering, they hoisted Howard upon their shoulders as a photo in the Reserve Record attests. One cheerleader commented that "it had to be the greatest single moment in Reserve rally history."

Howard continued to serve the school until his retirement in 1983. His own interests included golf, bowling, and being an avid reader of detective novels. He was survived by his wife, two daughters, and grandchildren. One of his admirers (in the late '60's) noted "that without Howard the whole athletic system would come to a grinding halt." We salute the memory of Howard Hayes and his long service to Western Reserve Academy.