New Kerr County History Book Available!

Sunday, January 22, 2023

A handmade book by Kerrville students, from 1937

Fifth Graders at Kerrville Elementary, History Pageant, March 2, 1937

This week, a kind reader brought me a handmade book, which was created right here in Kerrville, back in 1937. If an old book can be sweet, this one certainly is.

The book

It’s a hardcover book measuring a little over 8.5 inches wide, and 11.5 inches tall. It is bound to the covers with string and pasted end sheets. There are about 150 pages in the book, yellowed with time, but still marked with the brilliant colors of crayons and map pencils. The cover is made using binder board and blue book cloth. The students did a fine job binding the book.

It was created by the students of Mabel Deering’s “high” fifth grade Texas history class, and has pages of hand-drawn maps, hand-drawn scenes from Texas history, poetry written by the students, postcards and other printed materials pasted on the pages, and in the back, in a kraft envelope pasted to the back cover of the book, a series of photographs showing a history pageant performed by the class on March 2, 1937, in the school’s auditorium. These photographs were taken by a local photographer, Cleveland Wheelus.

Each page was signed by the student who created it.

Miss Deering taught at Kerrville Elementary. That elementary school campus was later called Tivy Elementary School, back in the 1960s when I was an elementary school student at Starkey Elementary, and then Tivy Upper Elementary School in the 1990s, when my children were students on the same campus.

The campus was at the intersection of Tivy and Barnett Streets. In 1937, the campuses of Kerrville Elementary, Franklin Junior High School, and Tivy High School were all on Tivy Street, on either side of Barnett.

I recognize the names of many of the students, and perhaps you will, too: Louis Burton, Trilby Mosty, Mary Busby, Dorothy Lou Stiffler, Joyce Short, Ida Soto, Maltida Bonn, Edgar Russell, Eldon Raymond Riley, Edgar Russel, Elaine Oehler, Joe Henry Mills, Allen Steves, Trilby Corbin, Aaron Robertson, Richard Flenniken, Dennis Parker, Nina Burnett, Anna Bell Reynolds, Ethel Lee Ellis, Geraldine McDonald, Dorothy Jen Randle, Louise Nichaus, and many others.

There are several things about the book which stand out for me:

The penmanship is very good. These fifth graders had good handwriting skills.

Many of the pages look like homework assignments. Perhaps Miss Deering chose from among the homework she received back from students, choosing the best work to be included in the class book. I think this would have motivated me as a fifth grader to do my best work!

The pages are also very neat, often marked with a layout guide in red pencil, so the pages would be uniform when bound together.

Mabel Deering taught elementary school in Kerrville for 31 years, and for 26 of those years she taught fifth grade. In 1937, she lived with her widowed mother, Mary Deering, at 1120 Third Street, which was within walking distance to the elementary school. When she began her teaching career, all that was required was a teaching certificate, often obtained at a Summer Normal school almost immediately after graduation from high school. Because she was ill with the measles when it came to graduate from Tivy High School, she never got her high school diploma. She later applied for a teaching certificate, which she received – even without her diploma.

Her first teaching job was at the Turtle Creek School.  It's likely Clarabelle Barton Snodgrass was one of her students.

Kerrville Elementary
5th Grade students, 1937

Mabel Deering, “through determination and courage,” managed to obtain her college degree 15 years into her teaching career, by attending Schreiner Institute, and then Southwest Texas in San Marcos, during the summers. She received her bachelor’s degree in 1937, the same year as the creation of this book. Deering was one of the first women to attend Schreiner Institute “when the institute voted to accept female students during the summer sessions.

She and her parents came to Kerrville from Georgia, when she was in the fifth grade – a grade she would teach here for 26 years.

She retired from teaching in 1958, and died in 1966, when she was 72. She is buried at Glen Rest Cemetery, along with her parents.

I’m thankful to the kind reader who brought this book to me.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys collecting items from Kerr County’s history. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 21, 2023.

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