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Schools.

AT Symmes Corner, which was a part of Medford till the incorporation of Winchester in 1850, a primary school of twenty-six scholars was kept in a small room in a private residence.

The West Primary school, of twenty-three pupils, which, till that year, had been allowed three months vacation in winter, was kept in that small building near the brook on the south side of High street, which became a victim of the tornado in 1851, while a new house was being erected for it on the corner of Irving and Brooks streets.

That ancient brick schoolhouse in the rear of the Unitarian Church, which had sheltered the West Grammar and High schools till 1843, was occupied during the two winters of 1846-8 by a school exclusively of boys, who, from age or want of qualification, could have no place in any of the other schools. It was demolished in 1848.

In 1843 the High school was removed to the third story and the West Grammar school to the second story of the new house on High street. The brick basement of the building served as cloak and playroom for both schools.

The South Primary and Alphabet schools were located in a house on Union street, which in 1858 was sold, and became a dwelling house on Main street.

The East Alphabet was kept in a small, unsightly brick structure on Cross street, whose age cannot be ascertained, but which certainly had its origin before the discovery that children needed a constant supply of fresh air as surely as they needed bread and butter three times a day. The school committee of 1851 reported that the school had previously been almost a nullity from its crowded state and the miserable ventilation of the room, [p. 40] and that before the improvement, which they had caused to be made in the ventilation, no parent could have sat an hour in the room without feeling that the graveyard near by had a significant meaning.

After the summer of 1852, the school went to other quarters, and the house was demolished.

It is worthy of note that here Miss Hetty F. Wait commenced, on June I, 1852, her fifty years of service in the Medford schools.

The East Grammar and East Primary occupied the house on Park street, which was built in 1837, of such an ancient type that some of its seats would hold nine scholars. From its ashes the Swan arose in 1855. In 1847, Medford and the model city of Boston alike had no means of ventilating their schoolhouses except through the windows. The improvement had been agitated somewhat for three or four years in the city, but the city council made no appropriation to secure it till the abovenamed year.

Teachers' wages at that period seem small when compared with those of the present time. But money then had a purchasing power which has since greatly diminished; and, besides, though the town was not poor, the citizens desired to pay the smallest tax possible and expected the school committee to act in accord with them.

The salary of the high school assistant was $208. That of the principal was, from the founding of the school in 1835, $700, and the first increment of $200 was made in 1848. The recompense of the lady teachers in 1847 ranged from $143 (grammar assistants) to $312 (grammar principals) and averaged $202, which was an advance of $22 from that of 1846, when the grammar assistants received but $104. Within a few years prior to 1847 the distinguished educators, A. B. Magoun, B. F. Tweed, Stacy Baxter and Thomas Starr King had served the grammar schools for a salary of $575, and the records of the school committee are in evidence that when two of them asked for an increase of $25 to their salary, [p. 41] the rise was voted ‘inexpedient.’ When, many years later, the writer rallied one of those masters on his extreme modesty in making the above request, though receiving at that time three or four thousand dollars as school supervisor in Boston, he replied that no later salary had ever seemed to him as large as the $575 he received in Medford.

The two grammar masters, A. K. Hathaway and S. R. Townsend, resigned in the spring of 1846, and lady teachers were put in their places. The experiment, however, not proving successful, Paul H. Sweetser and Stephen Gilman were put in charge of the schools in 1848, with a salary of $600.

Prior to 1847 the schools had eleven three hour sessions each week, and for vacations, fast week, Thanksgiving week, and two weeks in August. But in the summer of that year the Wednesday afternoon sessions began to be omitted, and, in compliment to the new teacher, the high school was allowed two weeks extra vacation in August. Two years later all the schools were allowed three weeks respite in August. The entire board of school committee was chosen annually, and their first printed report was made in 1847.

Notwithstanding the few blots here shown upon its record, Medford in its educational appointments stood in the front row. Its high school, organized for the free co-education of the sexes, and then twelve years old, had but one senior (that in Lowell), and not a baker's dozen of juniors in the entire state. Cambridge organized one in October, 1847, Charlestown one in 1848, and it was then several years before Newton, Somerville, Malden, Woburn, or any other of the neighboring towns provided that luxury for their children. In 1846 the State Board of Education reported Medford as number four among the 322 towns and cities in the Commonwealth in regard to the amount appropriated for each scholar between the ages of four and sixteen. In Brookline it was $7.33, in Nantucket, $5.74, in Watertown, $5.52, and in Medford, [p. 42] $5.48. The three next in order were Chelsea, Charlestown and Boston. According to the census of 1845, each of the three towns first named had a much larger valuation than Medford in proportion to their number of scholars. Boston's was triple that of Medford.

In 1852 Medford had fallen to the twentieth place, not because its appropriation was less, but because other towns and cities had greatly advanced in that respect. Medford spent for schools in 1846, $3,922; in 1847, $4,515, and in 1852, $5,428. Its population in 1847 was about 3,400, and in 1852, about 4,300.

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