Dark Side of the Moon

Luna Smith didn’t take any guff from her charges during her 65 years in education

By Peggy A. Ford.
Originally published August 1998, Weld County Past Times, Greeley Tribune

Sidebar: What about money? Teachers at Horace Mann and Cameron Elementary schools between 1935 and 1938 received annual salaries ranging from $1,181 to $1,460, depending on experience.

In June 1975, Rose Mary Koob, a Greeley Tribune staff writer, interviewed Miss Luna Smith on the occasion of Smith’s 100th birthday.

A visitor present during the interview told Luna, “You’ll be queen for a day.”

Luna quipped back, “I’d rather be king.”

Such was the response from a Greeley educator born on June 16, 1875, in Greeley’s first schoolhouse which her father, Pitts Smith, had purchase and moved to the family farm on Mumper Hill in north Greeley, and made into their first home.

For the next 65 years, schools remained an integral part of her life. Steeped in Greeley’s history, Luna was named after the mosquito-infested, crescent-shaped shallow lake once located in the south half of Greeley’s Lincoln Park.

Luna graduated with 11 classmates from Greeley High School in 1894, studied for two years at the State Normal School (now the University of Northern Colorado) and received her degree in 1915.

After teaching three years in Eaton, she taught in, and later served as principal at, both the South Ward (later Horace Mann) and Cameron Elementary schools from 1901 to 1940.

In a 1941 speech given to her P.E.O. Club, Luna told an anecdote about Howard Fralick, who was learning penmanship according to the Palmer Method.

He had practiced the ovals and push-and-pull movements each lesson before writing until it was a familiar story. One morning at home, Howard had submitted very reluctantly to his morning washing.

At last he said, in a tearful voice, “Mother, you’ve washed my face all over with the running oval, then you did push and pull up and down my neck. Now you’re not satisfied. You go in my ears with the traced oval.”

The Municipal Archives at the City of Greeley Museums – open free of charge to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday – contains thousands of photographs and documents that illuminate the history of Greeley and Weld County.

Luna Smith’s handwritten collection of log books from the South Ward, Horace Mann and Cameron elementary schools provide a candid look at the daily activities and responsibilities of a woman who simultaneously served as principal at two buildings.

Teachers meetings, school programs, field trips, social gatherings, salaries, achievement test results, and a record of disciplinary corrections and corporal punishments are recorded as mandated by the “Manual of the Public Schools of Greeley, Colorado” issued in 1913 by the school board.

The manual states, “The calling of ill names, use of profane or obscene language, all forms of gambling and the throwing of snowballs, or other missiles on or near the school grounds or on the way to or from school are strictly forbidden.”

Board policy stated that, “Corporal punishment should be resorted to only in extreme cases of bad conduct, and each teacher shall furnish to the Superintendent a written statement, giving the date of each case of corporal punishment, together with the cause and the method employed, and the Superintendent shall keep a record of all such punishments, including those inflicted by himself.”

A survey of Luna’s log books revealed the following methods, that I call the “Three Ss”: shaking, strapping and slapping. Behavior infractions also included impudence, disobedience, whispering, laughing and playing in class, throwing paper balls, jumping out of line, laziness and being disrespectful.

A soap-and-water “mouthwash” was inflicted for those guilty of telling falsehoods, name calling, or using obscene language. At Cameron Elementary in 1925, Luna recorded that “she strapped two boys who were fighting and throwing bricks at one another.” One Cameron teacher “spatted” a boy’s hand with a piece of garden hose.

On another occasion, three boys were caught and punished for hanging on wagons on the way home from school. For one week following the incident, an older child, acting as a guard, accompanied them home to prevent further “joy riding.”

Peggy A. Ford is coordinator of research and education for the City of Greeley Museums