"Alma Mater, We All Love Thee," Progressive Dalby
Early in 1907, Ezra Christiansen filed legal papers to have his name officially changed to Ezra C. Dalby. He was constantly being confused, especially by the post office, with other Christiansens, Christensens, and Christensons living in the area. “Dalby” was the name his father had used while in the Army. Students and faculty of the academy had to adjust to calling him Principal Dalby rather than Principal Christiansen.
The Fremont Stake quarterly conference, which was held on January 19 and 20, 1907, with Elder Hyrum M. Smith and Rulon S. Wells of the First Quorum of Seventy presiding, held special interest. President Albert Heath of the stake presidency called on . . . men of the stake to lobby the state Legislature vigorously for a local option bill to control liquor traffic. He also called upon academy students to become involved in the local option issue. Principal Dalby bemoaned the fact that several students came to the academy with “evil habits.” He urged parents to do all they could to see that their children acted correctly while at the academy.
There were those in the community inclined to criticize academy students for being unruly. There was also a faction critical of academy administrators for not allowing more freedom to students. Late in February, Principal Dalby took both factions to task. He pointed out the economic and social benefits of having the academy in Rexburg. He criticized those attempting to undermine disciplinary practices of the academy. He argued that parents who send children to the academy expect high standards of behavior to be enforced when students are in the community as well as on campus. He urged those complaining to register complaints with someone who could rectify a situation if necessary, rather than just spreading rumors. Principal Dalby had long been in the forefront of those seeking to rid Rexburg of influences generated by saloon keepers. In the process he alienated some townspeople who felt that their businesses could expand if the academy did not have such a strong influence over students.
March 15, 1907, was a landmark day for the academy. On that day the first of what was intended to be an annual Missionary Day was held. The missionary class had been part of academy curriculum for five years, and a representative from each class spoke as part of the program including Elijah Tonks, the president of the class, and Principal Dalby. The principal was followed by the featured speaker, Elder J. Golden Kimball of Salt Lake City. He said he had come to the program to “interview” the missionary class.
Ricks Academy received some national attention in mid-March 1907. J. Lloyd Woodruff, a reporter for the Deseret News of Salt Lake City, attended a meeting on missionary work in Utah and Idaho at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Reverend John D. Nutting of “sheep-wagon missionary fame” was the featured speaker. His presentation, complete with pictures, was intended to instruct the audience about the “idolatrous faith of a heathen people” — meaning those who belonged to the Mormon Church. One of the first pictures used to illustrate the degeneration of the Mormons was the June 1906 graduation picture of Ricks Academy. “In arrangement and detail it was the finest graduating picture that has ever come under the observation of the writer,” Woodruff noted. “The bright, intelligent, manly faces of the boys, the sweet, innocent beauty of the girls, and the air of purity that pervaded the whole, the boys equally with the girls, preached a most powerful sermon for Mormonism.”
Apparently, Reverend Nutting continued his presentation using other pictures purported to illustrate the fallen condition of the Mormons. “The lecture was full of concealed venom, only half of the truth was anywhere told and part of the time no trace of it could be found,” Woodruff wrote. After the presentation, questions were asked that discomfited Nutting considerably. He had not expected his audience to contain any Mormons and was astonished to find twelve in attendance. Pointed questions were asked and soon, according to Woodruff, Nutting was like the “hunter who rode his horse at a six-foot wall. The horse stopped, but the hunter didn’t, and he found a hospitable hornet’s nest awaiting his arrival on the other side when he landed.” Finally, “that the gentleman is a sadder man, there is no doubt, that he is a wiser one is questionable.” Woodruff concluded that little harm was done to the Church by the misrepresentation.
Graduation on May 16, 1907, was a milestone for the academy. The first students who had completed either the four-year high school course or the four-year normal course were graduated. The occasion was marked by speeches, songs, field day sports (interrupted by a storm), and presentation of diplomas. The alumni banquet was held at the Idaho Hotel under the direction of alumni president Abner Widdison. Members of the academy Board of Education spoke. Several toasts were offered to commemorate the occasion. The ball held at Woodvine Hall concluded events for both graduates and alumni.
When fall term commenced in 1907, students had the broadest curriculum choices to date. They could enroll in four-year normal or high school courses, a three-year commercial or domestic science curriculum, a Sunday School normal course, a two-year preparatory course, a missionary program, or a winter course that would commence after Thanksgiving vacation. Additionally, specialized courses in music, elocution, cooking, sewing, and art were offered.
Principal Dalby was hired for another year as principal of the academy and administered a faculty of thirteen. “Prof. Dalby’s record for good is an open book before the people and the result of his principalship will have a warm place in the hearts of his pupils throughout their entire lives,” an observer noted. “Many is the student whose downward course has been checked and a new page in his life commenced through the professor’s kind, pleasing nature.”
