June 3, 2016 – Alumni of all ages will enjoy reading about the founding of Schutz School as told by the school’s first principal, Bernice Warne Hutton, in 1984.
Concerning the Founding of the School:
A Reflection by Bernice Warne Hutton, Schutz American School’s First Teacher
In the fall of 1923 I was beginning my senior year of college, which was Muskingum College, New Concord, Ohio. Next door to my rooming house Dr. R.W. Caldwell, a missionary from Egypt was visiting his mother. He was apparently observing me as I came and went, and one day he came over to see me, and told me that the American Mission owned an “eight flat building” near Alexandria, which was used only in the summer months by missionary families who came down from “up country” to escape the extreme heat. The mission Board had been considering the opening of a school there for the children of American families, most of who at that time would be “mission children”. In this way the building would be in use all through the year. Then would I consider going out to organize such a school?! After many conversations, I found that they wished to have grades two through the third year of high school! It was to be a “boarding school”, so the plan was to have a “Matron” to oversee the health and welfare of the children, and direct the few servants needed, and so on. After much thought I insisted that I should have an assistant, and so divide up the classes. I had hoped there would be a “seasoned missionary” living there also to be over the whole, which I called the “Superintendent.” So, Dr. Mark S. Roy was chosen, and he and his wife and five children came to live on the top floor.
Before I was able to finish my college work, I had taken two years out to earn some money. In those days one could teach in elementary school after one year in college, so I taught for two years, thus gaining valuable experience for the task ahead of me. Fortunately I had taken quite a number of “educational courses”, and our Dean of Education had recommended quite strongly the Illinois State Course of Study. So I told Dr. Caldwell that we should probably rely on that course of study, and he agreed, as did others of the Board, apparently! Then came the task of ordering all supplies to open a new school – the text books for grades two through eleven, for an estimated number of students; notebooks, paper, pencils, crayons, paints, construction paper (all colors), Raffia and raffia needles, chalk, erasers for the chalk boards, scissors, some maps – none of these were then obtainable in Egypt to any extent, and it seemed wise to order everything at once from one place so that all would arrive at one time! Meanwhile, in Alexandria, Dr. Roy had hired a carpenter who constructed the chalk boards of linoleum which was a nice green on the wrong site (I never did see what the pattern on its right side was!), and I don’t think Dr.
Roy knew how ‘modern’ green chalk boards were, as the green was then just beginning to replace the old ‘black boards’ in the States.
I should say that the idea of the school being established at Schutz was not only to make better use of the eight flat building, but rather more important was the fact that after the children became of school age they were usually sent back to the States to live with relatives in order to go to proper schools, which was a great hardship for both parents and children. Children were taught by their mothers at home until then. The Calvert system for home study was the most generally used, and when we opened the Schutz School in early September 1924 those new textbooks really surprised the children.
When I learned that I would be permitted to have another young woman to go out to Egypt with me, I asked a classmate to consider taking that position. She was Miss Elizabeth Kelsey, the daughter of the Vice President of Muskingum College, and this was indeed a most wise choice, and we worked together well. In a recent letter she said, “I will new forget what whose empty school rooms looked like when we arrived- not a single book anywhere except the texts!” Desks had been ordered from America, and these had been arranged on wood strips, securely fastened, to facilitate their being moved out to a storage building in the spring when school closed, and the ‘flats’ would become living quarters for mission families for the summer months again!
My father had constructed a large, very strong wooden box for shipping out all our extra books, music, reference books, and such, that we had anticipated needing in our work. We traveled to Egypt by “long sea,” and it took us 22 ½ days! But that precious box was not unloaded on the dock at Alexandria- it was taken to Beirut, and after much communication the “authorities,” it finally did reach us about three months later! We then started a little LIBRARY with many of our personal books from that box. I remember that I had a set of 12 Compton’s Encyclopedias, which were used over and over, since we had no other books of any sort for ‘research’, so our Library grew very slowly.
