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Principal of Highland Springs School 1924-1944
By Susan Booth Bonnet Chermside

page 2 of 4

A Legacy Created at Highland Springs School

While she was at Highland Springs, Mrs. Bonnet designed the "Highlander" who graced the front of the school annuals and was blazoned on the school rings. The first one used was a Highlander in a Tam o' Shanter (a woolen cap of Scottish origin with a tight headband, wide flat circular crown, and usually a pompon in the center). A copy of him is shown on this page, from the 1927 Yearbook. He lasted for a while and then in 1929 the school’s Highlander graduated into a representation of a more formally dressed Scotsman.

Drawing Scotsmen was not all “Mommie Bonnet”—as she became known—did for Highland Springs. It was she who introduced the idea of an annual operetta to be presented by the school. There were many of those operettas. She had as assistants Miss Elaine Royall Scott and Miss Thelma Bagley Keene. Mother also directed the Junior-Senior Play (with help from the same teachers), trained the Glee Club, and trained the actors in one-act plays, sometimes taking them to Charlottesville to compete in the State contests.

For years she spent summer hours juggling cards on which rising Seniors had listed the subjects they wished to take in their last year. Mother tried valiantly to arrange a schedule to suit the largest number of Seniors possible.

Loving Guidance

She spent many evening hours at the school office working with parents. I have met, in retirement, a woman who remembers that her father brought her two unruly brothers to Mrs. Bonnet many evenings to discuss how his boys could become better school citizens.

The school was on the streetcar line between Richmond and Seven Pines. Students, often without permission from their parents or the school, would take the streetcar into the city. The worried parents would call the school to know where their children were. Many nights—sometimes until the last streetcar that ran at midnight—Mrs. Bonnet met every streetcar returning from the city to see to it that those errant students were returned to their parents safely.

In the high school, she started the Citizens’ Association, which, as its name suggests, sponsored good citizenship and a clean school, and promoted students helping families in the neighborhood. She introduced a course for boys that, similar to home economics for girls, taught homemaking the boys could use in later life. A small frame building like a home was built on the grounds for those classes.

Mrs. Bonnet attended all basketball games and tried to teach the student body and the neighborhood that it was un-sportsmanlike to cheer when the opposing team made a mistake—a stand few today would understand. She was a leader, a coordinator, a disciplinarian, and a stickler for fairness.

An Exuberant Class of 1932

My own class (1932) was one so full of excellent people that it was credited as being the class that had so many leaders we couldn’t choose class officers. But with this came exuberance. During our years in high school, we had only two teachers that couldn’t handle us in their classes. One was an incompetent male math teacher. The other was a fine female history teacher who knew her subject well. But, being young and inexperienced, she was unable to keep order while trying to impart to us the wonders that she knew.

When we misbehaved in the math class, Mommie Bonnet came into the room, removed the teacher, and then scolded our class roundly. She took over the class and taught us the math we needed. She sent this math teacher straight downtown to the Superintendent, and we never saw him again. When Mother had to come to quiet us in the room of the knowledgeable but inexperienced young history teacher, the teacher was asked to step into the hall. The door was closed. All Mrs. Bonnet said to us was, “Aren’t you Seniors ashamed of yourselves!” She stood there a few minutes, looking disappointed in us. Then she let the teacher back in. There was never again a speck of trouble in that teacher’s history class.

Another Challenge for the Principalship

In the spring of 1943 there was another bid to take the job away from a woman. There were by that time many more men in the teaching profession than there had been in the earlier years. Claiming that a woman was holding a man’s position, the new contender pressed his case for the Principalship. My father was no longer around to argue against my mother giving in to the pressure, and she decided to leave Highland Springs, and to let the ambitious fellow have the job he wanted. She was allowed to transfer from the Principalship of Highland Springs High School to an Associate Principalship at Glen Allen High School in another part of Henrico County.

The County School Board honored Mommie Bonnet with a Resolution, which commended her most highly. I have in my possession a sheet of unruled paper on which several teachers and many students and alumni of Highland Springs on that occasion signed the sentiment, “We miss you, Mommie Bonnet.”

Mother went to Glen Allen School in the fall of 1943 and enjoyed seven years working there with Mr. George H. Moody, the Principal. In the spring of 1950, nearing age 65, she decided to retire. My husband, Herbert, and I had asked Mother to come live with us and help with her grandchildren. It would be better, we argued, to retire while the powers were still clamoring for her to remain than to someday miss signs that she had overstayed her time. After deep consideration, she agreed to come to Charlotte Court House, Virginia, to live with us. There are letters from the Henrico County School System asking her to remain at Glen Allen School:

A March, 1950, letter on Henrico County Public Schools stationery and signed by Clyde K. Holsinger, the Henrico County Superintendent, says “I am very sorry I could not place your name before the School Board for reappointment. I feel you are too young and efficient to deprive us of your valued services.”

