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 Olney Friends School - History: Student Life at Olney, c.1926
Bell Tower at Olney Friends School

See previous entry: Olney Friends School - History: Fire and Rebirth -- 1910-1920s

One dark rainy evening, after Bible Collection, two girls were standing on the west porch of the main building at Olney, absorbing the gentle quietness of a spring night. The outlines of the fir trees were just visible against the sky. From the lighted dormitories, merry voices and laughter floated to the girls on the porch. Finally one of them spoke musingly, "Olney's walls are protecting, aren't they?"

Such is the spirit one feels pervading the life of the school; yet it is difficult to picture in words the happy, busy hours which a student spends outside the classroom. It is at such times that the close, beneficial friendships are formed which last through the years; it is then that some of life's problems are seen and faced, perhaps with the help of an older teacher who seems like a foster parent; and also the opportunity for walks about the country or to the woods resplendent in their fall attire or lovely with the touch of spring. Nature is especially attractive when viewed on Ohio's hills, and when we go away from Olney, her beautiful surroundings seem a fitting background for the friendships, hopes and ideals gained there.

Aside from the intangible, indescribable, influences felt in out-of-school hours, most of the activities can be grouped under Athletics, Forensics, and Student Government. Going back to the time when there was no "Gym" and only one building, we may wonder what the boys and girls did "when they were doing nothing." We cannot be surprised at the gatherings in the trunk rooms and the effort to see who could tell the "greatest" (?) story. All young people, alert and active, come to the place where "much study is a weariness of the flesh." So, to give recreation that may be of use and not foster a spirit at variance with our "guarded" system of education, is a problem. The walks of teacher and students used to be among the best solutions and perhaps are too much neglected now (1926). In their place have come about the "hikes," perhaps the competitive ones where some prize is the stimulus, or the long stroll over hill and valley to some place of interest, and here enters a phase of student government. Out alone, trusted, few boys or girls are going to betray the trust, even if so inclined.

Each season of the year presents its special attractions. If it is a late fall afternoon, the boys will be on the soccer field by the drive and many a fellow remembers soccer best because of the chillings from the cold "nor'wester" when he stood as goal keeper. Just east of the girls' woods, which is glorious in autumn foliage, a hockey game may be in progress. If it is midwinter, quick commands tell of the "Gym class;" although it is not entered with the apparent delight of the out-of-door games, because it is not so much a free-will affair; however most of the students will join when it is made optional. All enjoy basketball and more time is spent at this than at any other of our games, partly because it is played in inclement weather when the exercise is needed, and partly because a greater number can participate with some hope of being a success. If the weather is favorable, skating privilege is always greeted with shouts of joy and the pond south of the school presents a lively scene. In spring, the "hikers" are enthusiastic; the boys enjoy baseball or practicing for track, while the four tennis courts are occupied with girls playing out the challenges for the tennis tournament. Perhaps the real enthusiasts over any game are the efficient baseball boys, but these are in the minority for, with the many twists and twirls of the game, too few ever get a "hit" and grow discouraged as players, though not as spectators. The boys become much interested in tennis, possihly because of the "sisters," but also because it is a game requiring an easy, graceful degree of skill which is a real accomplishment.

Both the Boys' and Girls' Athletic Association have adopted "point systems" for determining the award of "O"s, bars and numerals. The boys give letters only to a certain percent of the best all-round athletes. The girls value good sportsmanship and observance of "training rules" in addition to technical skill in games. This method of recognizing good work in athletics has stimulated much interest.

At Teachers' meeting in the winter and Commencement in the spring, the Alumni play the school teams in basketball and baseball and these games create much interest and good will. During the year, class and other challenge games are played within the school, but not with other schools, as it is felt that intra-mural contests create enough enthusiasm and, at the same time, more nearly encourage equal physical development for all (competition between schools has been implemented since 1926). Two college presidents visiting the school not long since inquired of the Principal if we played match games with other schools, being answered in the negative, they both said, "Keep from it as long as you can." Each class in physical education usually gives an exhibition consisting of marching, calisthenic exercises, apparatus work, wand drills, and stunts. Relay races and group games such as Crows and Cranes and Three Deep create the spirit of co-operation and fair play and cause much wholesome fun, they have been enjoyed many times in the gymnasium. All these forms of recreation are valuable, not only in gaining and keeping health of body, but in giving the relaxation of mind which is so necessary in the complex world of today. May it be ours to rightfully use and not abuse; to get some lessons of forbearance, honesty and self-control; rather than to drift into a frenzy over things that must perish in the using.

Some form of forensic or literary work claims our attention almost every Seventh-day (Saturday) evening throughout the year. During the first semester, the Olney and Whittier Literary Societies hold alternate meetings which give all opportunity for parliamentary drill and training in speaking before an audience, in addition to forming entertainment for the school. The programs are planned by a curator, who is usually a teacher, and a business committee consisting of two students. By means of recitations, essays, talks, exercises and perhaps a concert, one idea, or subject, is developed. An evening is devoted to the question of Peace, a comparison of authors, or the progress of some phase of life, or selections from literature combined with original work presents some subject such as Books, Autumn, Fire, or Discovery Day. A debate on some problem of general interest, is held each year. About a month previous to this time, all students interested, compete in "try-outs." From these, six speakers and six alternates are chosen. During the past three years, phases of the Education of the Negro, Child Labor, and Immigration have been studied and debated.