Perhaps the most difficult part of getting the school organized was putting the students into classes! It seemed that each mother in doing the home teaching had emphasized different subjects, so no two were on the same level, so to speak. Elizabeth (I called her Beth) and I sat up late every night for about three weeks trying to make it work. Beth recalls that every time we got a couple of them together to make a class, one had to go to French class, or one to a piano lesson. Also the children were from various backgrounds- they were not all from our United Presbyterians. We had two from Pentecostal Mission, who had had a bit of French, a bit from a German teacher, etc.; two were from the Church of God Mission, and one boy whose father was from the Mixed Court, I believe. Besides those from Egypt we had the two Smith girls from 2,000 miles up the Nile, in the Sudan among the Nuer tribe; and Dr. Lambie’s son and daughter from Ethiopia, who had often been to functions at the Emperor Hailie Salassi’s palace, and so brought very few school clothes, but several dressy things!
At the beginning we had to decide what sort of school this was to be. Dr. Roy and his wife, Ide, were behind us in everything we undertook. We gathered in the Roys’ living room one afternoon to talk. Dr. Roy asked if we could have a “work of prayer”, and we felt we needed that. I think Dr. Roy must have thought we were pretty young to have been given such a task. But I still recall a part of my prayer that day. It was from one that my pastor had used in church when I was a teen-ager: “Lord, we know that you love us and desire that we love and serve you. Bless us as we seek to serve you here. We know that with-holding does not enrich you, that giving does not impoverish you, so we pray for the guidance of your Holy Spirit, now and in the years to come.” And I remember hearing a sort of a sigh of relief from Dr. Roy, and he said, “I think we can now begin.”
Since I had had some experience in teaching, any my degrees were both a B.A. and B.A. in Education (also I was about three years older than Beth!) I was to be the Principal, or as some said, the “Head Mistress”; Dr. Roy as Superintendent; as for division of instruction I had English, science, geography, physical ed and art; Beth had math, Latin, history, and some music, but Miss Fidelia Duncan came out from the School in Alexandria to help the older music students; French classes were taught in every grade, by a charming Russian young woman, who with her family had fled that country at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution, and had established residence not far from Schutz. Her father had been the General of the Czar’s personal regiment, and always wore quite proudly his General’s uniform when we went to visit them. We never saw the wife. She was so humbled by the sad plight of their being forced from their home, country, and bereft of all their possessions that she always stayed away from people. But Mademoiselle Barbara Rohrberg was a brilliant teacher and loved by everyone. She had many interesting stories to tell us, and the students. One day she chanced to see one of the history texts open to a chapter on Russia, and she said, “Oh, do you see that picture of the Opera House? There is the Czar’s ‘Fox’,
and the one just next is that of my family!” We learned that she had studied French in Paris before the ‘uprising’, and has studied music under Arthur Rubenstein, and thus she was a valued addition to our staff! She taught at two other schools, and so classes had to be arranged to meet at various days. Our first Matron was an English woman, born in the Cape Verde Islands, and tutored by a brother of Lewis Carroll! Her first husband had died some years before, but they had a daughter who was then a Governess in a family in Alexandria. When she came to Schutz she was married to a Greek, so her name was Mrs. Harris Kithreotis, but we all called her Mrs. Harris. She was a caring person, and interested in each of the children. Before the end of three years she left for the States, since her husband had already gone there, and she sent her daughter over for more schooling. To finish caring for the children for the short time left of that school year some of the mothers took turns coming to look after them.
After sixty years, since I have not been back in Egypt it seems strange to think of FAIR HAVEN as now part of Schutz! I remember receiving invitations to lovely “garden parties” there given by the English residents,– they always included our little staff, and we thoroughly enjoyed going there. We had many outings of various sorts for our students, as well as extra-curricular activities. Quite frequently we had picnics at Sidi Bishr; sometimes we took the older ones for an occasional sail in the harbor; Mrs. Harris occasionally took them on hikes; often Beth and I took most of the school into Alexandria on Sunday morning by “tram” to the Scotch Church, and on Sunday evenings we had our own “Vesper” service, when we heard them answer assigned Catechism questions! We once invited the Pastor and his wife to supper, and then had the “Vesper” service which was conducted entirely by our students, much to the astonishment of the Rev. Mr. Robertson, as they did so well!
Looking back it seems that what we established was more like an American “Prep School”, as our aim was to prepare the students to enter American schools, when they had finished at Schutz, without feeling they did not fit in. We had all participate in two ‘Literary Societies’, and give programs on Friday afternoons. English classes were to write articles for our school paper, which we named the “Bric-A-Brac” because it contained ‘this and that’!
