The Meredith News
October 23rd, 2014
by Dan Heyduk
I wrote about public education in Moultonborough in the mid 1920s (May 29), but I was also interested to look ten years ahead to the mid 1930s. In 1926, Moultonborough had 107 students and six public schools, though only four of the six schools operated in that year or the next. In 1936, there were 118 students in five operating schools, with some schools having been closed and re-opened during the intervening years. Students needed to attend high school outside the town in 1926, and ten years later, Moultonborough still had no high school. Moultonborough paid tuition to other towns for thirty-one high school students in 1936. There were five teachers in the town schools, each earning $80 to $90 per month in 1926, and six teachers employed at $85 to $95 per month in 1936. Ethel Smith was paid $85 per month in 1926, and was still paid the same amount in 1936. Wood was being used for heat in 1926, with coal used for the first time in 1927, and nine years later both wood and coal were still in use. 1936 was the middle of the Great Depression (1930-39), which was reflected in the schools, as everywhere else. It was harder to collect taxes, and some towns were forced to pay teachers with promissory notes (script), which local stores agreed to accept, due to insufficient cash on hand from tax receipts.
There was progress in the Moultonborough schools nonetheless. The superintendent worried that even though the town paid high school tuition, some students did not go because their families could not afford the transportation, and the town voted to provide up to $1.50 per week transportation allowance for each student’s high school attendance. There were a music supervisor and a school nurse in 1936, both serving all the Moultonborough schools. The school nurse also made visits to homes. Payment was made to the Meredith Electric Light Co., indicating that at least one of the buildings had electric lighting. Students had special weekly newspapers to read and some schools had record players for music education and exercises. The schools were holding dental clinics in 1936, and there was a program to provide eyeglasses to at least some students who needed them. Reported in 1934, and probably continuing in 1936, was a federal-state program to provide milk and cod liver oil to some of the children. By 1937, the superintendent noted that “much of the facilities set up for the caring of children during the depression are gradually being eliminated. Cod liver oil is no longer given us to distribute. Neither is Federal money available for corrective work.” But health evaluations of the students did continue, and dental and eye clinics did as well, with state support, so that the overall health of Moultonborough school students was better in 1937 than it had been in 1927.
By 1940, the town’s school expenses had grown to $14,600 per year from some $11,500 in 1926, but teachers’ salaries still were essentially unchanged. In fact, both the national cost of living and average annual income had gone down during the depression years, so level salaries for teachers were not unusual. In 1940, Moultonborough school enrollment was 113 students, and five schools were still being operated, with six teachers (counting the Center Harbor village elementary school). The school nurse made a plea in 1941 for at least partial reimbursement of her travel expense. She served an area from Freedom to New Hampton, and provided transportation for students to clinics, logging over 9,500 miles on her car. The depression ended in 1939, and the Moultonborough schools had survived and even improved – thanks in no small part to dedicated staff. The next year, the country began to go on a war footing, affecting the schools in yet other ways. (From Moultonborough Town Annual Reports)