The Bay City Times - Saturday, September 14, 1940
Fremont and Whitter schools
Fremont, Whittier Are 65-Years-Old
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories explaining the background of Bay City schools. Next week the historical outline will deal with Trombley school.)
The two oldest school buildings now in use in Bay City are: Fremont and Whittier built in 1875. They were considered marks of progress 65 years ago, when Bay City still was in the throes of pioneer development. Business was taking on a new color, although still predominate was the robust hue of the lumbering industry. The Civil War was over, and although the conflict hadn’t affected life here to any great extent, the change in the entire American scene nevertheless was felt here. Bay City was growing up.
Bay Cityans still weren’t using telephones, although an exchange was to be opened in 1879, necessitating a complete change in local trade and business methods. However, the Western Union offered a medium for communication with the outside world. It opened officers here in 1863. The Michigan Central railroad had enlarged its system, and for two years before the schools were built Bay Cityans could easily get to Detroit, and the same year of the construction the company opened a road to Mackinaw City.
I. W. Morley was school superintendent here, replacing D. C. Scoville, who first introducted the grading system. In 1875 there were six school buildings, and 35 teachers, Bay City had been a Union School District since 1867, when Peter S. Hiesordt became the first superintendent. It also had a board of education organized at that time.
With the construction of the Fremont and Whittier schools, education was advancing, and new schools were to appear, new systems adopted. Bay Cityans were not afraid of the future, their city was growing, industry was expanding, and the education of their children, those pioneers felt, would continue to be one of the most important phases of civic development.
After the old Portsmouth Union school at Thirty-first street and Broadway, burned the year after Portsmouth was united with Bay City, the Fremont and Whittier schools were built. Sixty-five years later these schools are still in use, rich in tradition, but lacking in many factors needed in modern education efficiency.
In a survey rating the local school system made by Benjamin Klager, superintendent of schools, and two state education officials, many deficiencies have been found in these buildings.
Whittier Condition “Fair”
The Whittier is probably in the better condition today, Klager says. It was rated fair on six determining factors of instructional efficiency and poor on 15. The “fair” factors are location, construction, class rooms, heating, equipment and general condition. The Fremont was rate fair on location, height, heating and equipment, and poor on 17 points. In fact it was deemed advisable to rebuild Fremont with an increased site of not less than five acres. Addition of a gymnasium and some other improvements were advised for Whittier.
Miss Helen MacGregor, who followed Robert McLaughlin as principal, served 50 years in charge of Fremont, and in May, 1929, 500 children, parents, and friends planted a tree in her honor on the grounds. She retired in June of 1933.
Originally Fremont had only four rooms but additions were added until it now has 12 classrooms, a library, Girl Reserve room, restroom, and a gymnasium, formed from a basement room in 1904. This gym, conceived by Dexter Root, board of education member, was probably the first in the city. It’s 32 by 85 feet, and originally was unventilated and unheated. Its improvements include a ceiling, varishing, heating and lights, but still is too small for regulation sport activity.
Has Active P.-T. A
Fremont has an active Parent-Teachers association, organized in 1923 with Mrs. S. L. Ballard, its first president. Two organizations, the Boy Scouts and Girl Reserves, hold regular meetings in the school. The school custodian, Herman Martens, has served for 25 years, and Miss Gertrude Simmerson, the present principal, started her duties in September of 1933.
Miss Simmerson’s staff of teachers includes: Miss Frances Balwinski, Miss Frances Burtch, Miss Agnes Dulong, Miss Beulah Fenske, John Foster, Miss Helen Johnson, Miss Frances Payette, Miss Mary K. Rathke, Miss Theresa Ray, Miss Alice Vanderberg, Miss Margaret E. Welch, and Miss Madeline Zaremba.
Whittier school was first called the Seventh Ward school, and sometimes the McGraw school because of its proximity to the McGraw mill. It was originally a seven-room building enclosed by a fence with an old-fashioned post gateway. Four rooms were added in 1907. The following year the training school was transferred to the building where it remained until 1914.
The school has had six principals, Miss Kate Tenner, Prof. Whitney, Miss Rhoda L. Sayles, Miss Laura Pettipice, William Hartley, and Miss Ida Babo. Miss Sayles served more than 30 years. The present staff includes: Miss Alice C. Houghton, principal; Miss Minnie C. Beuthin, Miss Emmas Jane Sartain, Miss Ruth Wesley, Miss Ida M. Belknap, Miss Jessamine M. Shepard, Miss Mary Kabat, Miss Margaret Straney, and Mrs. Garnet Gates Merritt.