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Sunday, August 15, 2021

Freed from school, the Tivy Class of 1916 gets out of town

An unexpected picnic of Tivy Seniors -- Spring 1916.
Click on any image to enlarge

Gentle Reader, this might surprise you: while I like historic Kerr County photographs, I like scrapbooks and journals containing historic photographs even more. The photographs show images of the past, but the scrapbooks sometimes tell the story behind the photographs.

Bonnie Hicks being
carried by Floyd Conwill
and Chester Stapp
At the turn of the last century, before high school yearbooks were common, young ladies often kept a scrapbook of their senior year in high school. Several families have lent me scrapbooks kept by a member of their family. These books are like handmade high school yearbooks.

This week my friends Sandy and Jon Wolfmueller gave me some more items from their bookstore files, and in one of the boxes, I found the scrapbook of the valedictorian of the 1916 graduating class of Tivy High School: Miss Lillian G. Sutton. 

Her scrapbook was a gift from her classmate, Helen Dietert (Orr), “The Girl Graduate, Her Own Book,” published by the Reilly and Britton Co. in Chicago. The scrapbook is organized with headings such as “Class Photographs,” “Social Events,” “Class Autographs.”

The "mill dam"
Miss Sutton graduated with a Bachelor of Science from what was then called Southwest State Teachers College in San Marcos in August, 1931 – quite a long time after her years at Tivy High School. I suspect she went to a “Teachers Normal” school and got her teaching certificate soon after graduating from high school, because the 1920 and 1940 census shows her teaching elementary school in Kerrville. After years of teaching, she went to college and got her degree.

Miss Sutton kept many things from her high school years in the scrapbook, but the memories of one particular day take up more pages than any other one event.

The boys secured autos
It was a day, “in the early spring of ’16,” Sutton writes, when the entire senior class at Tivy was dismissed from school for the day, “due to the resignation of one of our teachers.”

“We were sent home partly for punishment because we ‘took sides’ in a little misunderstanding in the faculty, but the main reason for our dismissal was that we were in the way, as there was no one to take charge of our room.

“If this was meant as a punishment, we did not consider it a bad means. We immediately decided we would go on a picnic. We went to town and bought our lunch. The boys secured cars and we were soon on our way to Goat Creek Island, thrilled with the prospects of a glorious day ahead. Nor were we disappointed for it was truly a glorious day.”

Jumping in a sand slide
Given the amount of space she gave to recording that particular day, I think it was one of the happiest memories of her senior year.

“We enjoyed jumping in a sand slide, played games, and the boys made ‘pack saddles’ and carried the girls across the water to Goat Creek Island. (We were NOT supposed to tell our mothers this.) We waded, took pictures, and feasted.

“As usual, Floyd [Conwill] furnished plenty of amusement for the crowd, but on this occasion, he had plenty of helpers. One of his pranks almost had a disastrous ending. He carelessly seated himself on the outlet of an irrigation pipe which was in a vertical position. Presently he felt a strong suction pulling him into the pipe and making it difficult for him to arise. With some assistance he gained his freedom. The water shot up some ten feet in the air. Floyd’s face registered surprise and he sincerely remarked, ‘Well, I’ll never sit on anything again!’

The group on Goat Creek Island
“We returned home after dark singing our class song and giving yells and having a good time in general. Just before disbanding we sang ‘The End of a Perfect Day’ with much enthusiasm.” 

Lillian Sutton taught in Kerrville public schools, as did her sisters Edith Sutton Abbott, Marguerite Esther Sutton, and Ruby Sutton Young. Three of the sisters, Lillian, Edith and Ruby – from a lifetime of savings from their incomes as public school teachers – set up a trust in the 1980s which, in the 1990s, bequeathed over $1.5 million to local charities, including the Hill Country Youth Ranch, the Salvation Army, the Texas Lions Camp, and the American Red Cross.

Lillian Sutton never married. She and two of her sisters, Ruby and Edith, both widowed, lived together on Robinson Street for many years. None of the sisters had children. Lillian Sutton passed away in 1993 and is buried here in Kerrville.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys finding Kerr County history stories. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 14, 2021.

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