Title: Benton School
Description: Postcard of the Benton School
Historical Article: The new Benton School, built of yellow brick at 30th and Benton Boulevard, was opened Sept. 12, 1904, with 12 rooms and a kindergarten. It replaced an old Benton school at 14th and Liberty which had been opened in 1869, and was named in honor of Thomas Hart Benton, who represented Missouri in the United States Senate from 1821 to 1851. Today the school pictured has been renamed D. A. Holmes School honoring the late pastor of the Paseo Baptist Church.
The school served patrons of the then fashionable Benton Boulevard residential district. Its growth was rapid and a new west wing of eight classrooms was necessary by 1921 when 1,300 children were enrolled.
Pictured on the playground are pupils doing calisthenics to the tunes of stirring music from a Victrola, no doubt carried to the playground by older boys. A gym teacher in ankle length skirt and white middy blouse, assisted by a room teacher, lead the exercises.
Such classes as these pictured on the old post card of 1922 were common in elementary schools in Kansas City at the time. Under the leadership of Dr. Fred Burger, director of public school health and physical education from 1889 until he retired in 1930, calisthenics, folk dancing, track meets and May fetes were emphasized.
Before there were gymnasiums in the schools, exercises were held in the hallways, auditoriums, basements and attics of the schools, and of course outdoors whenever possible.
Dr. Burger's staff eventually was increased to 48 gym teachers. Each gym teacher was responsible for several schools, traveling by street car to a different school each day of the week. She was required to be on the playground by 8:30, taught calisthenics, games and folk dancing during the day and remained on the playground helping with games and preparing for track meets, until 5:30 in the evening.
The salary was $55 or $60 monthly.
The health exercise program of Dr. Bruger was popular with Kansas Citians. A Kansas City Star story with his picture, Oct. 15, 1922, titled City Schools' Health Head Lives by His Own Rules, read:
Dr. Fred Burger, as supervisor of health and physical education in the city schools, is always telling school folk what to do to keep healthy. They will be glad to know he follows some of his own advice, living by these rules:
To bed at 8:30. Rises at 5; takes cold plunge in tub; 20 to 30 minutes of exercises in room with windows open; makes breakfast his heaviest meal of the day, eating several eggs, toast, fruit, bouillon as a drink (no coffee); for luncheon more fruit, vegetables, sometimes meat, sometimes dessert; very light dinner, if any. Dr. Burger added this advice: 6, rather than 5, better rising hour for young people and of course a cold tub plunge is not good for some folk. A cold sponge bath should be practiced before a plunge is attempted.
Kansas City Times
March 30, 1979
Author: Ray, Mrs. Sam (Mildred)
Item Type: Postcard
Collection: Mrs. Sam Ray Postcard Collection (SC58)
See finding aid: http://localhistory.kclibrary.org/u?/Local,36981
Local Subject: Schools; Benton School
Digital Format: JPEG
Repository: Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri
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