Mary Carroll was hired to teach Spanish to students in grades 6-11. That was in 1901. Her father designed St. Patrick’s Church and her uncle taught at Hidalgo Seminary. She grew up in Mexico and spoke fluent Spanish.
Mary Carroll was 18 years old in 1901. She split her school days between Central School and High School, teaching Spanish to students in grades 6-11. She was getting $ 50 a month, which was less than what male teachers were getting. “They explained the difference,” she later said, “by saying that men have loved ones to support them, but many female teachers also have younger brothers and sisters.”
A legislative act created the Corpus Christi Independent School District in 1909. The new district had 1,296 students, 29 teachers and principals, four elementary schools and one high school. One of the first acts of the district trustees was to build a new high school. During construction, classes were held in an old half-timbered house on Staples Street that the students called the chicken coop.
The students moved from the chicken coop to the brick palace in 1911. Some in town called it the new grammar school, although it housed all classes above fourth grade before the new station schools were built. Because it cost $ 85,000 to build, a prince’s ransom at the time, people in town called it the Brick Palace. The name stayed.
“It had an auditorium, a balcony, and a stage,” said Mary Carroll. “We thought it was so elegant.”
Herman Behmann, whose family ran a grocery store on Staples Street, attended school at Brick Palace. “We didn’t have any of the cafeteria facilities we have today and had to go home to have dinner and then go back in the hour they gave us.”
Three new station schools – David Hirsch, Edward Furman, and George Evans – were built in 1912 at a cost of $ 11,000 each, all of which were built on the same floor plan to save money. Theodore Fuller, a student of David Hirsch, wrote in his memoir that the new schools “were the last word in modern school architecture”.
One of the vacated old wooden buildings on the school grounds was moved to Salt Lake to become the Salt Lake School. After a year, the building was relocated to North Carrizo and renamed the Mexican Central School with Rose Shaw as the teacher. The school was named after him after the death of a longtime head of the school, Cheston L. Heath.
In 1914 a new school principal was hired from Oklahoma. Joseph Tucker followed CW Crossley, who retired in 1913, and Moses Menger, who held the job for a year. Tucker cleared the outdoor secrets and moved the toilets inside. He added professional classes in high school, including cooking and sewing for girls, and metalwork and masonry for boys.
The cooking class was called Home Science. It was done in the basement of the high school. After the 1919 storm on September 14, the domestic science laboratory was converted into a soup kitchen for the homeless survivors of the hurricane. “We have a lot of experience with cooking and tidying up,” recalls one student.
The whole city mourned when Professor Moses Menger died on April 1, 1920. An obituary for the caller reads: “It was more than thanks to his or her efforts by any other individual that the city has a school system of which it could feel proud. “
Mary Carroll was named headmistress of the high school in 1921 and headmistress the following year.
During her tenure as superintendent, the district received its first paid soccer coach. He was Charles Coleman, a teacher who had resigned to open a products store. Mary Carroll asked him to coach football for half of the season’s income from football matches. He made $ 301 for the season. The following year, 1926, Nixon Askey was hired as a full-time football coach. It had been the custom for a male teacher to train for free in his spare time.
When fire escapes were added to the upper floors of the brick palace, school officials conducted slide exercises and older boys were stationed to help girls down the slides. After a week of ruined shoes and caught clothes, the thrill of the exercise subsided. Lunch was also added to schools during Mary Carroll’s tenure, Crossley Elementary was built in Hillcrest in 1926, and Menger Elementary was built in South Alameda in 1928.
In 1929, as the city grew after the port of Corpus Christi opened, the district built a new high school “out in the country” at the end of Leopard Street. School officials expected the city to grow to the west. The new high school cost $ 320,916, nearly four times the cost of building the Brick Palace. The school district opened its new three-story high school on Fisher Street. Corpus Christi High School (later renamed in honor of Roy Miller) had 26 larger than average classrooms and a huge 1,600-seat auditorium. A brick structure was built for Cheston L. Heath School and the Brick Palace became Northside Junior High School.
Corpus Christi early school history is included from 1846, when Amanda Brooks began teaching at John Kelsey’s shop, to 1929, when the modern Corpus Christi High School was built on Leopard Street. In between were major developments in education, including Charles Lovenskiold’s academy in the 1850s, the Hidalgo seminary in the 1860s and 1870s, followed by the incarnated word, the beginning of public education in 1871, and the construction of the first public School structures in 1872. The rest of the story from 1929 is a project for another time.
(Note: My research was facilitated by previous work in two theses by Gladys Gibbon, a former teacher and headmistress of Furman Elementary, and Sister Jeanne Francis Minner of Incarnate Word, as well as newspaper archives from the Corpus Christi Star in the 1840s to the Corpus Christi Caller in the 1920s. This is the last of four articles.)
Murphy Givens is the retired Viewpoints Editor for Caller-Times. Email at [email protected]