The principal was a constant spokesman for the academy. He encouraged parents to send their children to the school. “There is only one school period in life,” he argued. “The few years that have been set apart for this purpose in the life of a child is very sacred. Fearful will be the responsibility of the parent who crushes the ambition and hopes of a child whose whole soul is on fire to learn and to know.” He was especially incensed at those who kept their children home to help with the family farm or business, especially if the family could get along just fine without their children at home. “Many boys and girls in our community will never realize their highest possibilities, because of beets and grain and factory,” he said. “We pay an awful price sometimes for material prosperity. Our bank account is often purchased at the expense of our children’s future greatness.”
To emphasize the academy’s importance, Principal Dalby optimistically commented that “no greater event ever happened in our town, than the establishment of the Ricks Academy on November 12, 1888. Nothing that will happen in the future can surpass it in importance. It is the event of all events in our history, and a hundred years from now it will be recognized as such.”
Early in October 1907, children absent from Rexburg schools rapidly increased in numbers with about 150 missing during the week of October 7 to 11. A case or two of diphtheria had been discovered in the city and parents, not wanting their children exposed, kept them home. Some academy students began circulating the false rumor in their hometowns that a severe diphtheria epidemic had broken out in Rexburg, that all schools were closed, and the whole town was to be quarantined. Obviously, students were trying to get an unscheduled vacation. Many parents inquired about the rumors and the students stayed in school.
The year drew to a close on a melancholy note. Principal Dalby’s young son, Eugene, died of membranous croup on November 21, 1907. Special memorial services were held in the academy auditorium on Friday with faculty and students presenting expressions of condolence. Principal Dalby did not attend as membranous croup was thought to be contagious and he did not want to take the chance of infecting anyone. A verbatim report was sent to him.
The academy commercial class was holding a social one Saturday night in February 1908 when they were interrupted with the alarming news that the building was on fire. At about 11 p.m. James Anderson, a teacher at the academy, happened to look toward the academy and saw flames leaping from the building roof. He gave an alarm and began running toward the academy. Seeing three students, Claude Ellsworth, Joe Loveland, and J. William Jardine, he shouted for them to help him put out the fire. They ran up to the third floor, after alerting those on the first floor attending the commercial class social that the building was aflame. The four men climbed into the attic and began beating out the flames with their coats. The commercial class had followed them upstairs. One of the girls alertly brought the pan of chocolate milk they were heating for refreshments and handed the liquid up to the men to throw on the flames. Holes were burned into the roof and shingles were burning. Ellsworth climbed out on the steep roof, and, unmindful of his dangerous position, began tearing off burning shingles and throwing them to the ground. He also poured water down the roof from water handed to him by a bucket brigade that had rapidly formed. Several townspeople shortly were on the scene trying to help. Several started ripping chairs off the auditorium floor, shoving them into the hall and down the stairs. Soon the stairs were blocked. Two people tried to save two typewriters by tossing them down the stairs. Both were ruined. Others were pushing the pianos toward the stairs when cooler heads intervened and saved the pianos from damage.
By the time the fire department arrived, the fire was out, which was fortunate because the firemen could hardly get up the stairs and did not have enough hose to reach the attic of the building anyway. The fire chief, E.H. Barnes, determined that the fire was started by an electrical short next to the roof. After the fire was extinguished and the excitement died down, the girls of the commercial class returned to their social, heated some more chocolate, and enjoyed themselves. Insurance adjusters agreed to fix the roof, as well as repair the damage done by overzealous townspeople. The total came to about $600. Repair work was completed by the end of February.
The excitement over the fire had barely died down when academy students had an opportunity to watch the system of justice in action during a murder trial. Charles W. Edwards was shot to death on February 8 in Arthur H. Woodvine’s barbershop by Eli A. Larkin. Larkin tried to escape but was found hiding in a haystack north of town. He was arrested, and, after a coroner’s inquest held the same day, transported to the Fremont County seat at St. Anthony to stand trial for murder. The trial ran into June before a jury found Larkin innocent. It seems the defense convinced the jury that Edwards was a man of disreputable character and Larkin did the community a service by shooting him.
What academy students thought about the verdict can only be conjecture, but they were most certainly influenced by Principal Dalby’s editorial comment in the Current-Journal. He had long excoriated saloon owners — of whom Edwards was one — for the influence they exercised over area youth. “One man shot dead and another passed into the shadow of the gallows is what the saloons have done for Rexburg during the last week,” he wrote. “Standing in the gloom of this awful tragedy which casts its shadow upon our town and people let us resolve with all our strength to fight the evil which was the cause of their death. Let us see to it that no more victims shall be sacrificed in Rexburg upon the altar of the saloon.” Local option soon would receive a favorable vote in Fremont County, and saloons would go out of business — at least for a while.
