The Good Old Times.
Read before the Alumni Association of the CentralHigh School of Dayton, Ohio,
Friday Evening, June 24th, 1887.
By E.M Thresher,
Class of ‘58
Press of United Brethren Publishing House.
To the Memory of
My Life-long Friend and School-mate,
Robert F. Leaman,
Died December 12, 1887.
These Reminiscences of the Good Old Times of the
Are Affectionately Dedicated.
His kind appreciation encouraged their preparation
and joined in the request of many other
friends for their publication.
The Good Old Times.
Kind friends, we greet you all with hearty joy,
Gathered around this festal board to-night;
Here let our pleasure be without alloy,
The laugh go round, and every face be bright.
We come to celebrate the good old times
Of youth, and hope, and sport, when hungry loons,
Finding themselves a little short of dimes,
Would order one ice cream with several spoons.
To-night we pass the usual chestnuts round,
Which, you well know, are jokes once cracked before.
The laugh let out, they have an empty sound—
To deal much in them marks the man of bore.
But anything that perchance may recall
The happiness and zest of youth’s bright hour,
A willing audience has from one and all,
Who welcome it in manhood’s conscious power.
To-night we reckon up the sum of years
And note the fleetness of old father Time;
We scan the outcome of life’s hopes and fears
Of earnest, steadfast toil and faith sublime.
Our Alma Mater once more bids us come,
Beneath her sheltering arms again we rest,
Within the dear old school we are at home,
Within our hearts her place is first and best.
Fond memory, bring back to me
A picture of my schoolboy days,
Those halcyon days—light-hearted, free—
Ere yet came duty’s sterner ways.
The old Academy looms in sight,
Long time a landmark of the town,
Whence many a youth of promise bright
Has gone to honor, bench, and gown.
It too has gone the way of earth,
Like everything we love below,
No matter what may be its worth
It must give up its place you know.
Long, narrow, perched on basement high,
Hall in the center, stairways steep,
One mounting from the street hard by,
One from the yard, not over deep—
The pile that stood since fifty-eight
Would quite disdain such humble style;
But even this is out of date
And must give up its place ere while.
The belfry, like a helmet’s spike,
Was reached by climbing up the door;
You all remember what ‘twas like
When the rope came tumbling to the floor.
All did I say? How few are left
Of those once gathered in its halls;
We see our ranks have been bereft
When memory the roster calls.
It must be we are getting old
‘Tis thirty years, since fifty-seven,
The boys I mean, for I’ve been told
The girls keep young this side of heaven.
But we were then a jolly crowd,
Who there dug out the Latin root;
And sometimes, it must be allowed,
Had eyes to see a pretty foot.
But such were strictly kept in bounds,
You couldn’t take them home to mother.
To-day, how very odd it sounds,
Boys one side the street, girls on the other.
Among the halls of that old school
Was one John W. yclept,
Learned in Greek and Latin rule,
In declamation an adept.
He taught us how to parse and scan,
To know the forms of “hic, haec, hoe,”
And sometimes as a funny man
Of classic jokes to stand the shock.
The rhythmic flow of Virgil’s verse
And stately Livy naught below,
The odes of Horace, rich and terse,
The golden prose of Cicero,
Demosthenes and Xenophon,
Old Homer’s story of renown,
By such a path he led us on
And taught to seek the laurel crown.
Our chemist much not be forgot,
‘Twas Father Campbell, if you’ll think,
His perfumes sometimes got too hot,
Went wrong and left a vigorous stink.
Essence of pear and kakodyle
Came out of those mysterious flasks,
On window ledge ensconced meanwhile
In interval of daily tasks.
But more than sweetest flower that blows
Of character and temper sweet,
A savor from his life arose—
A faithful man in him we greet.
And how shall I find words to tell
The gratitude, the high respect
We felt for one you know full well,
With garlands let her brow be decked;
With dignity and power to rule
In gentle sway she held each youth,
There never was a boy in school
That dared to tell her aught but truth.
Her name I scarcely need repeat,
Such characters are seldom seen,
Those who at Mistress Steven’s feet
Were taught will know ‘tis she I mean.
Herr Ebel taught the German tongue,
Monsieur Barthelemy the French,
And how to sing, with vigorous lung,
Old Soehner taught all but Bill Rench.
His jolly ways and kindly face
Will surely never be forgot;
It used to move each child of grace
To hear him say, “Vy sing you not?”
There was a place, mysterious, dread—
Unknown to all the bashful churls,
Who by themselves up overhead
N’er know how nice to sit with girls.
“Twas here Miss Dickson held her sway
In days not very much of yore,
Until she went the usual way
And found herself not less, but “More.”
