In this, the second installment of Proctor's history, we jump ahead to the formative years of the Great Depression. As we saw in the first chapter, the character of this school was not shaped by enduring prosperity, but by economic hardship.
In 1932, not realizing the depth of the economic downturn in America's economy, the trustees invested $45,000 to construct Maxwell Savage Hall. The economic crisis precipitated by this decision prompted the creation of an ad hoc committee of New England educators to access the school's viability, in light of its assets and liabilities. When, in September of 1935, Headmaster Carl Wetherell received their verdict, seventy-four boys were unpacking for a school year. Rather than send them home, he announced--at the first assembly of the year--that he was quitting immediately! Most parents knew what was up, and--in the days that followed--more than half of the meager population was withdrawn, creating an economic crisis of unprecidented proportion. For young, smart, newly-married faculty like Lyle Harlan Farrell and Roland Burbank, the prospect of the school closing was untenable, due to the dire prospects for employment elsewhere. Presenting a drastic economic plan with wholesale salary cuts, these two got a stay of execution from the trustees. They had until Christmas to find the leader who would save the school. The man they found was John Halsey Gulick. At the time, Ro Burbank observed, "Accepting this job was the act of a very brave, or a very foolish, man." Here is Halsey with some boys in the Head's residence (today's Gulick House.)
The son of Progressive-era educator Luther Gulick, the father of the summer camp movement in the United States, and Charlotte Gulick, the founder of Camp Fire Girls of America, Halsey had a strong preference for hands-on, outdoor education. With little or no financial resources, Gulick charged Ro Burbank to create programs that would benefit students while benefiting the school. To attract more students, a two-tier track supplemented the college preparatory curriculum with a "general," or mechanical arts program. So were born many of the activities we now know as Skills Courses, such as boat building, woodshop and machine shop.
An Improvement Squad--managed by Ro--tackled tasks at a time when no Maintenance Department was afforded. If concrete needed to be poured and graded to make tennis courts, students did the work. The hill above Leonard Field needed to be cut to create Slalom Hill.... a rope tow needed to be designed and built.... lawns needed to be mowed. Ro founded the Cabin Club to construct a cabin on the side of Ragged Mountain. They celebrated with a picnic lunch three years later, on the completion of the first cabin.
When World War II demanded enlistment by 18-year-olds, the school operated a summer program to speed up the graduation process. Once again, a "win-win" opportunity was realized, as students plowed, planted and harvested an extensive victory garden in the hours between their classes and studies.
Produce from this farm fed the entire community throughout the fall term, and the basement of Mary Lowell Stone House served as a root cellar for winter squash and potatoes.
In our next chapter, we'll see the school gain economic stability as a somewhat-traditional boys' prep school in the 1950s and '60s.