February was full of excitement. On February 7, 1908, a special train left Rexburg for Idaho Falls with about 200 academy students and friends of Ezekiel Holman, Clarence Stephens, and Vera Kerr, who were to represent the academy in a debate with a contingent from Idaho Falls High School. The train arrived in Idaho Falls at 4:45 p.m. According to a reporter from The Rexburg Standard, “It was here that the Academy received its first insult” as they were greeted with jeers and hisses from the Idaho Falls students. When they arrived at Armory Hall to commence the debate, “they were again reviled and abused.” When the debate commenced, Idaho Falls High School debaters appeared, at least to academy partisans, to be outclassed. Holman, Stephens, and Kerr argued the negative to the question “Resolved that the United States should establish a Postal Savings System.” They presented their arguments amid hisses from the high school partisans. When the debate was concluded, the academy quartet sang several songs while the judges made their decision. Academy debaters and friends were confident about the outcome. But, to their surprise, the judges announced that the debate was extremely close. The final score was 273 points for Idaho Falls and 272 for the academy debaters. That was the crowning indignity, according to The Rexburg Standard reporter. Several from Idaho Falls “admitted that the Academy had won the contest by a large margin, and that the decision was manifestly unfair.” The “academy would like to meet the Falls again,” the reporter challenged, “and would like to leave the decision to any three impartial judges on earth.”
An annual chore of academy students and faculty was April cleanup day. Oscar Steele, Ezekiel Holman, and Arthur Porter, Jr., were given assignments to see that the work was done on the chosen day, April 18. Faculty and students worked hard and completed cleaning around the academy rather quickly. After the work was finished, Porter attended the city council meeting on May 4 and “in behalf of the Ricks Academy petitioned the council for a refund of $5.00 for work done on the street east of the Academy grounds, the work having been necessary for drainage of waste waters from the grounds. The matter was referred to the road and bridge committee to investigate and report at the next session.” At the next session, the city council decided no payment to the academy was necessary.
First-year normal and high school students decided to render a service to the academy by developing plans to build a gate for the front entrance of campus. They agreed to provide the necessary funds to build the gate. They sponsored a dance on May 8 with proceeds being devoted to the gate fund. The classes presented the three-act comedy The Squire’s Daughter on May 13. Receipts totaled $50.
A week of special activities by academy students marked the end of the term. Part of the activities was a class reunion of the class of 1907, the first to include four-year graduates. Only five from the class were unable to attend, three being on missions and two teaching school out of the area. After hearing from each, the judgment was made that “all are engaged in work that will benefit humanity.” The class seemed to epitomize the statement of purpose noted in the 1907-1908 catalog:
"Since the organization of the Academy it has been the sole desire of the authorities that every student going from the institution should go out an honorable representative of the school, and it is hoped that those who graduate in the future may be even stronger and more worthy than those of the past. They will be inspired with high aims. The Gospel, and a love for its principles will be instilled into their hearts."
The fire bell sounded Wednesday morning, July 29, 1907, and everybody headed for the academy. Smoke was pouring from the building. Robert Green had left a five-gallon can of oil and wax mixture heating on the stove. The mixture had to be hot to be applied to the floor. While waiting for the solution to heat, Green went to another floor to work. Wax boiled over onto the hot stove, and being highly flammable, it began burning, filling the building with dense smoke. Green rushed to the kitchen, grabbed a large cloth, and threw the cloth over the flames to smother them. In the process, his face and arms were burned. There was some damage to the kitchen floor, some glass cracked from the heat, and the building was filled with soot. With help from several people, the building was ready for the start of fall classes.
When students arrived on campus for fall term in 1908, they found several building improvements. Floors were all repaired and oiled. Drinking fountains had been placed in each hall. And, to the delight of all, inside lavatories had been installed. After the experiences of the last few months, a fire hose also was installed and fire escapes built at the rear of the building. The Board of Education was characterized as “aggressive” and “alive to our growing needs in educational matters.” Furthermore, “more loyal advocates of the education and proper training of our young people could not be found.”
Principal Dalby set forth academy philosophy:
"Ricks Academy is one of the great influences in our community for good. It seeks to develop not only scholarship, but also those higher needs of the students which are so often neglected, viz., purity of life and character. Intelligence, goodness, purity, love and truth are the ideals for which it stands and to which it endeavors to mold the lives of the students."
The girls’ basketball season started with a win over the Academy of Idaho girls’ team in Pocatello on October 3, 1908. According to a report of the game, “the teams were evenly matched and put up a good game but our girls were much better drilled and thus got the victory. Because of their lack of knowledge of the rules of the game,” the Pocatello team “made many fouls and some feeling was engendered because they were so frequently called down.” Pocatello partisans complained that the referee was unfair. After all, James Anderson was on the Ricks Academy faculty and certainly biased against Pocatello. He kept calling the Pocatello team for “progression,” which they did not understand and about which they continued to complain. Despite complaints, the Ricks girls left Pocatello with a 7-5 victory. When they arrived back in Rexburg, they were “hailed as mighty victors.”
