John Shearer: Baylor School Finds Forgotten Time Capsule During Trustee Hall Razing

Monday, July 17, 2017 - by John Shearer

Baylor School this summer has said goodbye to Trustee Hall, the former classroom, dorm and faculty apartment building that had opened on the north end of the school’s hilltop quadrangle in the winter of 1936-37.

 

In recent days, the structure designed by the noted Atlanta architectural firm of Pringle and Smith was torn down, joining the smaller infirmary and Bradford Hall as about the only structures ever razed on the 102-year-old campus.

 

 

In the process of the demolition to make way for a new $13 million academic center and surrounding updates, the school also said hello to – or at least renewed an acquaintance with -- a long-forgotten aspect of Trustee Hall: a time capsule.

 

To the left of the entranceway of the building as one faced the structure sat a copper box that contained a few old mementoes of the time when Trustee was built. A few old-timers and longtime school officials were familiar with it – and it is detailed in one Baylor history book – but to many the discovery on June 29 came as a pleasant surprise.

 

Among the latter group was Baylor School director of external affairs Barbara Kennedy, who has worked at the school nearly two decades.

 

“I wasn’t aware it existed, and I got a call from (school physical plant maintenance foreman) Howard Johnson,” she said. “He called me and said he had something he wanted to show me. He had a copper box.”

 

Since she had also been involved when the school opened a Lupton Hall copper box time capsule as part of the100-year celebration at the current campus during the 2015-16 year, she knew what that was.

 

In recent days, she has been familiarizing herself with this time capsule, too. Found inside it were a Bible; a 1935 Walking Liberty silver half dollar; some typed pages listing the board of trustees, faculty and students at Baylor; and some now-yellowed front pages of the three Chattanooga newspapers that were publishing in town on the day of the dedication – Oct. 1, 1937.

 

The papers – the Chattanooga Daily Times, the Chattanooga News and Roy McDonald’s fledgling Chattanooga Free Press – are full of news, but little that seems to have had any lasting significance today.

 

One “bandit” was admitting his crime before City Court Judge Martin Fleming, while one photographic layout and accompanying caption described actress Betty Grable’s physical attractiveness. Such mention in a family newspaper today would likely be considered a little too sexist by today’s journalistic standards, unless it was referencing comments on social media.

 

Possibly more interesting and seemingly more lasting than the items in the newspapers were the typed lists of trustees, administrators, teachers, and students attached to a slightly rusty paper clip.

 

The front page listed the trustees and said, “This building, Trustees Hall, is a donation from the Baylor School trustees to the school.”

 

The building over the years actually became known as Trustee Hall.

 

Listed as trustees were Cartter Lupton, Edward Finley, J.C. Guild Jr., Scott L. Probasco, Phil Whitaker, Charles Coffey, Summerfield K. Johnston, then-former headmaster Alex Guerry, and George T. Hunter.

 

How much each trustee donated to the building’s construction is apparently lost to time, but it is known that Cartter Lupton, whose name is mentioned first, was a major school benefactor during this time period. He was one of three successful Coca-Cola bottlers on the school’s board, with Mr. Johnston and Mr. Hunter being the others.

 

It also seemed a little unusual that a building was named collectively after a group of school officials, instead of an individual or family. What seems lost to time is how that name was decided upon.

 

On the page listing school officials, the roughly 20-25 faculty and administrators are mentioned. Besides headmaster Herb Barks Sr. and such longtime teachers and coaches as Jim Rike, J.A. Pennington and Humphrey “Humpy” Heywood, a few names less familiar to Baylor alumni and supporters also jump out to a reader.

 

They include instructors Bartlett Engram and Thad Petruska, each of whom did not stay at Baylor long. Carl Scheibe was in the first of 13 years as the director of the glee club singing group, while pioneering woman Katherine Trimble was the librarian.

 

A look at the late former teacher Jim Hitt’s history book, “It Never Rains After Three O’clock” reveals that Ms. Trimble was the first fulltime librarian at the school. Ms. Trimble was apparently well traveled and had remarked to school officials at some point that Baylor had a prettier campus than the famed Cornell University in New York.

 

Another teacher was W.H. Masterson Jr., who would go on to become the University of Chattanooga president and UTC chancellor.

 

All the students – roughly 180-190 – are also mentioned. Familiar names include future Medal of Honor recipient Charles Coolidge, future automobile dealer Lawrence Doster, and now-retired Chattanooga businessman John Guerry.

 

Besides the day students from Chattanooga and the dorm students from surrounding states, the hometowns for some students at the all-male military school included Miami, Denver, Albany, N.Y., and Rocky River, Ohio.

 

There were also two boarders from well south of the border – Edward Burdett from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Jose Falconi from Quito, Ecuador.

 

According to Mr. Hitt’s book, the Oct. 1, 1937, cornerstone laying ceremony that included the placing of the time capsule occurred after the building had been constructed and opened. The ceremony started with a chapel talk by headmaster Mr. Barks, who recounted the school’s history and physical plant development.

 

Then the boys marched outside for the official ceremony at Trustee Hall.

 

Mr. Barks then made a comment that has significance today and this summer. He said, “Some day this building may be torn down by something unforeseen, but in the cornerstone will be a record of what this institution stands for and will continue to stand for.”

 

Ms. Kennedy, who said the supervisors of this summer’s demolition were aware of the time capsule and were careful to save it, added that the copper box is scheduled to be given to the library for the school archives.

 

“It might be something that when the kids come back in the fall, they can do a (Baylor) ‘Notes’ story on it or it can be displayed,” she said.     

 

As a result, this copper box featuring a silver half dollar might end up being as valuable as gold to the school from a historical standpoint.

 

* * *

 

To see a time-lapse video of the Trustee Hall demolition produced by Baylor School, watch here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYGNDd4s-X4&feature=youtu.be

 

Jcshearer2@comcast.net



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