At every meeting of the Whittier Literary, a Log Book which supplanted the former Whittier Register is read. It contains student accounts of life at the school, and the better selections from the English classes. The program for the last meeting of the Olney Literary in the winter term, consists of the reading of the Olney Mirror. This contains articles and letters from the Olney teachers and students of other days, the friends of the school, and persons now at Olney. The Whittier Registers, Log Books and Olney Mirrors are kept in the Library, and make an interesting collection of original work. Together with the Historian's Report, which is compiled each year under direction of the Olney Literary, they form a record of school activities. Additional practice in writing is gained in the preparation of class histories, prophecies and characteristics. Four times a year, a committee composed of a teacher and two students arrange the "At the School" section for the Olney Current, choosing the best articles contributed by the Student Body.

In the spring, all students become members of the Olney Literary Society. Lectures or moving pictures are frequently enjoyed in the evenings when it does not have its regular meeting. Nearly two months are required for the completion of the Elocutionary Contest which often has as many as fifty entries. From the preliminaries, ten are chosen to speak in the final contest, when individuals are selected for first, second and third honors. An endeavor is made to choose standard selections which will be well worth the time spent on these contests.

Perhaps, the one thing which seems most strictly a student activity and that is not found in many high schoels, is student government. This was instituted through the desire of the students and teachers of 1915. The two organizations meet every week to consider problems which naturally arise in preserving order in the dormitories, managing the office work, and meeting the many problems and needs which develop in such a community life. Each year has its problems; but, when these are faced squarely, they leave both the Association and its members stronger. For an individual to throw himself whole-heartedly into some cause, works toward his growth because it increases his interests and sympathies and makes him more unselfish. Of course, as long as human nature remains as it is, no form of government will be perfect; but student government being reasonably satisfactory and having many possibilities, is worthy of development. It seems only reasonable that this form of government is beneficial in a democracy where a certain equality exists between all the members, and all carry a share of the responsibility. Students look back gratefully to the lessons learned in self-control and co-operation, which proved beneficial in later life. The motto is always applicable, and is not soon forgotten:

"Aim High, Be Square".

There are other phases of Olney life which might be mentioned. Some have said that First-day (Sunday) evening reading collections -- when a member of the faculty or a visitor talks or reads in the Assembly room -- or parlor meetings, where the students take more part -- have been forces in molding character. The girls have many mottoes, which, often repeated, become almost a part of their lives. Mottoes also are kept on the blackboards in the school and classrooms.

Often on Sixth-day (Friday) evenings, everyone is invited to a "social" given by the boys or girls of one of the classes, or any group who wishes to entertain the rest with games and other social activities. During the fall, we sometimes enjoy a camp supper or marshmallow roast. But the event of the year that is looked forward to with perhaps the most anticipation, is "All Day Picnic," which, weather permitting, occurs on the third Seventh-day (Saturday) before the close of school. The previous afternoon, the boys often leave for some place of natural attraction, several miles distant, to spend the night -- sometimes going to Ravine Rocks, and sometimes to other places in the Captina Valley. This gives the girls the freedom of the premises, and a chance to do many interesting things. Early the next morning, taking their breakfasts, they find an attractive spot in which to eat, and then go on farther to a previously selected place to spend a happy, care-free day. Sometimes a sudden rainstorm sends them hurriedly home, but this only serves to add to the fun and make this day seem different from the rest.

The social which the Juniors give to the Seniors, and the Class Day exercises also are looked forward to with much pleasure. In the latter, as we watch the mantle of Senior dignity passed on to the Seniors of the coming year, we realize that there must soon be a separation; that at Commencement the school will lose some of her students to gain Alumni members, while with the opening of school, the coming fall, new students will fill the places just vacated. So, although the personnel of the school is continually changing, the character of events is much the same from year to year.

Each year at the annual Camp Fire Girls' Ceremony, a Senior of the past hands to a Senior of the present, a lighted torch with the words, "That light which has been given to me, I desire to pass undimmed to ofhers." She in turn passes it to another, and so the light is passed on by the Torch Bearers while the other students, having performed their work as Wood Gatherers or Fire Makers, watch. Its intent is to make us feel that the life of Olney is a continuous, growing thing, made stronger by each individual who shares it rightly. With this as a symbol, may Olney's sons and daughters go out into the needy world as torch bearers of the aspirations and high ideals gained within her walls; as torch hearers, too, of the truth and purity signified by her colors of blue and white; but upheld far more strongly by the lives of the men and women who have made this school possible; and not only as torch bearers, but living examples of her motto, which is written in letters of gold in each dormitory parlor:

"Not to be ministered unto, but to minister."

Olney Seal and Motto

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Graduating Class of 1926

The Class of 1926 holds particular significance to Stratton House Inn. Both the father and mother of the current owner were members of this class. Mary Ellen (Stratton) Wall's father is seated in the front row, fourth from the left; and her mother is in the third row, fourth from left -- standing directly behind her future husband. (Click on image for a larger version of this photograph.)

Fourth Row: Irving Smith, Ralph Stanley, Lowell Maxwell, William Nichols, Kenneth Stanley, Robert Starbuck, Francis Price

Third Row: Mildred Smith, Edith Brackin, Eleanor Standing, Mabel Whinnery, Beulah Patten, Alice Stratton, Debora Steer, Izetta Norland, Edith L. Smith

Second Row: Edith Pickett, Abram Peacock, Eunice Clayton, Leland Thomas, Luella Hall, Albert Gamble, Dorothy Rockwell, Raymond Bailey, Olive Hall, Charles Cooper

First Row: Mamie Heald, Ralph Starbuck, Elizabeth Oliver, Howard Stratton, Anna Morlan, Marion Emmons, Marjorie Warrington, Edward Hall

See next entry: Olney Friends School - History: Personnel, 1876-1926

For the table of contents and first entry in this series, please see: Olney Friends School, Barnesville, Ohio

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Source: This entry is adapted from Olney, 1876-1926, a booklet published on the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Olney Friends School in Barnesville, Ohio.

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