Politics took some attention during fall term. On September 14, the day before a vote was scheduled on local option on alcoholic beverages, a temperance rally was held at Flamm’s Hall. Nephi L. Morris, president of a Salt Lake City Stake, delivered an eloquent speech denouncing the liquor trade. He was supported by inspiring music by a women’s quartet from the academy and the Rexburg Brass Band. Both musical groups were conducted by Charles O. Engar of the academy faculty. The campaign for local option had generated much bitterness and divisiveness in the community, but there was never any doubt where Principal Dalby stood. He had long spoken forthrightly against saloons and those who were associated with them, and he spoke for the academy community.
When votes were counted, 4,130 voted “dry” and 618 “wet.” Even the sanguine pronouncement of one observer that “Fremont County will forge ahead by leaps and bounds, and not only will the moral condition be better, but business will increase, and prosperity and happiness come to all” did little to assuage hard feelings. Nephi Morris returned to Rexburg as the featured speaker at the Founders Day ceremony on November 12. He was greatly gratified that his speech on local option may have swayed voters.
Student-body elections were held early in the 1908 term. After a vigorous campaign and election, a first order of business was to decide on new academy colors. After considerable discussion and student-body input, a decision was made to make purple and white the official academy colors. The most persuasive argument for those colors was that “purple and white produce a decidedly better effect when made up into athletic suits.”
United States Senator William Edgar Borah of Idaho arrived in Rexburg on the Oregon Short Line Railroad on October 27, 1908. He was met at the depot by townspeople, academy faculty, and some 200 students. Classes at the academy had been suspended for the afternoon. Senator Borah spoke at Flamm’s Hall. He told academy students to be involved in politics. When he left Rexburg for a meeting in Sugar City, many academy students followed him to hear him speak again. Principal Dalby did not go to Sugar City. Although he respected the senator, he was particularly critical of his political affiliation (Borah was a Republican, Dalby a confirmed Democrat) and what Principal Dalby perceived as Borah’s support of national trusts. His criticism of Borah did little to diminish the senator’s popularity with Fremont County people.
Principal Dalby noted in the Christmas edition of the Current Journal on December 19, 1908, that Ricks Academy advertised Rexburg “throughout this entire section of the state as nothing else can. Already, it is giving our community a life and energy that would be sorely missed if it were taken away.” Citizens of Rexburg may not have agreed with that assessment in 1908, but during the ensuing years the truth of that statement became more and more apparent.
General Church Superintendent Horace H. Cummings visited the academy during the first week of school after the holidays. He expressed appreciation for the school’s growth and the work being done. However, he probably was not impressed with some of the activities of juniors and seniors. They began a rivalry that spilled over into the devotional. They continued their nonsense, prompting the observation that they were like the dummies on display in the auditorium.
Soon the students settled into the routine of classes, with little time for mischievousness. They were invited to attend two lectures on January 22 and 23, 1909. Dr. George Gilbert Bancroft, a nephew of the eminent historian Hubert Howe Bancroft, was in town to deliver lectures in the academy auditorium. Dr. Bancroft was a recognized authority in psychical research. To complement his lectures on his research, Dr. Bancroft’s wife, Lillian, sang and did impersonations. For some reason psychical research did not seem to appeal to very many. Nowhere near enough revenue was generated to pay all the expenses. The academy had to dip into its none-too-full coffer to the sum of $50 to pay expenses. That was very discouraging to Principal Dalby. In the future the academy would be very careful about sponsoring lecturers.
While Principal Dalby fretted about the unexpected expenditure of $50 from the academy budget, some good news was received concerning the student newspaper, Student Rays. United States Senator Weldon B. Heyburn of Idaho had subscribed and was very complimentary about the paper.
A decision was made at the academy board meeting held on April 3, 1909, in the Salt Lake City office of Superintendent Cummings to have the academy board “proceed to obtain petitions and have same circulated as soon as possible, and solicit assistance and aid for all citizens in favor of county local option.” The academy board served notice that the academy would be in the forefront of the battle against “demon rum.” Local option kept the attention of the board for many months.
Observing Arbor Day in April 1909 provided impetus for academy faculty and students to clean up the grounds. Arthur Porter, Jr., had done such a good job directing the 1908 effort that he and H.H. Hale were assigned to direct the effort in 1909. Students and faculty worked hard all day, and Principal Dalby “worked side by side with them.” When the day was completed, an embankment ten feet wide at the top had been “thrown up on the lower side of the ditch behind the building. This was graded as a promenade and sown with white clover and a row of Carolina poplars planted along the ditch side.” The area east of the building got a lot of attention. Tie posts for horses were moved south of the embankment. A small building and wagon scale were removed, and Principal Dalby directed leveling and fencing of the area. Improvement of the grounds around the building elicited many favorable comments from those who traveled to Rexburg to attend commencement on May 13, 1909.
Annie Spori delivered the valedictory address for the class of 1909. She had completed the four-year normal course. She had a great impact on the academy as a student, and she continued to have an impact in Rexburg and the area for the rest of her long life.
