Tuesday, November 25, 2008

WRA's interesting links with schools and sugar in Hawaii

It was nice hearing from Candace Lee in the Archives at the Kamehameha School in Honolulu who asked us to participate in an archives survey. In addition, I sent her a message noting that WRA had sent one of our faculty members to Hawaii in 1930 who later became Principal of the Kamehameha Schools. Dr. Homer F. Barnes, who had come to WRA in 1926 to become head of our English Department, served in Hawaii as Head of the Boys School for four years, then as Principal of the entire school from 1934 to 1944. Our records show that he kept in touch with friends here in Hudson, returned for visits in 1935 and 1937, and was even here at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor when he left his wife and daughters in Hudson in order to return home to deal with the war crisis. Archivist Lee asked if I knew of any other links between WRA and Hawaii.

One of our graduates from the class of 1888, George H. Fairchild, gave up the idea of going to college and instead went to the Hawaiian Islands later that year and took a position with the Makee Sugar Company. He had become President and General Manager of the company by 1895 and continued in that role until 1912. Meantime, he married Elisabeth Cummins Kamakee, whose grandfather had been one of the founders of the sugar industry in Hawaii, and they became the parents of three children. Fairchild was elected to the Hawaii Territorial Senate in 1898 and served until 1902. When the Territorial government removed the duty from sugar in 1912, Fairchild decided to go to the Philippine Islands where he felt the future of the sugar industry would be greater. He founded Welch-Fairchild, Ltd. in Manila, the Mindoro Sugar Company, and the San Carlos Milling Company. In 1920, with the help of Manuel Quezon who was later President of the Philippines, Fairchild bought the Manila Times and became its publisher. By the early 1930's he was recognized as one of the most influential American businessmen in the Philippines. Fairchild served as a delegate to the Pan-Pacific Union held in Hawaii in 1925. He was still receiving copies of the Reserve Record just prior to the outbreak of World War II.

Back in Hawaii on December 7, 1941 at the time of the attack by the Empire of Japan, one of the forts at Pearl Harbor was Fort Weaver, named in honor of Major Gen. Erasmus M. Weaver, who had served as Chief of the Coast Artillery for several years. After graduation from West Point, Lt. Weaver spent three years in Hudson as an instructor in Military Science and drill master on our campus from 1877 to 1880. General Weaver spent many years as a resident of Honolulu, and his house was on Weaver Lane, just across the way from the Hawaiian State Capitol. He died in 1920 at the age of 66. There are currently 7 or 8 WRA graduates living in Hawaii.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

WRA alumnus traveled in Revolutionary Russia, 1917-1918

Early in 1917 World War I came to an end in Russia when that country withdrew in the face of Revolution at home. Czar Nicholas II abdicated, and for a short time Russia experimented with democracy. In March, 1917, a month before the U.S. entered the War, President Woodrow Wilson sent a committee of inquiry into Revolutionary Russia on a fact-finding mission. They recommended that several groups of observers and/or military be sent to monitor the situation. The first such party to go into Russia was a YMCA group that included Rev. John Logan Findlay, an 1897 graduate of WRA and an ordained Congregational minister. They arrived in St. Petersburg about the time that Alexander Kerensky became head of the Provisional Government, and apparently traveled along the front and deep into Siberia.

At some point the party met Grand Duchess Tatiana, the second oldest daughter of Nicholas II,
probably at Tsarkoe Selo, the palace the Romanov family occupied following the abdication which was about 15 miles outside St. Petersburg. Findlay later recalled that "her case was pitiful, for she had no conception of the seriousness of her country's predicament. She believed her father would be restored to the throne." Findlay claimed he was given some "gold cups, silver dishes, jewel-studded bowls, opera glasses" and other artifacts which he brought back home. The YMCA party continued their journey until after Lenin came to power, and early in 1918 they were forced to flee across Siberia in a desperate journey that took 34 days, and then continued by ship to Japan. Upon his return to the U.S., Findlay, along with Sir George Adam Smith of Aberdeen University who had shared his ordeal, went on a speaking tour throughout the South and West. Eventually, Findlay returned to Hudson as Pastor of the First Congregational Church from 1926 to 1930, and his son, Myron, graduated from WRA in 1931.

