Friday, March 16, 2012

World War II era at Governor Dummer, part I

Recently, I’ve been combing through the archives’ collection of WWII materials in an effort to put together a display for the front of the Alumni Memorial Gymnasium, a building constructed in honor of those Dummer men who went on to serve the nation during World War II. One of the true treasures in our collection are the letters written by headmaster Eames to those fighting in the war. My sense of Mr. Eames, both from these letters and from my other World War II related archival research, is that he was a man trying to do his duty both as an American citizen as an educator of young men at the time. I believe it was these dual goals that led Eames to make changes to the academy life, both in the form of curriculum changes and the development of the student work program.
The student work program came out of both the necessity of replacing the work of so many that went to either serve in the armed forces or work in war industries. The school simply did not have the personnel available to do the jobs that needed to be done, so headmaster Eames organized a system where each boy was responsible for jobs, both in the morning before classes began, as well as in the afternoon, in place of athletics one afternoon per week. These jobs ranged from cleaning the bathrooms, sweeping and moping hallways and stairways, emptying the trash, and other tasks around dormitory and classroom buildings. Jobs also extended, however, to include outdoor work such as mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow, lining fields, and clearing brush. Students would have regular daily jobs, special daily jobs, and some weekly and seasonal jobs.
While replacing lost personnel was certainly a motivation behind the development of the student work program, I believe headmaster Eames was also trying to develop students with a work ethic which would serve them well both in the service or whatever the future would bring them beyond the academy.
Less well known than the work program are the curricular changes made by Mr. Eames during the war. In a letter to parents, Mr. Eames acknowledged that because of the war, many students may have to serve in the military before they would normally be able to graduate from the academy. Others would forgo college for military service. He therefore saw it as his duty to prepare his students as thoroughly as possible for military service in particular and the responsibilities of adulthood in general. In order to do this, one of his strategies was to add coursework to the curriculum that would provide students with necessary knowledge and experience for use in the military. Included among the new courses were ones involving the study of Morse Code, navigation, special mathematics with applications in the field of aviation, and mechanics. The description of the new mechanics course in the Archon explains that “knowledge on machines, as well as skill in using and repairing them, is important in almost every phase of modern warfare.”
Above are some of the photographs of students participating in some of the curricular and extracurricular changes that took place as a result of the war. Enjoy these photos, and check back for upcoming World War II blogs including letters written by alumni about their experiences during the war.