A special meeting was held on May 26, 1909, in the Commercial Club rooms to organize a club to promote Rexburg. Principal Dalby, along with many others from the community, was in attendance. When called upon to express his opinion about how to best promote the town and academy, he endorsed the notion of organizing to boost the area, but cautioned that “all partisanism and personal strife would have to be eliminated.” Everyone would need to work together for the common good. Before the meeting adjourned, the first Booster Club in Rexburg had been formed with a membership of about fifty, including Dalby.
To further the good work of academy faculty and students, the Fremont Stake presidency announced that June 1 would be a stake work day. They estimated that with about 200 men and fifty teams of horses, grounds around the academy building for a considerable distance could be made attractive. Altogether, 205 men and boys and seventy-three teams arrived to do the work. Relief Society women and their daughters cooked a meal. The academy band played periodically throughout the day. By day’s end, the grounds had been surveyed and graded, completing a natural looking slope from the ditch embankment on the south to the fence on the north along the east and west sides of the building. Work on the west side of the grounds was especially difficult because of lava rock outcroppings. A great deal of blasting was necessary to complete that area. Surface rocks were hauled off and many loads of good top soil were hauled in to help with landscaping. To preserve a pictorial record of the day, a local photographer lined everyone up and took a picture. Everyone agreed more work was needed on the grounds, but much had been accomplished during the day.
The twenty-second academic year of the academy commenced on September 13, 1909, amid great optimism. Many faculty members had spent the summer at various universities improving academic credentials, and students seemed to be more advanced. Tuition remained at $12 for four-year students. Principal Dalby had recommended an increase to $15, but the board decided against the raise. However, wards sending missionary students to the academy would be required to pay the tuition rather than the prospective missionary.
Principal Dalby instituted a policy of Monday night faculty meetings. The faculty meeting on September 27, 1909, was a little more lively than usual. Oliver C. Dalby, the brother of Principal Dalby and an academy faculty member, read a paper entitled “The Defects of Our Church School Theology.” The paper, predictably, elicited a lively discussion.
Early in October 1909, Earl Shangnon, who worked for the local power company, sent for a football from a mail order catalog. When the ball arrived, a group of enthusiasts, including several from the academy, began practicing every evening. James Anderson from the academy was the coach. The team played two games in November in St. Anthony and Blackfoot. Football was perplexing to most spectators from Rexburg. But since the game had been played in Idaho Falls for several years, some people had seen a game and at least knew enough to shout at the referees. A hoped-for game in Rexburg could not be scheduled during the fall, but a start was made and there would always be next year.
Cold weather during January 1910 did not stop the Fielding Academy basketball team from Paris, Idaho, from showing up on January 21 to play a game against Ricks Academy in Armory Hall. The game was intense when someone shouted “fire.” With smoke and flames coming from the attic, spectators and players made a quick disorderly exit. Luckily, no one was hurt. Julius Larson broke into the attic where the fire was centered and smothered the fire with some clothes that had been left laying about. A fire, started in the stove in the dressing room below, had ignited clothes left by the militia in the attic next to the stove pipe. After the fire was extinguished, the game resumed, although probably not with the same concentration as before. Fielding Academy won 32-28.
Still trying to raise funds to pay for the east gate to the campus, the sophomore class presented the play On the Little Big Horn on February 8. The play was well attended, and the actors were complimented as doing a creditable job considering they were just second-year students. About $60 was raised to help pay for the “beautiful stone gate the class has erected. This work will be an everlasting monument to the class.” After seeing the action on the stage, students could study the heavens and observe the spectacular display offered by Halley’s comet.
At a special meeting of the Ricks Academy District Board on February 4, 1910,
"two letters were read from Br. James W. Webster to Pres. James Duckworth enclosing checks from Br. Webster and Bro. Peter G. Johnston of Blackfoot for $250 each to be applied as part payment on a library which they proposed to establish in the Academy amounting to $1,000 and which they proposed be known as “The Webster-Johnston Library.” The balance of the $1,000 they would pay before the beginning of school in [the fall of] 1910."
A motion made by James Duckworth and seconded by Don C. Walker that the “splendid gift” be accepted was unanimously approved. A letter drafted at the meeting to Webster and Johnston expressed appreciation for the gift and an assurance that the “money will be used to the very best advantage, and we shall take pleasure in reserving a special section of the library for the books purchased with this money, and naming [the section] the Webster-Johnston Library, in accordance with your suggestion.” Announcement of the gift to the academy library was made at a most appropriate time, on February 22, 1910, Ricks Academy Exhibition Day. Peter Johnston was present at the announcement and responded by saying that “he had always derived great pleasure and good from books and he considered a good book among the choicest gifts man could offer.” He expressed appreciation for the academy and the “splendid work he had seen at the school. In his recent travels in the east, nothing had given him so great satisfaction as this day with the Ricks.”