John Logan Findlay subsequently went on to another pastorate in Taunton, Massachusetts, later retiring to Hyannis on Cape Cod where he died in 1959. An unusual photo of him in the Reserve Record in 1930 shows him wearing a Soviet uniform in five poses done with the aid of mirrors. What became of the artifacts he reportedly had been given by the Romanovs remains a mystery. Grand Duchess Tatiana was murdered by the Bolsheviks along with the other members of the Romanov family in July,1918. In recent years, their remains were interred at a cathedral in St. Petersburg and they have all been acclaimed as saints and martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kitzmiller and Roundy were founders of the Hudson chapter, LWV

Because the Hudson chapter of the League of Women Voters is celebrating its 7oth anniversary in December, they asked me to help research some of the charter members of the group founded in 1938. One look at the names told me that most of the women were associated with WRA either as staff, faculty wives, or as the mothers of WRA students. Helen Haldy Kitzmiller, who for many years was a Special Assistant to the Headmaster, came to Hudson in 1925 when her husband, Harrison, came to teach French and German at WRA. Both continued with the school for the next 30 years.

Helen Kitzmiller was a force for good in the community, and it is not a surprise that she would be the founding member of the LWV chapter. She had already helped the school recover some of its traditions by tracing down alumni and former faculty, and she had written a booklet published in 1926 at the time of the WRA centennial. In the 1930's she was responsible for the Garden Shows held at Cutler Hall and was involved with the founding of the Hudson Garden Club in 1933. When she launched the LWV chapter, she called on her colleagues here at the school and they responded readily. During World War II, Mrs. Kitz (as she was fondly called), was the one who initiated the people-to-people effort for the relief of Wester Soubourg, Holland, a town that had suffered when the dams were leveled by Allied bombers, and from which town the bell in our Chapel had been cast in 1611. Her determination to help our Dutch friends became a town-wide project, and after the War ended, there were still Wester Soubourg Days in Hudson to benefit the town. Eventually, she was invited to Holland to receive formal thanks from the town and its Mayor, and in 1955 she and her husband went there for the celebration. They continued their European trip by going to Germany, and then to Spain where Mrs. Kitz died unexpectedly in Barcelona in February, 1956. The Hudson Times commented that "Hudson has lost one her most devoted daughters." Mrs. Kitzmiller left a legacy to the LWV to support educational opportunities for its members, and that fund is still active today.

Elinor N. Roundy came to Hudson with her husband, Paul, in 1932, when he joined the WRA faculty as a teacher of History and English. A Vassar graduate, Elinor initially was another of the faculty wives living on campus, and in that capacity she became an early member of the Hudson Chapter LWV. But in 1949 she became the first woman faculty member since WRA had become an all-boys school in 1926. For the next 20 years, Elinor Roundy would more than hold her own among an all-male faculty. She was an outstanding English teacher and remembered fondly by many of her former students. She was recalled as "intelligent, thorough, and elegant, and intimidating." Elinor N. Roundy was also known for her wit, her beautiful parties, her sophistication and her laugh. She was also a great supporter of WRA's sports teams, always attended athletic events, and was even awarded a letter "R" for her intense loyalty. The Roundys retired to Bellows Falls, Vermont in 1970, and Elinor lived until 1987. The following year the school announced the creation of the Paul and Elinor Roundy Chair in History and Literature, funded by their grateful students.

Monday, November 10, 2008

WRA and Armistice Day, November 11, 1918

Ninety years ago this week, the world felt a sense of relief and euphoria as World War I came to an end with the signing of the Armistice. In the year and a half since the U.S. had entered the War, WRA students were required to attend military drill every morning on the campus in the area where the John D. Ong Library stands today. Mathematics master James S. Levering was the drill master. No weapons were available, but students wore khaki uniforms. On the day of the Armistice Headmaster Homer O. Sluss invited the community to a service of thanksgiving held at the WRA Chapel.

Several WRA students had dropped out in order to enlist, and other alumni also enlisted in the war effort. Thomas L. Robinson of the class of 1896 was nearly 40 when he was commisioned a Major in the Army with service as a Red Cross commissioner in France. He went with the Occupation forces into Germany in 1919 and later was decorated by both Italy and Belgium for outstanding war service.

Well into the 1930's WRA observed Armistice Day with a special Chapel service that usually featured a veteran of the "Great War". In 1930 WRA English master Melvin H. Black, who was at the front on the day the armistice was declared, told how "the Germans and Allies mingled and shared their scanty provisions after 11:00 on that memorable day". Black, who reported that he actually enjoyed his service with the AEF, said that he learned how to cook as the result of being a mess sergeant in the army. Another faculty member who had vivid memories of the War was chemistry master Russell H. Cleminshaw, who taught at WRA from 1934 to 1960. He was a 1st Lieutenant of Field Artillery and served in the Meuse-Argonne campaign, and later was with the Army of Occupation at Coblenz, Germany. His officer training courses included topography, map making, and the care and training of horses in the field. World War I was the last conflict where horses still played a crucial role with the cavalry. Once the "war to end all wars" was over, military training on campus disappeared, but the memory of the Armistice was solemnly observed every year until the outbreak of World War II.