Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Monday, August 24, 2015

In 1938, Pelham Opened the Pelham Adult Education School, One of the Most Successful Adult Education Schools in the Nation

Although I have researched and written about virtually all of the schools that have operated in Pelham (with a few exceptions on which I am still working), I have never written about a particularly interesting school that only operated for three years.  The school was the Pelham Adult Education School that operated within the Pelham Memorial High School complex from 1938 until 1941 when the Board of Directors of the School suspended operations due to the toll that war efforts had on the leisure time of Pelhamites.  Although the board intended to re-establish the school at the close of World War II, it appears that the school never operated again.

Classes at the school began with great fanfare on October 3, 1938.  More than  seven hundred Pelhamites registered for a total of 1095 classes and, according to one breathless account published on the front page of The Pelham Sun, advance registration for adult classes broke "all records for first night registration in an Adult Education School in any place in the United States."

Pelham clearly was ready for adult education classes.  The courses, taught by true experts in their fields including Professors from New York University, professionals from leading institutions, and instructors from a host of educational institutions, covered a host of subjects including:  world political problems, art appreciation, public speaking, bookkeeping, typewriting, lip reading, beginning French, conversational French, Spanish, horticulture and gardening, astronomy, literature appreciation, music appreciation, photography, interior decorating, writing for publication, badminton, crafting metal work, dressmaking, homemaking, what every woman should know about financial affairs, sketching, and woodworking.  Many of the courses were filled to capacity on the first day of registration.  Additional instances of such courses were added.  

With the advent of World War II, however, the Board of Directors of the school decided that the school could not continue.  According to one account:  "The directors decided to cancel school activities because of the great demands on Pelham residents for war work in all fields limiting leisure hours when they would be free to attend the cultural classes."

Although the Board planned to reopen the school once the war ended, there is no indication that they ever did.  The Pelham Adult Education School passed into the history of Pelham education.  

Pelham Memorial High School Where the Pelham
Adult Education School Held Classes from 1938
Until 1941.  NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

*          *          *          *          *

Below are two of the many articles that appeared regarding the Pelham Adult Education School. Each is followed by a citation and a link to its source.

1095 Course Registrations Taken Monday Night; Next Enrollment To Be Tuesday
Chairman Wright Estimates That More Than 700 Individuals Have Taken Advantage of Opportunity Afforded for Adult Education:  Many Courses Filled to Capacity on First Day:  Pelham Complimented by Leader of Maplewood's Model Adult School.

Breaking all records for first night registration in an Adult Education School in any place in the United States, the Pelhams turned out en masse on Monday night to take advantage of the opportunities afforded in the classes for adults which are to be conducted in Pelham Memorial High School beginning Monday, October 3.  No single project thus far launched in the Pelhams has so taken the fancy of the citizens of the town and more than 700 adults filed a total of 1095 course registrations.  Chairman Fred B. Wright has been informed by J. Keith Torbert, Chairman of the model Adult Recreation School in Maplewood, N. J., that in no other community has every Adult course offered been so adequately subscribed.  Pelham modeled its Adult Education School after the Maplewood pattern.  Indications point to the local venture stealing a march on its leader and reaching equal heights in a shorter span of years.

Those who have not already registered in the Adult Education School will have an opportunity to do so at at Pelham Memorial High School on Tuesday night, September 27, at 7:45 o'clock.

It was not out of curiosity that Pelhamites visited the high school building on Monday night.  They came out in droves with a definite purpose in mind -- more learning.  They came out early and they brought almost every adult member of their families with them.  Their interest was so great that several of the courses had completed their quota within a few minutes after the registration began, particularly in Sketching, French and Spanish, in which the demand for instruction has been so great that the committee has found it necessary to add new classes, and to secure additional instructors for them.  

Interest in current world problems drew the largest enrollment in the school, 190 adult students.  This course is to be conducted by a group of New York University professors and other outstanding international authorities.  There were 128 registrations for Appreci-

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ation Literature, to be conducted by William L. Chenery, of Pelham Manor, editor of Colliers Weekly.  The lecturers will be noted literary figures.  There are 114 enrolled in the Interior Decorating course to be conducted through the courtesy of W. & J. Sloane.

There is still opportunity for adult Pelhamites to enroll in several courses.  Published elsewhere in this issue of The Pelham Sun is a tabulation showing the enrollment situation in all of the courses.  The committee will be ready to receive additional registrations at 7.45 o'clock Tuesday night at the high school.  Chairman Wright has called attention to the fact that the second Registration Night is Tuesday instead of Monday.  The day has been selected to permit those who have appointments on Monday to enroll.

Additional Classes To Be Installed

Attention is also called to the fact that the Spanish, French and Sketching classes will be divided.  Spanish and Conversational French will be given in the Second Period as well as the first.  Those who have already registered may adjust their programs at the Registration meeting on Tuesday.

Chairman Wright also calls attention to many of those who registered for Conversational French, to the fact that a new class in beginners' French will be instituted.  Those who have already registered, but who have no knowledge of French may also adjust their programs at the Tuesday registration meeting.

New Instructors

Because of the unexpected over-registration it has been necessary to add new instructors to the Faculty of the Adult School.  The class in sketching will be divided and Miss Enid Spidel, instructor in Sketching and Design at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn will join the faculty to teach one of the sketching Classes.  The other will be led by C. Kermit Ewing, of the Art Department of the local high school.  With the additional instructor it will be possible to accommodate 75 pupils.  Previously a limit of 25 had been set for Sketching.

