Contractors renovating Emerson High School in Oklahoma City, made an awesome discovery this week. Behind existing chalkboards they discovered vintage slate chalkboard lessons, drawings, instructions and a prayer from 1917. The prayer reads:
“I give my head and my heart and my life to my God and One nation indivisible with justice for all.”
Maybe if we still had prayer in public schools another G.I. or Greatest Generation would emerge from American soil, because that is exactly who that teacher was teaching. The boys would go on to fight in World War II and girls who would go on to work in factories to support the war effort.
In 1917, Emerson was an elementary school. Around the time these chalk lessons were written, World War I was still in full swing and would not end until December 1918. Since the lessons were written in cursive, the students in this classroom were probably in the 4th or 5th grade. That means they would have turned 18 around 1925. That was still fourteen years before World War II began, however, the original draftees were between 21-35. It was extended to 38 and for a brief time, 45. So, most certainly students who attended Emerson fought in World War II.
If only we could identify the teacher who, in 1917, scrolled that beautiful penmanship for her students.
This prayer is similar to the Pledge of Allegiance, but also similar to the Balch Salute, written in 1885 by George Balch, a New York City teacher. It predated the Pledge of Allegiance and read: “I give my heart and my hand to my country—one country, one language, one flag.”
This vintage chalkboard drawing reminds me of a Bessie Pease Gutmann painting of a little girl blowing a bubble. It was called “An Anxious Moment” and it appeared on the cover of Pictorial Review in March 1917, about seven months before the teacher drew this likeness.
Beautiful Drawing on Vintage Slate Chalkboard
According to the Washington Post, Oklahoma City Public Schools will preserve the drawings. What a terrific find!