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

page 3 of 4

The ORIGINAL Multi-Tasking

Marjorie was naturally left-handed. From the time she was a very little girl, she had an urgent desire to draw pictures. Because of her bad ankle, she was kept out of school until she was nine years old. When, in 1894, she went to school for the first time she was entered into the second grade. Immediately, the teachers insisted that she learn to write with her right hand. For the rest of her life she drew pictures with her left hand and changed the pencil to her right hand to sign her name to the drawing.

She had learned to write with her right hand as the school demanded, but soon she realized that she could write backward with her left hand as she wrote forward with the right. Once, when she was in college, this two-handed capability became a big temptation and she wrote the answers on an exam with her left hand, backwards of course. She told us of the time that the professor was so clever that he read the paper by looking at it in a mirror, graded it, and handed it back without ever mentioning what she had done. That pretty well spoiled her joke and taught her a good lesson.

A Fast Learner Who Never Stopped Learning

Marjorie went to the 3rd grade and skipped the 4th, then went to the 5th and 6th and skipped the 7th. She said, “I don’t generally believe in skipping grades in school for children, but, under the circumstances, I think it was the right thing for me.” Her father told me once that she had been an avid reader all her life. I know that, even when she was an elderly woman, she read several books a week and kept beside her bed a stack of resource material in which she could do research to learn more about what she was reading. She never stopped learning.

Meeting Jay Bonnet

Before Marjorie started high school her father bought a house on Town Street in Columbus, Ohio. Across the street there was a family named Bonnet. Mr. Frank F. Bonnet at that time owned the largest jewelry store in Columbus. There were several boys in the family and a very young daughter. One of the boys, named Jay, was just a year older than Marjorie Booth and attended the same high school.

Soon Jay and Marjorie found it convenient to study together under an apple tree in the Bonnet’s back yard. A romantic relationship developed. Near the end of his senior year Jay went to work for his father in the jewelry store. Hard times struck and Jay’s father had to take bankruptcy and close the jewelry store. Jay worked his way across country, ending up with a small watch repair shop of his own in Seattle, Washington, a long way from Columbus. He and Marjorie kept in touch.

After finishing Central High School in Columbus in 1900, Marjorie went to Hollins College in Virginia as her sister had before her. She graduated from Hollins in 1904. For two years after leaving college, she attended art school in Columbus. She wanted to continue her art studies in Chicago, but her father thought an artist’s colony was not suitable for nice young ladies.

Marjorie had a lovely contralto voice. Her father did allow her to go to Chicago to take voice lessons, so she studied at the Cosmopolitan School of Music for two years. In 1909 Marjorie taught sight-reading, ear training and Italian diction at the Music School and in June of that year she returned to Columbus, Ohio. Because her mother was not well, she took over keeping house for the Booth family.

Marriage and WWI

Jay Bonnet wrote asking Marjorie to come to Washington State. In those days, young ladies did not go across country to live with their gentleman friends, and soon Jay returned to Columbus. They were married on 12 September 1912 and went to live in Flint, Ohio, in a little house owned by Marjorie’s father. Their only child, Susan, was born in 1915 and Marjorie loved being a housewife and mother.

Jay had a small watch repair shop in Columbus. Britain, France and Russia were at war in Europe. On April 6, 1917, the United States entered the conflict. On 15 April 1917 President Woodrow Wilson declared that the United States would have to be responsible for providing supplies and food for the war effort. He said that without adequate food the war against Germany would fail. He urged everyone who could to make large harvests on the farms of America to provide food for the war and for the need that would exist after peace came.

From Ohio to Virginia

Marjorie’s father had bought a farm in Virginia in 1910 and in late July 1917, she and Jay and the baby girl moved to Charlotte County, Virginia, where Jay would work on the farm to help the war effort.

Jay loved the outdoors. He had wanted to be a forester, but he soon found that farming was not the kind of outdoor life he wanted. In Charlotte County, Virginia, he tried to volunteer for the Army. Because he was “a farmer” the Army would not take him. Jay went to New Jersey and worked in a munitions factory for the duration of the war.

Back in Charlotte County, the principal of the Aspen graded and high school was called to go to war. A group of local citizens called on Marjorie Bonnet and implored her to be the principal of Aspen School. We do not have many details of her employment by the Charlotte County School Board, but Marjorie Booth Bonnet held the position of teacher and principal at Aspen from January 1919 through June 1922.

Along with being Principal of the eight-room graded and high school, she taught English, History, Algebra, Geometry, Latin, French and General Sciences in the high school for a salary of $100.00 a year. Marjorie’s brother-in-law had been called to war, so her sister came from Pennsylvania to Virginia, bringing her three high school-aged children.

Marjorie’s sister Florence stayed at home on the farm and took care of Susan. Marjorie and her nephew, her two nieces, and two neighboring boys rode the three miles to Aspen school each day in a pony buggy. When Susan started to school in 1921 Marjorie and her daughter went to board with a family that lived nearer to the school.

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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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