Dr. William B. Smith, head of the Department of Public Speaking at the College of New Rochelle has also been added to the faculty.  Dr. Smith will teach Public Speaking I.  A. K. Ridout of the high school faculty will teach the other classes in public speaking.

Homemaking Course Should Prove Popular

Registration for the course 'Homemaking in the Modern Manner' has fallen below expectations, although it is believed to be one of the most interesting courses for women in the entire curriculum.  Only ten women have registered for this course which will be given by one of the outstanding home service instructors in the metropolitan area.  Miss Lois Payne, the instructor has been for many years a home service director for the Westchester Lighting Co.

The course consists of ten double periods.  Each class will consist of a one hour cooking demonstration illustrating a half lecture on such subjects as proper balance in normal diet, wise marketing and selection of foods, efficiency in turning out a high grade product, and attractive serving.

The lecture at the first meeting of the class, Oct. 3, will be devoting to 'Budgeting the Income' and will consist of a discussion of allotment of money, comparative costs of 'out of the home' services, quality versus price, with illustrations of comparative costs of meat cuts.  The cooking demonstration will be 'Meat Cookery.'

Miss Payne will be in the Senior High School Cafeteria on Tuesday night at 7.45 to interview those who wish to register for the course.  

Call For Those Who Like To Sing

The Course in Community Singing conducted by Frank Butcher, organist and choirmaster of Christ's Church and director of the Manor Club Choral and the Men's Club Glee Club has a small registration.  This course will have as one of its objectives the development of choral singing for the Annual Community Christmas Carol Sing.  In view of the popularity of this carol program it was anticipated that the Community Singing program would attract a large membership.  The music to be sung in this course will consist of a wide selection of songs and choruses familiar to most people and arranged in interesting and progressive programs suitable to various seasons of the year [illegible] well-known operas will be included in the course depending upon the wishes of the class and its progress as a musically efficient chorus.  It is not necessary to be an accomplished singer.  There will be no voice trials.  The course will be an excellent opportunity for those who delight in singing to raise their voices in a joyous program.

Several Vacancies in Bookkeeping

An excellent opportunity to improve one's knowledge of financial records is offered in the course in Bookkeeping.  This is designed as an introduction to fundamental bookkeeping procedures and will increase one's knowledge of business practice as well as to lay the foundation for further study of accounting.  For those who find keeping their personal and small business accounts a task this course should prove of great importance.


For the convenience of those who plan to register for the first semester of the Pelham Adult Education School on the second registration night, Tuesday, September 27th, the following charts will show the exact situation in the courses:

Subject.          Number Registered                       Class Limit          Registry Room

Art Appreciation........................43                        50                       205
Community Singing..................20                        Open                   217
Horticulture and Gardening......27                        Open                   124
*French (beginners).................New Course         25                       103
**French (conversational)........47                         50                       103
Lip Reading.............................13                         Another class      135
                                                                             of 12 begins in
                                                                             2nd period.
Public Speaking I (A)...............25                        Closed                 
Public Speaking II....................20                        25                        Jr. Auditorium
Typewriting (A)........................43                         46                        133
What Every Woman Should
  Know About Money Affairs...63                          Open                   132
World Political Problems........190                         Open                  Auditorium


Astronomy..............................28                          Open                  103
Bookkeeping..........................10                           19                       135
Interior Decorating.................114                          120                    205
Literature Appreciation..........128                          Open                  Auditorium
Music Appreciation...............26                             35                      217
Photography.........................24                             30                      124
Public Speaking I. (B)...........23                             25                      Jr. Auditorium
***Spanish............................41                             50                      125
Typewriting (B).....................33                             37                      133
Writing for Publication..........42                             50                       122


Badminton............................44                             50                      Jr. Gym.
Craft Metal Work..................19                             Closed               -----
Dressmaking........................48                              50                     Senior Cafeteria
Home Making in the Modern Manner..10              Open                 Senior Cafeteria
Sketching..............................51                             75                     240
Woodworking........................24                             Closed              -----

*Course in French for beginners has been added because of the demand made on the First Registration Night.  Some of those now registered for Conversational French may transfer to this course.
**To meet the great demand for the study of French this class will be divided and a new class conducted during the second period.
***The heavy registration for Spanish makes it necessary that this Class be divided into first and seond period classes."

Source:  ADULTS IN THRONGS SET NATIONAL PRECEDENT AS THEY GO TO SCHOOL, The Pelham Sun, Sep. 23, 1938, Vol. 28, No. 25, p. 1, cols. 1-2 & p. 8, cols. 4-7.

Classes In Adult Education Suspended For The Duration

PELHAM--The Pelham Adult Education School will suspend classes for the duration of the war.  Walter H. McIlroy, president of the School Board of Directors, announced today.  

The directors decided to cancel school activities because of the great demands on Pelham residents for war work in all fields limiting leisure hours when they would be free to attend the cultural classes.  

The organization voted to remain intact and when present demands are lessened will offer educational programs for the adult students.  Two courses, badminuton and gymnastics for women, will however be offered as health and recreational courses to aid with the war work being done.  Information for these classes will be distributed  in the early Fall, Mr. McIlroy announced.  These classes, it was stressed, must be self-sustaining.

The adult school organization has $506.08 in its treasury which will be kept intact until the school reopens., Mr. McIlroy stated."

Source:  NEWS of PELHAM ACTIVITIES -- Classes In Adult Education Suspended For The Duration, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Jun. 2, 1942, p. 5, cols. 7-8.

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