Brewton's educational past revisted by Scribner

Published 9:56 am Wednesday, September 12, 2007

By Staff
After a couple of weeks away from the subject, I've decided to pick back up with Mr. Scribner's writings. This week we will begin with Chapter VIII - &#8220Bigger, Better, and Busier”
Chapter VIII of the writings of Mr. Scribner are about the education in Brewton. I especially wanted to tell you about the first football team in the school. As this is football season, I thought you might enjoy it.
Immediately these public-minded citizens were confronted by a problem, for before the board had become operative, the city council had again advanced matriculation fees, this time some forty percent - and, in derogation of a contract at least implied, in the very midst of the school year. The reason given was the necessity of strengthening the building and maintenance fund, but now The Gauge, while ordinarily ready to lend such powers as were in full support, broke into scolding. The frequently announced ambition of the town administration, it pointed out, had been to make tuition absolutely free, and &#8220the present heavy advance,” therefore, &#8220appears a retrograde step;” and further, it pointedly observed, if the advance had been necessary to meet the instructional salaries, well and good, but even then it &#8220should have been announced at the beginning of the school term.” The new board, nevertheless, found itself faced with an accomplished fact, and so it let the matter stand, offering as in incontrovertible argument that if the increase was working hardship, it was difficult to discover, for &#8220Attendance at the Institute has been the largest in history - two hundred.”
The enrollment continued to expand, indeed, until, in 1913, a staff of eight instructors guided the studies of two hundred and sixty students. During these years the records clearly indicate that the girls dominated the strictly academic phases of school life, and, in addition, relegated to themselves a fairly tight suzerainty over more than their proportionate share of extra-curricular activities. It is impossible, further, to find in the commencement lists a single year, from 1900 to 1915, in which the slender graduating classes-seldom larger in number than ten - did not place the young ladies in at least a three-to-one ratio to the young gentlemen. In 1902, indeed, all six members of the graduating class were girls.
State Standardization, meanwhile, conjoined with a local stiffening of scholastic requirements, was playing a part in elevating the type of education to be had. Alabama-wide uniformity in text books for secondary schools was ordained in 1903, and locally, during the closing days of the principalship of C.W. Griggs (1908), the passing mark was set at the impressive height of eighty percent. How it translated in terms of actual accomplishment, of course, may have represented something less than face value.
Griggs' successor, R.P. Willis, was more athletically minded. He listened with approval to the importance to the importunities of the brawnier youths, who were agitating for a football team at a time when player replacements were a luxury. So it was that in 1909 the first Institute eleven, direct lineal ancestor of the present Miller High School &#8220Indians,” was born. One finds well-known local surnames on that initial aggregation; as Holland (left tackle), Miller (virtuoso, quarterback, coach, and manager), Rabb (left halfback), O'Bannon (right halfback), and Sowell (fullback).
Their hearts full of hope, these warriors sallied forth beneath soft feminine gaze to do or die, at least in the restrictive athletic sense; and in that sense, on the whole they died, but creditably for a starting season:
The results are listed as follows: Place, date, opponent, result:
Brewton – Oct. 16 – Pensacola Classified-win 11 – 5
Pensacola – Oct. 22 – Pensacola Classified-lost 6 – 10
Brewton – Oct. 29 – Mobile Military – lost 6 - 8
Pensacola -Nov. 13 – Pensacola Classified – tied 20-20
Pensacola – Nov. 22 – Pensacola High – lost 5 - 6
Brewton- Thanksgiving – Barton Academy – lost 5 - 11
(This was according to The Brewton Standard, issues from Oct. 31 to Dec. 2, 1909. The peculiarity of the scores to modern eyes is explicable by the fact that a touchdown then counted for five points).
Next week I will tell you about the first football team in Brewton.
Until next week, happy hunting!

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