There were mostly news of activities, stories, et cetera. When the parents became aware of this they all wanted to be sent copies! As I am not a typist, I had to do ‘hunt and peck’ on Dr. Roy’s big old Royal Typewriter, making five or six carbon copies of each page! In Art classes the students were to choose what they thought would be a suitable design for the cover of the paper for a particular month, then we selected what seemed to be the best, and transferred these to a suitable color of construction paper, then assembled the typed pages within the covers, and tied them together with our colored raffia! No modern equipment—except a paper-cutter which I had taken out with me, and used until its knife became dull. (Also, my fingers are now a bit arthritic, maybe from the pounding on the old Royal!?) Our two high school students were asked to work together to write the Schutz Hymn. We had chosen Brown & Buff for School Colors, as we thought the sand around us suggested those, then we had a buff felt banner with a brown border, and brown letters (One of the Seniors, Dorothy Walker, is shown in a picture I sent, holding that Banner.
Sadly, Dorothy was deceased at an early age.) Mrs. Roy cut out the letters, and sewed that banner, and all were so proud to have it. There were illnesses sometimes—one year the children had measles, and one of the Smith girls had to go to the Swiss Hospital for a number of days. That was Mary, who later became Dr. Mary K. Smith and worked in Ethiopia for many years, and was also asked to serve in a couple other countries when missionary personnel had to leave Ethiopia. But on the whole, we were reasonably healthy.
At the end of each School year we had quite a program put on for the parents who would be coming, and these were well rehearsed, two banquets that I remember, and our older students prepared “Toasts” each time using the letters S*C*H*U*T*Z, so there were six speeches, using humorous incidents for school life, jokes, quotes, et cetera. But the best of all was our first Graduation! We had a beautiful banquet followed by the orations by the graduates. Miss Kelsey’s father, Dr. H.A. Kelsey, arrive from his trip to the Holy Lands just in time to be our Commencement speaker! Mary McClanahan’s mother, who had a lovely voice, sang a solo, and Dr. Mark S. Roy presented the Diplomas! Oh, yes, and we had class pins; – earlier I had asked Dr. Roy if this could be done, and he knew an Armenian jeweler who crafted these in 24 caret gold, with SHS ‘24 on the two for the graduates. Beth & I had just the SHS (Schutz High School) on ours. They were shaped like a pyramid- I wonder if that was followed for the next classes?
Here I must interject that in the spring of that third year, 1927, at Easter vacation time, all our older students, plus a few others, and some adults went to Palestine for about ten days! The party was led by Dr. Neal McClanahan, Mary’s father, who was a professor of Bible Studies at Assiut College.
Desiring to keep the same direction for the school we had envisioned, we thought best to ask another teacher to come out each year, – one who had the same values and interests, so that she could get the ‘fell’ of the place and lead on. The first came in the fall of 1925: Miss Mary McConagha, also a Muskingum Graduate, as were the next three: Miss Mary Dixon, Miss Alice Evans, and Miss Ruth Davidson. Miss McConagha and Miss Evans are deceased. Miss Dixon married Dr. Earle Collins, and lived in their retirement home in New Wilmington. Miss Davidson married Mr. Earle Wild of Chicago. Miss Kelsey returned to serve the Mission in Egypt for several years, then in 1932, married the Rev. James E. Kinnear from New Zealand, who was recently deceased. She is now in a retirement facility in Tennessee.
Alexandria, in 1924, was probably more Italian and French than Egyptian, with a sprinkling of Armenian, and Beth say, “a strong flavoring of Spanish Jews”; and of course some British, and American Mission and Schools. At the beginning, being a small school, we had little contact with the Diplomatic people although we were most cordially invited to the home of the French consul, and included in the “tennis parties”, the British sometimes had.
I meant to say that the girls were not allowed to go to have their hair cared for by a man barber, so I offered to cut the girls’ hair, and I remember doing seven one Saturday morning! Boys could go to a barber in town, and Dr. Roy took them. Did I mention that he as six feet, 4 inches tall and I barely 5 feet? I think I sent a picture of us with the packet the Meloys were to give you.
Submitted by Bernice Warne Hutton in August 1984