Early Life

Because Mother never mentioned herself and did not put any pictures of herself in the scrapbook which she made, I thought it fitting that I should put in this article, something about her childhood, her education, and how she got into teaching in the first place.

As Marjorie Booth, fourth child of Henry Judson and Margaret Iva Coney Booth, my mother was born on the 8th of July 1885, in Columbus, Ohio. At the age of two she developed tuberculosis which settled in her left ankle. The doctors called it “a tubercular ankle”. She was in Mt. Carmel Hospital in Columbus for many months and no one in the family was allowed in her room with her for most of the time she was there.

She used to tell me that she remembered how her mother would sit for hours in a chair outside her hospital room and peek at her through the crack between the door and the jamb. Mother had a decided limp for the rest of her life, her left leg being much smaller in diameter than the right.

Little Marjorie finally got well enough to go home. Her parents and doctors thought it well to have her spend some time in the mountains, commonly thought in those days the very best cure for tuberculosis. Her father was a busy attorney in Columbus, at one time in the State Legislature. He was able to afford to send the child for the mountain cure.

Her mother took her to board in someone’s home in the New York Adirondack Mountains. While they were there the heavy brace for her leg broke and the doctor recommended that she try walking without a brace. That worked and she never wore a brace again. Later she went with her mother for a short stay in New Orleans before coming back to Columbus permanently. At that time the Booth family was living on 15th Avenue in Columbus, not far from Ohio State University.

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Pass - Fail in the Office:

Our Springer Poll question was "Who was Principal of Highland Springs the longest?"

As Mommie Bonnet would ask, "Aren't you Seniors ashamed of yourselves?"

ONLY 5% of you answered correctly. Congratuations to those who answered "Marjorie B. Bonnet." You can call yourselves HIGHLANDERS as well as Springers.

70% answered "Victor W. Kreiter". Although this answer is not right, Mr. Kreiter WAS Principal the second-longest (17 years, Fall 1957 to June 1975). You probably still have your head stuck in the 60's.

8% answered " William Bosher". Dr. Bosher was a great guy, but was only at HS for a few years before moving on to be Supervisor of Schools for Henrico then the State of Virginia.

10% of you answered "Irving Brooks". Mr. Brooks served in the 50's just before Kreiter. Go back to the Future with Michael J. Fox.

7% answered "Margaret Lipscombe". Mrs. Lipscombe is best remembered as Principal of Highland Springs Elementary School in the 1960's. She had previously served as Principal at HHS and one year at Sandston Elementary. Those of you that voted here are still stuck in the burning auditiorium. Fire!

Thanks to everybody that participated in the poll!

Resolution by the Board

In 1943, the Henrico County School Board passed the following resolution:

“WHEREAS; THE County School Board of Henrico County has been informed by its Division Superintendent that, with the consent of Mrs. Marjorie B. Bonnet, he has transferred her, at no reduction in salary, from the Principalship of the Highland Springs High School to the Associate Principalship of the Glen Allen High School

“Be it resolved that:

“The County School Board of Henrico County commends Mrs. Marjorie B. Bonnet most highly for the sterling personal and professional qualities, excellent leadership, efficient administration and most commendable attainments manifested by her during her incumbency as Principal of the Highland Springs High School.
1. In the opinion of the County School Board of Henrico County the Highland Springs High School has shown steady and commendable growth under her leadership.
2. The County School Board of Henrico County recognizes officially her long and uniformly successful service to the County, her steady growth as an educational leader, the sound training given the children under her care and the excellent guidance of her teachers.
3. The County School Board of Henrico County is gratified to know that she will continue to give Henrico County the benefit of her valued services.
4. The county School Board of Henrico County congratulates the Glen Allen High School and its patronage upon the privilege of having in its faculty an educator of her excellent attainments and skill.
5. A copy of these resolutions be spread upon the minutes of the Board and an attested copy sent to Mrs. Bonnet.
SEAL July 22, 1943. Signed:
Pearle A. Ridgeway, Clerk”

An attested copy of the resolution was sent to Mrs. Bonnet with the following letter:

July 24, 1943
Mrs. Marjorie B. Bonnet
Highland Springs, Virginia

“Dear Mrs. Bonnet:
On July 22 the School Board passed the
enclosed resolution which both it and I feel feebly expresses the sentiment
and conviction which both it and I feel very keenly.
Very truly yours,
C. K. Holsinger, Superintendent”

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