This being the year of the 150th anniversary of Topeka High School and 67th anniversary of Brown v. Topeka Board of Education brought back many memories of my time as a student during the integration of Topeka schools.
I was one of the many Black students who attended the historic Monroe School. Every day I walked to Monroe School (school was never closed because of weather). I lived on Van Buren and Van Buren Elementary School (a White school) was about three blocks from my house.
At Monroe our teachers in the higher grades were there to get us ready for integrated junior high schools. But I will forever remember all my teachers there. In 1992 the Monroe School was designated a National Historic Site for its involvement in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka court case (1954), which determined that the racial segregation of schools was unconstitutional.
My Teachers at Monroe
Kindergarten – Third Grade
Miss Scott taught me in kindergarten. She was young, pretty and left to get married. Ms. Ada Eggleston was my first grade teacher. I remember a tall elegant lady, sitting us in a circle. She sat in the middle with a giant book teaching us to read.
Miss Edna Vance, taught me in second grade. She always wore a skirt, blouse and sweater. I was her special helper when it came to putting up the border above the blackboard. She was short and I was tall. Miss Fannie Patton my third grade teacher also taught my father, mother, sisters, uncles, aunts and cousins. So of course there was no misbehaving in her class.
Fourth – Sixth Grade
Miss Mamie Luella Williams was a tall, slim, stern woman who did not play. (Really, none of them did.) Seems like we had hours and hours and hours of writing cursive in her fourth grade class. The Williams Science and Fine Arts Elementary Magnet School, 1301 SE Monroe, is named in honor of Mamie Williams. After my time at Monroe School, Williams became principal of both Washington and Monroe Schools. While serving as principal Williams continued to carry her regular teaching load without a pay increase for the title of principal. You can learn more about Williams from the Kansas Historical Society.
Mrs. Flossie Holland was my fifth grade teacher and she was the wife of our principal. She wore high heel shoes. All the teachers wore dress shoes but Mrs. Holland wore the highest. Mrs. Myrtle Starnes was our physical education teacher.
Mr. J. B. Holland was the principal and my sixth grade morning teacher. He taught a lot by using games. Mr. Merrill Ross was my sixth grade afternoon teacher. He was a young handsome man who was a former Tuskegee Airman. At the time we did not know nor appreciate his accomplishments.
Due to the work of these men and women we were ready for the different integrated schools we were to attend. View the Historical Society Bulletin to learn more about Topeka’s Black schools, pupils and teachers. You can find even more information in our physical files in the Baker Genealogy Center on the second floor of the library.
Mulvane Girls & Boys Library
Thinking of Monroe School also makes me think about all the time I spent at the library. Every time I’m in the Topeka Room and hear the grandfather clock strike I think of the Mulvane Library. This clock was part of the furniture in the Girls and Boys Library.
In 1933 the heirs to the estate of David W. Mulvane gave his home to the Topeka Library. The Girls and Boys Library opened on September 16, 1939, after much work and fundraising. I lived at 1327 Van Buren and the library was two blocks north of my house. I spent hours upon hours at the library. It was the place I spent most of my spare time in the summers. Quietness you could almost feel, dimmed lights and me sitting on the stool reading the books before they were checked out and then going home to read them again.
Miss Dorothy Schamke was the librarian at Mulvane and she ruled the roost. When I came to work at the Topeka Public Library Schamke was one of the first people I met with. Mulvane closed in the late 1950s because of a lack of funding. What a pity!