Sent to The Frederick Leader and The Frederick Press, December 6, 2011
World Was Different in 1922
“If these walls could talk…”
As the walls of Frederick’s 1922 school building come down, many folks are caught up in memories of years past and the way things used to be. Certainly, if the walls of that old building COULD talk, they’d have a lot to say – about the generations of people who studied there, taught there, played sports and performed there, and gathered there as a community center.
Frederick and the world were far different in 1922 than today.
Exactly 89 years ago, in December 1922, the then-magnificent school building was approaching completion. It would be ready for students in January 1923 when classes started the school year’s second semester.
It was built at the exact spot of the city’s old community auditorium which had been removed for the new construction. City voters had approved a bond issue for the new school. Cost was in excess of $150,000.
World War I was a recent memory, and many Tillman County boys had gathered at that very location during the war years for send-off to basic training and the war.
Only a few city streets were paved in 1922, and not every city home had electricity. Power in Frederick was generated at the old Foster and Harris power plant on West Gladstone Avenue. The new school building would be wired for electricity, but in those days that primarily meant electric lights. There were few electric appliances of any kind.
J.O. Shaw served as superintendent of Frederick Schools when the school was built, a position that he held from 1917 until 1941. Frederick school enrollment in 1922 was 1,100 students – approximately 250 of them attended the new high school.
Radio was a new sensation that was sweeping the nation in 1922. In June 1922 President Warren G. Harding was the first president to speak on the radio. He was also the first president to have a radio in the White House. Many radio stations were licensed across the country that year, including WKY Radio in Oklahoma City.
Life was hard in the 1920s, and lives were often cut short by illness. It was before the miracle of antibiotics, and infections were often deadly. A flu epidemic had swept the world in 1918 killing more than 20 million people.
One too-common ailment was “consumption” or tuberculosis. The Western Oklahoma Tubercular Sanitarium opened in Clinton in 1922 to treat patients with tuberculosis.
In January 1922, insulin was used for the first time to successfully treat diabetes. A immunization was also developed to control the deadly disease of diphtheria.
In Frederick, the only hospital was the privately operated S. A. & M. Hospital established in 1921 by Dr. T.F. Spurgeon, Dr. J.E. Arrington, and Dr. L.A. Mitchell in the 100 block of South 9th (next to the current Pioneer Telephone building).
“Reader’s Digest” was published for the first time in 1922 and it became a common magazine in many American homes.
In 1922 women’s rights were a relatively new issue. Women had been allowed to vote for only two years.
Frederick High School students could take in a movie at the Majestic on South 9th Street or the People’s Theatre on West Grand Avenue, but the movie palaces were silent – pre-talkie. Movie titles in 1922 included “Robin Hood” with Douglas Fairbanks, “Blood and Sand” with Rudolph Valentino, and “Dr. Jack” with Harold Lloyd.
The movie silence was broken that year, though. The year 1922 marked the first movie with sound – “The Jazz Singer” starring Al Jolson.
Director Hal Roach released the first of many short features called “Our Gang”. In the 1950s “Our Gang” would be renamed “Little Rascals” when it aired on television.
FHS students might have cranked Victorolas to dance the Charleston in 1922, a dance that swept the country after being danced on Broadway in New York City. Popular songs included Al Jolson’s “April Showers”, Fanny Brice singing “Second Hand Rose”, and “I’m Just Wild About Harry” by Marion Harris.
In Washington, D.C. the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated. It had been under construction since 1914.
1922 was an exciting year of firsts in aviation. Lillian Gatlin was the first woman to fly across the continent, and Jimmy Dolittle was the first to make a coast-to-coast trip in one day.
Amendment 18 to the Constitution in 1919 had established Prohibition, banning the manufacture, transport or sale of intoxicating liquor. Bootleg liquor therefore became a risky but huge business.
Almost all men and a few women smoked. Cigarette sales in 1922 were a $43 billion business.