Despite the fact that James W. Webster was an ardent supporter of Ricks Academy, he began talking to several people of the area who felt, like him, that things at the academy were not as they should be. He appeared before the academy executive committee on March 11, 1910, and stated that he “felt that the institution was growing weaker instead of stronger. Attendance was decreasing every year and he felt that perhaps a change would be advantageous.” Although he did not directly mention Principal Dalby as the cause of his discontent, Dalby was caught up in controversy that would continue to grow. Complaints seemed to be so general that the board surveyed some people themselves. They presented their findings at a meeting with Superintendent Cummings in Salt Lake City. President Duckworth pointed out that he did not know of any hostile feelings toward Principal Dalby in the Blackfoot Stake. President Mark Austin of the Fremont Stake presidency noted that “possibly Principal Dalby did lack warmth, but he was certainly competent as a teacher and no objection could be raised on that score.” Superintendent Cummings supported the principal. The outcome of the meeting was that Principal Dalby was hired for another year, and the board promised to “boost him and the Academy generally in every legitimate way and thereby create as favorable an opinion of the Academy as possible.”
The matter was not settled as far as Webster, Nathan Ricks, Oliver C. Ormsby, and William A. Walker were concerned. They called on Superintendent Cummings to explain that “they thought a change in the teaching force of the Academy was necessary to the best interest of the school.” Cummings agreed to “present the situation to the General Board of Education and recommend that one of the apostles be appointed to visit Rexburg . . . and meet the committee . . . and see if something could not be done to stop the agitation.” The General Board was appraised of the situation by Cummings and “thought there was not sufficient ground to warrant further consideration.”
In an effort to counteract some of the recent criticism, commencement week was touted as a great success wherein “a large number of our brightest young people go out again as graduates from this grand institution. This is the nursing place of bright young people from all over the community.” Furthermore, “the past year has been fully as successful at the academy as former years and in some ways has exceeded previous records. Great credit is due Principal Dalby and his corps of teachers for their efficient and earnest work with our young people.” Superintendent Cummings was in attendance at graduation and spoke briefly.
A decision was made by the academy board during the summer to postpone commencement of fall term until October 10, 1910, and close three weeks earlier in the spring of 1911. The board decided to try this approach to get the farming community to send their children to the first day of classes. Farm work should be completed by October 10. By releasing early in the spring, students could return home in time to begin spring farming. To compensate for the shortened school year, students would be required to attend school six days a week rather than five.
School opened October 10 with an increased enrollment. However, many still delayed attendance until later in the term. Those who enrolled found a different system in effect. The previous system had required a certain number of specified courses. More flexibility was now possible with each course being given a unit number. Each subject had a value of either one or one-half a unit. A student needed to complete sixteen units to graduate from high school. A student could select any course, with the stipulation that theology and English be two of the selected courses. Furthermore, no more than four-and-one-half units could be taken in a year, thus hoping to ensure a stable enrollment in the higher grades.
The academy board rented Flamm’s Hall for athletics and dances for the term. Instead of Friday night dances, dances were held on Wednesdays from 8 to 11 p.m. The boys were required to pay twenty-five cents while girls were charged twenty cents to dance.
The end of the year saw a change in the academy Board of Education. At the quarterly conference held on December 17 and 18, Thomas Bassett was released as president of Fremont Stake and Mark Austin was sustained. President Austin thus became president of the executive committee of the Board of Education. His counselors, Albert Heath and James Blake, were the other committee members. Presiding Elder Orson F. Whitney made the changes. The academy choir and missionary class provided music for conference sessions.
By early 1911, lack of an adequate academy gymnasium for basketball was being used as the reason the teams lost so many basketball games. Pointed out as an example was the game between the academy boys’ team and the Idaho Falls High School team played on February 18. The score was tied at half, but the second half belonged to Idaho Falls. Lack of practice was cited as the reason the academy played so poorly. Flamm’s Hall and Armory Hall could not accommodate full-scale practice. The obvious solution was to build a gymnasium on campus. The solution may have been obvious to the local community and the academy, but it was not obvious to those who determined construction needs in the Church. Another seven years passed before a gymnasium was built.
The academy’s twenty-second commencement on May 4, 1911, marked Principal Dalby’s tenth year at the academy. Several speeches and musical numbers marked the occasion. But many in the large crowd had come to hear the principal speaker, Elder David O. McKay. His address “was filled with wholesome teachings of good sense and proper living.”
An innovation at commencement was a combined graduation ceremony. In the past a separate graduation exercise had been held for preparatory, or eighth grade, students. This year eighth grade and high school graduates were honored and graduated during the same ceremony.
In his annual report to the executive committee of the district Board of Education, Principal Dalby noted attendance during the past year of 192 boys and 69 girls. He noted progress in each department. “The work in agriculture which was begun last year also awakened a great deal of interest,” he said. He complimented the faculty, saying they “have been thoroughly united. There has not been a jar of misunderstanding of any kind.”
Holding Saturday classes had proved successful. Principal Dalby said, “None of the objections that had been urged against the change materialized.” The faculty urged continuing the six-day week.
Students generally were of the “highest character,” although four were sent home “because of truancy and persistent violation of the rules and regulations of the school.”
