Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio, was a rather prestigious boarding school for boys. It was founded to run much like a British private school. A HBC reader was a student in the 1940s. He recalls, "Latin was required as was algebra and geometry. We had to write 4-5-page essays every week. No radios were allowed and we had to be in bed by 10 PM. We always addressed the masters as 'Sir'. Sports were also de rigeur, especially soccer, football, and baseball." Like most such schools, WRA has since become coeducational.
Western Reserve Academy is one of the earliest private schools in the Midwest. It was founded in 1826 in Hudson, Ohio as a boarding school for boys. This was very early in the settlement of Ohio. The school gradually expanded to offer a college (university level) program. The school in the 19th century offered both secondary and college-level prograns for teenage boys and youth as part of a single institution. Some girls wwre also involved, but we do not yet understand how they fit into the orifram. Towards the end of the 19th century the two programs were separated. The college program (now Case Western Reserve University) was moved to Cleveland, leaving the preparatory school for boys in Hudson. We donot know much about the early school, but the secondary school program by the turn-of-the 20th century was operating much like a British public (exclusive private secondary) school. In America it would be called a preparatory school.
The school is a rather famous college preparatory school, which (until the late 1960s) was exclusively for boys. The school had a good deal of social cachet because
many of the boys came from privileged families. Today it is a school of nearly 400 for both boys and girls. The school has small class sizes and low teacher stydent ratios affording a subtanual level of individual attention. Quite a number of foreign students now attend the school.
A HBC reader was a student in the 1940s. He recalls, "Latin was required as was algebra and geometry. We had to write 4-5-page essays every week. No radios were allowed and we had to be in bed by 10 PM. We always addressed the masters as 'Sir'. Sports were also de rigeur, especially soccer, football, and baseball." Like most such schools, WRA has since become coeducational. The scgool dress code inthe years shown here was formal with coats and ties and continues to be today.
The school for many years only admitted boys, like most British public schools at the time and most private schools. Public high schools were coeducational, but most private schools before World war II were single gender schools. . In Americam terms it was a preparatory school, a private boarding secondary school. That meant grades 9-12 (freshmam, sophmore, junior, and senior). That was the same age range as American public high schools. Some boys started before they formally entered the school. They were called pre-freshman or mor commonly pre-frosh. The ages of the boys were from about 13 to 18 years. Most boys began their fresh year at age 14 years, but there were a few 13 year olds. Most boys graduated when they were 18 years old. There may have been a few 19 year olds.
The school had quite a distinguished music program, and many boys studied various instruments, sang in the chapel choir, and even wrote compositions of their own.
The headmaster was the distinguished educator, John Hallowell.
WRA like British public schools had a lot of traditions and activities, some of which involved the boys behaving in clownish ways as in this photograph from about 1944. The point was to look as silly as possible by appearing on roller skates, for instance, without one's trousers and affecting ridiculous hats. Some of the boys still wore knickers (notice the third boy from the left and the second boy from the right) whereas others had graduated already to long trousers (although the long trousers have obviously been discarded in this exhibition of absurdity). One of the interesting features of the photograph is the universal wearing of adult men's garters to hold up three-quarter-length socks. This was standard for well-dressed men of the period, and the boys who wore long trousers were of course imitating their fathers or other well-healed grown-ups. The boys still in knickers continued to wear knee socks. Note that one boy, the one on the extreme left, wears knickers also, but he has unfastened the buckles so that they droop down to ankle height. The standard underwear, as is also illustrated here, was boxer drawers and sleeveless white undershirts (sometimes referred to as singlets in England). I remember that in the winter we wore union suits under our knickers or long trousers, but this photo was taken probably in the late spring after the union suits had been discarded.Some boys, as I recall, actually did skate as a recreational activity. There was no ice hockey at the school at this time, so of course the boys used roller skates.
During normal classes boys had to wear jackets and ties with their knickers or long trousers but there was no formal uniform. The requirement was only a suit. It was up to the boys and their parents as to what kind of suit. I do not think boys wore short pants suits, although our information on the 1920s is limited. Most boys wore knickers in the 1920s, but by the 1930s many of the older boys and even some of the younger boys were wearing long pants. Many younger boys were still wearing knickers in the early 1940s, but theu rapidly went out of style during the War years (1941-45).
None of the images we have dhow what the boys actually wore to their classes. Some photographs are rather formal suggesting they dressed up for them. Others or informal suggesting that they were taken after classes. We do have one photgraph taken in the cafeteria at lunch, suggesting that the boys just came from their classes. It shows boys wearing wither both suit jackets and sweaters.
Most of the photographs on the Western Reserve Academy school pages were supplied by
Thomas L. Vince, the school archivist, and we greatly appreciate his kind assistance.
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