Let’s Talk Clovis: Jessie Myers Thun’s ‘early days’ publication

Jessie Myers Thun compiled “Those Were the Days: Early Days in Clovis” with the help of Clovis Unified School District’s adult education class of 1975-76. CONTRIBUTED BY CLOVIS MUSEUM

Jessie Myers Thun taught in the Clovis schools. She was married to Ernest Thun, who taught advanced math at Clovis High before retiring in 1955. Her nine-page 1961 publication was the result of interviewing 16 “children or grandchildren of old-timers of this area.” She recognized the staff of the Clovis Branch Library for their support.

In 1976, the Clovis Unified School District published “Those Were the Days: Early Days in Clovis” (112 pages). The paperback book was prepared by 28 members of an adult education class of the District. It was compiled by Myers Thun.

In 1984, “Images of an Age, Clovis” was published by CUSD. George Kastner initiated the project during a time when Dr. Floyd Buchanan was the superintendent and Peter Mehas served as associate superintendent. Claire Baird Zylka, Ken Greenberg and Jessie Thun were co-authors.

A free copy of the above book is available at the Clovis Museum in Old Town Clovis.

We quote sections of Myers Thun’s 1961 publication:

“The history of the Clovis schools, especially the grammar schools, was found in reading the minutes of the school board meetings from 1895 to 1922. When four families moved to Clovis from Madera in 1895, they brought 20 children with them. The Fresno County Superintendent of Schools had anticipated the need of a school in Clovis and had appointed a board of trustees to make necessary arrangements on March 5, 1895.

The first meeting of the trustees was held at the Fresno Flume and Irrigation District Office on March 27, 1895, at 7:30 p.m. The trustees were: Clovis M. Cole, H.A. Foulke, J.G. Ferguson. They discussed the need of a bond issue to raise money to construct a school and finally decided to ask the voters to approve the borrowing $,5000 – at seven percent interest – to run for 10 years.

[On] July 22, 1895, Miss M.E. Kanstrup was elected teacher ($65 per month). On Sept. 9, 1895, Miss Kanstrup opened school. Since the new school building was not yet ready, the school met for a month or more in the warehouse of the Southern Pacific Depot. There were nine grades.

There seem to be different stories as to the location of the first school house. Some say it was at the southeast corner of Fifth (Third?) and Dewitt. The minutes say the contract to build it was awarded to Mr. E. Ruggins who was to construct the building, C.H. Riege was to furnish the furniture and architect.

A.C. Swartz was to supervise the construction job. Mr. A.C. Schwartz was the father of Fred L. Schwartz who is an old man and is still a practicing architect in Fresno. He and my uncle, C.J. Ryland, were partners in an architectural firm in Fresno for a number of years. Among other buildings they designed: the library at the old campus of Fresno State College. Small world!

On September 8, 1899, the board hired a Mrs. Smith as janitor at $12 per month. W.E. Parker was allowed $12 for work done cleaning up the school yard.

Agreements were drawn up between the grammar school trustees and the newly-formed high school board (1899) to allow the high school to lease the two upper north rooms and hallways of the school building at the rate of $100 per year, ‘payable in monthly installments in advance!’

C.A. McCourt was hired as principal at $80 a month, and Miss Hattie Lewis was hired as primary teacher at $70 per month for an eight-month term. School was to open Monday, September 4, 1899, but due to an epidemic of scarlet fever it was postponed until Sept. 11.

The two-story school building was located where the old brick school building was later built on Pollasky between First and Second Streets, facing east.

In 1903, I found the first mention of a married woman teacher – Mrs. R.V. Gladden. One of the people I interviewed told me that Mrs. R.V. Gladden and her daughter, Lois, lived in Clovis during the week and that every weekend they drove to Sanger where Mr. Gladden was principal of Sanger High School.

I thought the following incident was amusing: On March 17, 1909, H.F. Marshall was elected Census Marshall for the ensuing census. Mr. Marshall presented a bill for $65. The bill was ‘read and rejected on account of the exorbitant fee charged.’The board then voted to ‘tender Mr. Marshall the sum of $35 in full settlement of the above mentioned claim.’

In 1913, Luther E. Weldon was elected clerk of the board and Charles Edgecomb was elected principal at $130 per month. The board apparently couldn’t make up their minds about who to elect as teachers so they finally resolved the matter by writing the names of all the candidates on the board and then each board member voted for five teachers. The five highest were elected. Simple!

In 1915, the old Nees Colony School (organized 1906, Nees and Armstrong) had a eight-month term and Clovis had a nine-month term. On April 14, 1915 the Clovis Grammar School Board voted to permit the eighth grade from the Nees School to attend the Clovis School for the last three or four weeks of the Clovis term.

On September 15, 1920 the board hired Mrs. Emma Cole Heiskell (a daughter of pioneer
Wm. T. Cole who fathered 10 daughters) as a home instructor to work in the homes of Mexican and other foreigners, to teach rules of health, sanitation, American customs and ideals. Mrs. Heiskell served in this capacity as Americanization teacher and deputy Probation Officer for nine years. The Mexican people with whom she worked were what we might call the ‘original nationals’ to come to the Clovis area. Many of their descendants still live in Clovis and are very ‘American.’”

Jessie Myers Thun is a part of our rich heritage and a honorable Clovis historian.

Clovis Museum will present additional information from Myers Thun’s 1961 historic document and pictures of early Clovis on Jan. 8, 2019, 7 p.m. at Clovis Veteran Memorial District. The event is free and open to the public.

Peg Bos
Peg Bos is the president of the Clovis Museum on 4th and Pollasky avenues in Old Town Clovis. She not only manages the museum but she also writes her Let's Talk Clovis column in our publication which features and highlight the amazing history of our city and culture. One fun fact about Peg Bos, she was the first female mayor of Clovis from 1984-86.