Principal Dalby encouraged the board to obtain a building for a gymnasium and amusement hall. Using Flamm’s Hall proved unsatisfactory. He argued that without a gym, “many of our students will become dissatisfied, and perhaps go to some other school where the accommodations are better.”
Students reporting to campus on October 9, 1911, found that walls and ceilings had been calcimined or papered. C.V. Hansen had contracted to do painting and papering. His credentials included the fact that his artwork had received five first-place awards and two second-place awards at the recent county fair. Apparently because of his art ability, Hansen was hired to direct the academy art department. He gave the opening address to the students entitled “The Gospel of Art.”
A new maple floor had been installed in the auditorium during the summer. The building’s underpinnings also had been strengthened so campus dances could be held in the auditorium. Dependence on Flamm’s Hall was lessened, money could be saved, and monitoring of dances enhanced. The auditorium was fitted out with a basketball hoop so teams could schedule practices. The downstairs hall was remodeled for an “exercising gymnasium.” To further aid athletic teams, the Board of Education announced plans were under way to construct dressing rooms and showers.
The junior class challenged the faculty to a basketball game on the morning of November 17. The faculty accepted and the game was played that afternoon. The score was 10-10 at half, but the juniors poured it on and outscored the faculty during the second half to win by a score of 18-13. It was facetiously reported that for their show of impertinence, the faculty “failed all juniors in the weekly tests.”
For some time academy water pressure had been low. The condition did not seem to warrant much concern until after a narrowly averted disaster. About 9:10 Monday morning, January 8, 1912, a student hurrying down the hall because she was late for class noticed smoke and flames coming through the basement floor in the northeast part of the building near the furnace. She quickly gave an alarm and the building was rapidly evacuated. Several faculty members and students tried to stop the flames, but could not get water quickly enough or in enough quantity to do much good. They tore a few boards off the floor and were able to smother the flames. By the time the fire department arrived, the fire was out. The fire hoses could not have carried any water because of lack of pressure. Within the next few days, the damage was repaired and the city implemented a process to greatly increase water pressure at the academy.
Another exciting event marked the beginning of the school term in January 1912. For the first time, the missionary class had a young woman among its numbers. Alvertha Jensen had enrolled in the class to prepare for a mission call. She found herself quite popular with the other missionaries.
When students arrived for the start of the 1912-1913 school year, they noticed an area south of the academy building being excavated. They were told that a two-story building would be erected. The building would contain a new steam heating plant and classrooms for an expanded manual training department that taught practical household skills.
The missionary class commencing on November 11 included three women, “making a new departure in the missionary history of the Academy.” The one woman in the spring class had set the pattern. During ensuing years, many women would participate in the missionary class. To help promote the class, a public auction was held in the auditorium on November 12. Missionaries were auctioned to the highest bidders. “Lady members of the faculty were the chief bidders of the sale.”
To add to the excitement of the 1913 term, the Round Robin Debating League, consisting of Ricks Academy, College of Idaho, Albion Normal College, Fielding Academy, Academy of Idaho, and Oneida Stake Academy, held the championship round of debates at several locations on April 2. Each school was assigned to debate three other schools. The proposition debated was: “Resolved, that the candidates for the Presidency and Vice Presidency of the United States should be nominated by the people in the direct primaries.” When results were in from each location, Ricks emerged as the only undefeated team and claimed the state championship. However, another debating organization, the Interscholastic Debating League of Idaho, refused to recognize the Round Robin Debating League and refused to admit members of that league into the Interscholastic League. Therefore, they refused to recognize Ricks Academy as the state champion. Nevertheless, Ricks claimed the championship and the detail that another league did not recognize the claim was of no consequence.
Principal Dalby was in Salt Lake City early in September 1913. A reporter for the Deseret News asked him to tell about Ricks Academy, especially innovations like the six-day school week. “We have found the practice of having six days of school a week and a shorter term to be beneficial to the students, not only in the matter of having more time to work on farms, but also in the matter of discipline,” he said. “We have a great deal less trouble in handling the students if we do not give them too much time to be idle.” One of his long-range goals was to “afford to have our agricultural classes continue during the summer.” Dalby would be unable to realize that goal.
Founders Day on November 12, 1913, was especially memorable. Horace Cummings, the superintendent of Church schools, was in attendance and participated in the ceremony held at the tabernacle. Sarah Ann Barnes, from the original academy faculty, recalled that the log house of the fledgling academy had two rooms. Because there were three faculty members and three classes, one room was divided with a curtain. A.D. Miller, Jr., one of the original fifty-nine students, explained that the boys wore overalls to school. Even those who could afford trousers wore overalls to protect them. However, because there was a little status with being able to afford trousers, pant legs of the overalls were rolled up to show the trouser legs. Unlike modern curriculum at the academy, Miller explained, “No definite course of study was given the students, but outlines of work were made by the teachers.” Academy Board of Education members were present and pleased to formally open the new mechanic arts building. They pointed out that the building had cost $10,000 and was a substantial improvement to the campus.
