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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Solano’s first ‘County School Day’ a big success

Sabine Goerke-Shrode

2,000 students made their way to Fairfield

During the first decades of the 20th century, it was customary for many California counties to set aside one day during the school year to highlight student activities. This day was called the “County School Day.”

Solano County participated in this popular event for the first time in 1922. Various elementary and grammar schools of the county came together in Fairfield on May 5 that year. The program included a variety of games, musical and athletic contests.

“Since there are over 4,000 pupils in the elementary schools of the county,” wrote the Solano Republican on Friday, April 28, “it is expected that fully 3,000 will be in Fairfield on May 5.”

Although this number proved a bit too optimistic, more than 2,000 children from all parts of the county eventually participated, according to the Republican on May 12.

“With them came many parents and other grown-ups interested in this first annual event.

‘The children were brought to the court house in automobiles and trucks donated by various citizens, there being way provided for everyone to get there. Vallejo children came by special train.”

The extensive program was divided into morning and afternoon sessions. At 10 o’clock in the morning, the crowds gathered on the steps of the Solano County Court House to open the event with a general chorus of all 2,000 children singing “America,” followed by a rendition of “America The Beautiful.”

‘This was sung in an inspiring manner by all the children, and accompanied on three pianos by Mrs. J. W. Mills of Fairfield Grammar School; Miss Faye Porter, Rio Vista Grammar School; and Miss Phyllis McKnight of Vaca Valley School. The pianos were loaned by the American Legion, Suisun; the Armijo High School and Crystal Grammar school, Suisun.

“The directors who are responsible for the excellent musical program are Miss Anna Kyle, County Supervisor of Music; Miss Johanna Reiss; supervisor of Music, Benicia; and Miss Sylvia

Garrison, supervisor of music, Vallejo.

“The children were trained under the direction of these efficient musicians and showed that much time and attention has been given to their musical advancement.”

The stirring musical performance was followed by students from the Fairfield Grammar School who presented a set of folk dances.

Vallejo was next with an 800-voice chorus, leading the Republican to comment: “Vallejo’s chorus work was very good, and showed that Miss Garrison, the director, has not been idle in training it.”

A music memory contest challenged students on their musical knowledge. It “was won by Richard Pierce of Maine Prairie and Viola Singler of Benicia, who tied for high honors. Alice Kirkland of Vallejo was second and Marion Trainor of Suisun, third. In this event 12 Victor records were prayed (sic) and the contestants endeavored to write the names of the selection of the composers. It was remarkable, the accuracy attained by the contestants.”

An elaborate drill sequence delighted the crowds. “Center School of Vanden, put on a drill of a very difficult nature, under the direction of Miss Etta Peabody, and although the strange location of the drill ground was confusing, they carried it out to perfection.”

This performance was followed by the full 2,000-plus chorus singing “Speed Our Republic.”

Benicia also presented a set of folk dancing, about which the Republican said: “The folk dance by the children of Benicia was novel and interesting, although the crowd had gathered so close that it was difficult to see all the movements. The children’s costumes were very appropriate, too.”

The chorus then was divided, one group singing “Swanes River,” the other half “Kentucky Home.”

Students from Suisun’s Crystal Grammar School showed their skills in calisthenics. “The calisthenics by Crystal school was very well done and in spite of the heat was carried through in a snappy, energetic manner.

The one- and two-room school students joined together in a chorus for a rendition of “Santa Lucia” and “Mighty Like A Rose.”

According to the program, Vacaville Grammar School students had rehearsed a Health Play.

Fairfield offered another drill sequence. “Supported by several boy scouts the Fairfield school rendered a spirited song and drill, which for its precision was awarded much applause.”

The morning program concluded with the full chorus singing “I Love You California” and the “Star Spangled Banner.”

The Republican reported on the performances on May 12: “The various schools produced special numbers and each group did its work well, bringing forth the applause of the great crowd assembled.

The morning portion of the day ended with a picnic lunch for all the children. “At noon a brass band composed of boys from Crystal school and Vaca Valley furnished music while the big company spread its lunch on the court house lawn.”

The afternoon program was devoted to games and sport activities. “At one o’clock the athletic program drafted by T. C. McDaniels, assistant superintendent of schools, was carried out at the new athletic field (of Armijo High School). The event was the largest of its kind ever witnessed here and some of the records made were worthy of citation.”

According to the program published on April 28, the various schools had challenged each other with a variety of competitive activities. Vallejo offered a potato race and “boys to leap frog.” Dixon dared the other schools in the three-legged race and various relay races. Green Valley hosted the standing broad jump while Collinsville invited all boys for a tug-of war. Crystal challenged others to the hop relay and stealing sticks competition. Rio Vista offered a flag relay, with the flag being carried perpendicular. Rockville hosted the 40-yard running races and Vaca Valley Union the 50-yard race and the 80-yard relay. Benicia presented arch ball and relay activities. Host town Fairfield conducted the wheel-barrow race and the egg relay.

The kindergarten children gathered on the tennis courts for their own special program. This included games such as “How Do You Do Tag, Fairies and Brownies, Walking on the Green Grass, Fox and Chickens, Farmer in the Dell, Rat in the Ring, Lassie.”

The kindergarten teachers were in charge of these activities. The program also announced that “Mothers of having children of kindergarten age are invited to let their children participate.”

Children over the age of 10 and weighing over 65 pounds were separated into groups according to gender and weight.

“Thus boys and girls can compete with children of their own size.,” stated the Republican on April 28. “The boys’ division of weights will be 65-80, 80-90, 90-105, 105-120, 120 and over. The schools can enter as many children as they see fit. The events will be supervised by two sets of officials; one men teachers, the other lady teachers.”

The girls’ program consisted of the 40-yard dash, a basketball throwing contest, the standing broad jump, and the relay, with four girls from the same school forming a team.

The boys’ contests were a bit more elaborate. The first three divisions participated in the 50-yard dash, while the older three divisions held a 75-yard dash. The contests also included a high jump and relay races, with four boys of the same weight and from the same school forming a team.

The Republican posted a long list of all the athletic contest winners on May 12.

Overall, the event was a resounding success. The newspaper also acknowledged the large number of volunteers who had put the day together.

The Republican concluded: “Each number was well rendered and the various directors deserve great credit for their part in the work. Next year the program will likely be even better as this was more or less an experiment, yet proved to be a great day for the kiddies.”