Frontier Village Stirs Memories



Denison High School’s first Yellow Jacket Annual is believed to have been published in 1924. Prior to that time, however, there were books published each year, but they were called Commencement Issues.

While volunteering recently at Grayson County Frontier Village I was nosing through family and county histories and found two Commencement issues dated 1914 and 1915. Both books are similar to the early day “annuals” or yearbooks.

They carry pictures of students as well as advertisements by businesses of the day, including Jones Dry Goods, Linn Brothers Jewelry, James Boyd Clothing, The Denison Grocer Co., Palace Hotel, Denison Hotel, White Swan Coffee, the National Bank of Denison, Ashburn’s Ice Cream, The Crystal Ice Co., and many others that are no longer with us.

Both issues must have belonged to Laura Doak Bell. Her name is written on the covers, and she had clipped articles from the newspaper about classmates and pasted them inside on a couple of pages in 1914.

F.B. Hughes, for whom the former Hughes Middle School was named, was superintendent at the time and B. McDaniel, for whom the Junior High now is named, was principal. Teachers included Miss Carrie Johnson, Miss (Inez) Cartwright, Mr. Brous ((G.P.), who still was around in 1953 and Newell Cummins, among others.

An interesting story related in the book is of a wolf hunt in Indian Territory. The story related how 40 years ago there wasn’t much work for boys. So to make a little change to buy Christmas gifts, three boys, about 18 years old, decided to go on a hunting trip in Oklahoma, then known as B.I.T. or Beautiful Indian Territory, to shoot, trap and poison wolves for their skins.

They took with them a shotgun, an ax, a coffee pot, a dutch oven, some meal and salt, a few blankets and a pound of strychnine.

They shot several deer and other small game and began poisoning the wolves, which were plentiful. In two or three months they had several hundred pelts so they walked eight miles to an Indian’s cabin, borrowed some tools and made a raft on which they piled their pelts and started down the Washita River.

The river was up and when they hit Red River, it also was on a rise. Their raft was torn to pieces and they lost all their pelts, their ax, shotgun, blankets and walked into Denison Christmas morning hungry and tired without money or furs and nothing to show for their hard work. The story was reported by Ruth Larkin, class of 1917.

Except for hairdos, any of the graduating students could have been students today. Each had a descriptive quote under his or her name. A few of those graduates featured were Roy Barton, Mabel Blacknall, Mattie Bartee, Robert Brennan, Anna Mary Eastham, Thelma Hailey, Lula Mae Hayes, John Higginson, Earl Knaur, Eugene McElvaney, Lorelle Puckett, and James White, president of the class.

Several names are a little familiar, but one stands out for me. That was Lula Mae Hayes who taught piano lessons in her home on the 800 block of West Gandy for many years. Miss Hayes was my first piano teacher and oh, did she like for her students to learn and play scales.

In 1915 Bertha Knaur was editor-in-chief of the publication and Will Regensburger was business manager. Among the students listed were Claud E. Crawford, who will be remembered by many as a Denison chiropractor; and Edith Austin, class salutatorian, who later taught for many years at Denison High.

Several pages of student pictures had been clipped from the book.

One interesting story in the book is about the passage of the compulsory school attendance law on March 13, 1915. It placed the Texas schools on a new educational plane and was called the greatest victory for the education of the many ever won in the legislative halls of Texas.

The article said that there were many imperfections in the law, but it the law could simply get a boy or girl off the streets into school, a better Texas was to be had.

“In the country the boy who is not in school is at work. He is influenced by the beauties of nature, not by vices with which a city is contaminated.

“In the cities the boy who is not in school is usually not at work, but out upon the streets. He comes in contact with all the vices which a city has to offer. Is it not probable that he will cost the city a great deal more to take care of him a little later as a criminal, than to put him in school?” the article said. Not much has changed today, has it?

Denison’s baseball team played Sherman three times that year with Sherman the victor in two of the three games. Denison’s and Sherman’s girls’ basketball teams came out with a win each in their play, but Denison boys were beaten in both games with Sherman 25-20 and 55-13. Sherman also beat Denison in football 12-0.

Nonetheless, the senior class honored the football boys at a party in the Doak home which was described as “one of the most delightful affairs of the season.”

Class Day really sounded like a day from the town’s past., but it was described as a memorable event. “The morning was occupied with auto rides and visits to the picture shows. In the afternoon the class left on the two o’clock car for Woodlake, where numerous amusement that only Woodlake had to offer were enjoyed.” Faculty members were guests at the picnic that night and after the luncheon dancing was indulged in, according to an article in the book.

The school had a military and concert band with 12 cornets, seven clarinets, eight trombones, two baritones, four bases, eight altos, one saxophone, one oboe, a pair of cymbals, three snare drums and a drum major and director. There also was an orchestra organized in 1914, and a glee club.

Not much has changed through the years, just the way they are presented.

Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at


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