When Friday afternoon came round
With song and eloquent oration,
Thence for the upper regions bound
Came girls to lend their approbation.
And when Commencement Day was due
From out this temple of Diana
Came white-robed angels, not a few,
To gather round the grand piano.
But how can I in words narrate
The glories of Commencement Day,
To use who not yet blessed of fate
Had seats way back out of the way.
And when in turn upon the stage
Before the lights we came to stand
To eyes of that young “vealy” age
The prospect seemed exceeding grand.
Beneath the shade of the old Mulberry trees
We used to gather in a row like chessmen,
When autumn term came in with cooling breeze
Ready to bump the timid, verdant freshman.
The School Committee, faithful men and true,
Oft at examination time they came
With kind intent to render each his due,
Ever more ready to give praise than blame.
Among them one who ever foremost stood
In words of counsel wise and generous aim,
Whose life devoted to the public good
Commands the tribute due to an honored name.
Like him we read of in Horatian ode,
The man of purpose just and fixed intent,
Whom raging clamor of the surging crowd
Nor frown of threat’ning tyrant ever bent
From peaceful tenor of a virtuous life
And deeds of piety and studious zeal
Without reproach, and enemy to strife,
As such we honor Robert W. Steele.
But lest you weary of these tedious rhymes
Already much prolonged, I know full well
I’ll end my story of these ancient times,
Nor further will I take your time to tell
Of those, the youngsters of that far-off day,
And yet to pass in silence seems not right,
Our lives have led in many a diverse way,
God bless your dear old friends who’re here to-night.
The mother need not fear to own her boys,
Nor for her girls ever the blush of shame,
In this wide world they made a little noise,
And some may yet be high on rolls of fame.
I see them now as oft they used to sit—
John Mills, Sam Davies, Thruston, Rench, Wuichet
Eugene, not Cherley his perennial wit
Came later with him “parley vous Francais,”
Dick Kerfoot, Orion Stout, Sam Dickson, Bell,
These all were reverend seniors in my day,
With other names that you remember well—
As worthy mentions in this humble lay
Forrer and Leaman, Nauerth and Edwin Best,
Gottschall and Boyer, Ashley Brown, Broadwell,
DeArmon, Wilt, Will Howard, of the rest
Though well deserved, I may not further tell.
But let me pause to drop affections tear
In memory of one my heart holds dear,
My first companion, classmate, dearest friend,
Together pledged in love that knows no end,
Of many form and temper ever sweet—
A noble brow with winning smile to greet;
High minded, earnest, generous, ever brave,
Alas, too soon he found a patriot’s grave.
In living letters of undying fame.
Upon the nation heart be every name
Of those who willing gave a patriot’s blood
Her life to ransom by its crimson flood;
If you should note a tinge of sadness here
I pay you, say not he is “on the spoon;”
The serious thought for things we should revere,
A moment lingers, and is gone too soon.
He only who from out life’s glittering chaff
Has winnowed to himself the golden grain
Of tender sympathy, has right to laugh,
And yet to feel he has not lived in vain.
But why these vain regrets for parted friends,
Why should pale sorrow linger through our years?
The sovereign power that wisely shapes and ends
In equal kindness gives both joy and tears.
Thrice happy those to whom comes peaceful rest
Within the bosom of the kindly earth,
Whose lives are in the regions of the blest—
In joy supreme, far about this world’s mirth.
They walk the golden streets and ever gaze
With visions clear upon the effulgent light,
Whose beams fill every heart with glad amaze,
Banish all pain and ever more the night.
No tears bedew their over-radiant eyes,
The voice of sorrow never enters there;
‘Tis theirs, to learn with ever new surprise
The love of Him whose power is everywhere.
Upon the shores of the transparent sea,
Centered amid the city of our God—
A home of perfect bliss shall ever be
To the redeemed who rest beneath the sod.
Celestial strains their raptured voices raise
Transcendent harmonies their souls engage;
They join in hymns of wide resounding praise,
The innumerable throng of every age.
To us whom still is give toilsome to tread
The devious mazes of this mortal life,
Be green the memory of the sainted dead
Who’ve passed from this world’s care and pain and strife.
But who can lift the impenetrable veil
That shrouds the path where lies our future way
Use well the present, ‘tis a thrice-told tale,
And few there be its precepts to obey.
But seize the golden moments as they fly
And then of truth thou mayest ever say,
What e’en the gift they leave thee passing by—
“Let come what will, for I have lived to-day.”
And now to yawn, I see that you’ve begun,
A single sentiment let me express,
I pray you join me, then my task is done,
Three rousing cheers for the old C.H.S.