The ten o’clock hour each school day was reserved for chapel and choir practice, each meeting three times a week. To promote efficiency, Principal Dalby directed that a short chapel service would be given each day, followed by choir practice. Evidently, choir was not too well attended under the old system. Because all students were required to attend chapel, choir attendance greatly improved under the new system.
Two special events were held just prior to the academy’s closing for the two-week Christmas holiday. First was a basketball game between the academy and Rigby High School. The game was the first of the season at the academy, which had yet to be defeated on the home floor. All the pre-game publicity pointed to a close contest with a very good Rigby team. In an effort to bolster academy team effort, a band was organized to play at the game. Whether the band provided the impetus, or the Rigby team was not as good as expected, or the Ricks was team much better than expected was debatable. Despite all attempts to explain the game, Ricks won by the comfortable margin of 52-14. The second special event centered on Principal Dalby. The senior class presented a bust of Principal Dalby to the school. C.J. Taylor, the senior class president, made the presentation and faculty member L. Tom Perry accepted the bust on the academy’s behalf. Albert Heath of the Fremont Stake presidency praised Principal Dalby, who responded to the surprise gift by expressing his “appreciation for the love of the students toward him.”
The Brigham Young University basketball team was in town on March 11, 1914. BYU had defeated all the Utah college teams and Ricks had defeated each high school team it had played. The largest crowd in Ricks Academy’s history showed up to see which team’s record would remain intact. To add to the excitement, a special platform erected for the benefit of spectators collapsed. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. BYU soon established itself as the better team. Many spectators felt that BYU was deliberately fouling and they were abetted by a “blind” referee. One spectator offered to fight it out with the referee. When the contest ended, “Ricksie” had lost by a score of 19-35. However, the defeat was mitigated by knowledge that the Agricultural College in Logan, Utah, had lost to BYU by a score of 19-38. The assertion was made that although Ricks lost to BYU, it was three points better than the “A.C.”
For about two years, sentiment had been developing that academy faculty members were becoming too liberal. That meant they seemed to be accepting, if not teaching, evolution and “higher criticism.” The Board of Education decided to replace Principal Dalby and most of the faculty. The decision had been reached with the concurrence of Superintendent Cummings, probably in early March 1914. Late in March, Cummings apparently talked to Andrew B. Christenson and asked him to assume the position of Ricks Academy principal. Christenson accepted somewhat reluctantly. He was satisfied with his position as a faculty member at Brigham Young University.
Principal Dalby was disappointed when informed he would be replaced after thirteen years as principal. He could not have been surprised, however. He had received criticism for his defense of some on Brigham Young University’s campus who were accused of leaning toward “higher criticism.” Some on the university campus were also criticized for departing from religious orthodoxy, but Dalby had no such charge against him. He felt that scientific and philosophical inquiry was not in conflict with religious principles and that each could add to human understanding.
Although Principal Dalby guided the academy during a period characterized by historians as the “progressive era,” the progressivism of the period did not set well with small-town, rural America. Conservative religious organizations were among the last to adjust to the dynamics of the era. Dalby, as well as many others nationwide, tried to keep a foot in both camps. He supported a conservative religious orthodoxy and at the same time he encouraged individual expression based on honest inquiry and intelligent observation. Dalby found, as did many others, that academic freedom in a Church-supported institution was often narrowly defined during the progressive era.
Of fourteen faculty members, including Principal Dalby, only three were retained by Principal Christenson: Arthur Porter, Jr., Howard M. Sundberg, and Ray L. Ormsby. He hired another nine teachers, most of whom were from the Provo area, including Hyrum Manwaring, who would later become president of Ricks.
Graduation was Thursday evening, May 14, 1914. Thirty-one Qstudents graduated from the four-year program — a new record. For Qthe first time, graduates were attired in caps and gowns. Along with the usual graduation speeches, Principal Dalby gave his valedictory. He encouraged graduates to strive for those “ideals they had formed.” He reviewed his thirteen-year tenure and “recounted the pleasure he had experienced in years of service and expressed a determination to continue just as loyal to whatever else he undertook.” He concluded by predicting “a great future for this institution which [is] so well established among the educational institutions of this region.”
A reception under the direction of student-body officers was held to honor Principal Dalby. They presented him with a solid oak library table while the faculty presented Principal Dalby with a set of Henrik Ibsen’s plays as tokens of their esteem. President Mark Austin represented the Board of Education and “spoke approvingly of the good spirit of the occasion.” Through what must have been a trying time, Principal Dalby acted with dignity and magnanimity.
After attending the reception in his honor, Principal Dalby attended the annual alumni banquet and ball. He was again complimented for his service to the academy. Many of his former students were in attendance. Alumni President L. Tom Perry paid tribute to Principal Dalby and presented to him, on behalf of the alumni, a leather upholstered Morris rocker. He was touched by the gift and by expressions from former students.
By the time of Principal Dalby’s farewell, he had been hired to be principal of Driggs High School in nearby Teton Valley.
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