Bessie Huff's Early Education, Part 1
The photograph above is of Bessie Maree Huff. William P. Greene's Studio took her picture when she was a junior in high school.
Bessie was born in Hancock, Iowa on December 4, 1892. She was the only child of James Lewis Huff and Laura Dell Newman. Her mother was a stay-at-home housewife while her father worked as a butcher in 1900. The family came to Muskogee during the new century's first years, arriving in 1904.
Bessie's parents immediately enrolled their daughter in the foremost school in town. This was the Spaulding Institute located on the east side of town. She was an outstanding student in Mrs. Onis Jones' Expression Class. She was among the children chosen to participate in the school's recitals in March, 1905. Her performance, at age 13, of a "reading" at the recital is the first record of her public speaking.
The following November, Bessie participated in another recital at Spaulding. This time her reading was entitled "Orphan Annie." Her reading predates by two decades the first appearance of the popular comic strip.
Bessie's next reading was part of another recital. In early December, 1906 she read "The Slow Race" at the Henry Kendall College, located on Kendall Hill west of downtown Muskogee.
In the fall of 1907, Bessie entered Muskogee High School. The school was founded two years earlier with eighteen in the student body.
At the annual election of teachers at the end of the 1908 school year, the Muskogee school board chose Miss Alice Myrtle Newman as its high school history teacher. Miss Newman was Bessie's aunt, but also a roomer with Bessie's parents throughout the rest of Bessie's years in high school.
Xenophon was a Greek historian. This explains why Bessie was a Xenophonian in high school. In Bessie's senior year, she was one of nine members of the school's History Club.
The following fall, Bessie and her classmates enjoyed the luxury of studying in the brand new Central High School located on Dayton Street.
Then in December of 1909 the new high school began publishing a school newspaper. Some of the mastheads under consideration included the "Bumble Bee," the "Tumble Weed of Dry Gulch," the "Pride of the Arkansas" and the "Rah, Rah, Rah." The winning name was "The Scout."
The Scout sold advertisements and subscriptions to pay for the printing costs. A year's subscription was twenty-five cents. Seven issues appeared the first year.
The newspaper had a full staff from an editor to a business manager. Bessie Huff was the first "Literary Editor." Though a monthly, the first issue appeared before the Christmas holidays. Thus began Bessie's association with school publications.
Though the May issue of The Scout survives, it is not possible to identify any contribution written by Bessie's hand. It is disappointing that no record survives that caries her creative spirit from this period.
There is so much more to be told about Bessie Huff. Stay tuned for more!