The Manning School, Caddo

The Manning schoolhouse was completed in 1905 on property donated by Mrs. Matilda LeFlore Manning, a member of the prominent Choctaw family, LeFlore, and the widow of Dr. Manning.

The three-story red brick building cost $17,000 and was distinctive for its belfry cupola and its white Grecian columns. Stairway spokes were tooled in a classic pattern which was repeated in the heavy newels at the base and landings. In keeping with the ornate architectural style of the times, entrances had a border decoration of the sculptured egg and dart design with another edging of fleur-de-lis effectively completing the classic motif. The woodwork was solid cherry; the walls were robin’s egg blue.

Members of the Woman’s Music and Literary Club provided classic pictures for the school rooms and planted shrubbery and trees. The Czerny Music Club, a group of young women sponsored by Mrs. Ella Bilbo, donated a piano, which was in use when the school closed its doors for the last time in the late 1950s.

The Manning building accommodated all 11 grades until 1912 when a separate high school was built.

No rouge or ruby lips

In September 1921, girls attending Durant High School were forbidden to wear “lip sticks, eyebrow pencils, rouge, heavy powder, and paint” or to engage in the “extravagant use” of any cosmetics.

This was the edict announced by Miss Ruth Goodman, supervisor of music programs, in a closed session with the girls. The faculty had grown tired of seeing girls with “shoe polish” eyebrows, dark ruby lips and elaborate hair styles. It was also a common practice of the time to draw odd-shaped beauty spots on young cheeks.

The teachers began a campaign to educate the young ladies on campus in “proper dress and manners” and to help them “cultivate a taste for natural and genuine beauty.” Meetings were called and classes were taught by those on staff “capable of giving advice and instruction” in the proper application of cosmetics.

“Some of the girls have simply gone too far with the use of cosmetics,” Miss Goodman said, “and only had to be reminded of it to realize that they are much handsomer with their natural color. We are going to trust them to keep up this sensible way of dressing and use of powder.”

The result of her trust was apparent the next Monday morning as the girls filed into their study halls. Only the flush of health colored their cheeks and lips. It’s not clear how long the rule lasted or how many girls showed restraint in the use of dramatic cosmetics after school was out for the day.

In further defending the actions of his staff, Superintendent Tompkins said, “It is not our plan to decide the kind of clothes a girl shall wear, but it is our desire to eliminate anything that will detract from the students school work and we believe we have the parents’ approval.”

Bryan County History is a weekly feature contributed by members of the Bryan County Genealogy Library and Archives in Calera. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group. Is there a historic event or topic you want to read about? Contact the library at P.O. Box 153, Calera, OK 74730.