Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mrs. Simonsen Thanked by Students

Simonsen High School was named for Ernst Simonsen in recognition of a gift of $5,000 given in 1914 to the Board of Education by his widow, Fredericka (DeWyl) Simonsen. (He is not to be confused with R. B. D. Simonson, a former superintendent. Incidentally, Mrs. Simonsen was the first woman to become a registered pharmacist in Missouri.)

Mrs. Simonsen also set up other funds for students at the high school (then grades 9–12). On May 12, 1947, Mrs. Simonsen gave an additional $2,000 for a public address system at Simonsen. It was one of the first intercoms in a Missouri school. In the fall of 1947 principal Ruie Doolin let students listen in classrooms to the Cardinals–Red Sox World Series championship games over the intercom, which the Cardinals won. That was before night baseball games.

Ernst and Fredericka Simonsen. These photos appear in Jerena East Giffen, The House on Hobo Hill, p. 117 (see below).

In recognition of Mrs. Simonsen’s gift, school administrators arranged for the entire study body of Simonsen (then grades 7–10) to march later that same May to her house at the northern dead-end of the 600 block of Adams Street to thank her. (Her house is still standing, just across Adams Street from the current Public Schools Administration Building.)

A couple hundred students marched up Jackson, around the corner on Dunklin, and back up Adams to her house and stood in the street while the student body president presented flowers to Mrs. Simonsen. The school band played songs. The short ceremony of gratitude took place on her front porch. On signal, the couple hundred students in the street waved and shouted “Thank you” to the aged benefactress. Mrs. Simonsen died a few months later, in October 1947.

Copyright 2011 by Walter A. Schroeder (class of 1952).

Sources: Author’s personal recollections, and Jerena East Giffen, The House on Hobo Hill: The History of the Jefferson City Public Schools, (Jefferson City, Mo., 1964).


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