Bryn Athyn Church’s Annual Society Meeting this coming Wednesday will continue the long tradition of these meetings, which have been going on since before 1900. Here is a partial description of the meeting from a hundred years ago:
“The Spring Meeting of the Bryn Athyn Church held on Friday, May 13th, was devoted as usual to reports of the Elementary School. It was preceded by the last Friday Supper of the year, and the time between the supper and the meeting was given over to the inspection of the classrooms, where the work of the pupils was displayed, and where the various teachers received all who were interested, answering questions, and explaining the work. At 8 o'clock, all gathered in the Auditorium, where the formal meeting was opened by Bishop Pendleton with a reading from the Word and prayer. Mr. Heilman, the Principal of the elementary school, then presented a general survey of the year's activities, dwelling upon the central problem with which the school is confronted, namely, further cooperation of teachers and parents in the moral training of the children.” Church News, New Church Life, 1921
Their latest development in the students’ moral training, reported at that meeting, was to periodically send home “report cards in symbolic colors... by which the status of the children was from time to time brought forcibly to the attention of the parents.” It would be interesting to know what each color represented, and how long that system lasted. I am also curious as to what color card my father would have gotten, who would have been just entering the school at that time. Otho Heilman had been teaching at the school since 1907, when he was just 20 years old. He became principal in 1917, when there were 76 students, and served in that role until 1950, when there were 204 students, when my father took it on.
In 1921, there does not seem to have been a continuing interruption of the school year because of the great influenza epidemic of 1918, which had resulted in three deaths in the Philadelphia society. Over the next few years, however, there were repeated epidemics of measles, scarlet fever, mumps, chicken pox and other illnesses, causing school closings and quarantines. In 1929, the influenza returned:
“Bryn Athyn suffered rather severely from the epidemic of influenza which has been sweeping the country. As a precautionary measure, the Elementary School was closed for two weeks following the regular vacation. The Society was saddened by the loss of two of its members...While there are still a number of cases in Bryn Athyn, it is hoped that the epidemic has passed its height and that it will steadily subside.”
Church News, New Church Life 1929