Focus on Fostoria - June_29_03

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Fostoria Focus
June 29, 2003

How Fostoria High Got Its Early High School Songs
By Leonard Skonecki

Who is Geraldine Himburg, for heaven's sake?

I'd never given Geraldine a thought, never heard of her at all, until a Focus reader gave me some sheet music a couple months back. Since then I've been wondering about her. It seems she helped write Fostoria High's school song.

The sheet music is an original 1919 copy, four pages and 13 ½ by 10 ½ inches, titled "Fostoria High School Songs."

The front cover page has a photograph of the FHS building on High Street with inset pictures of Fostoria's Superintendent of Schools Fred Warren and FHS Principal Ida McDermott, the title noting it was published by the "Fostoria High School Band," and a photo of the band making a block "FHS."

The back cover has a picture of the band in the school auditorium with music director Jack Wainwright at the podium, a picture of the 1919 football team, and individual photos of Wainwright and his wife, football captain Albert Fox, coach Smiley Weltner, faculty manager John Wagner and the drum major, a fellow named Hughes.

On the inside are two pages of sheet music with two songs. One is called "FOOT-BALL Song" and is dedicated to Superintendent Warren. The words and music are written by "Mr. And Mrs. J.W. Wainwright."

The second song is called "OUR HIGH SCHOOL SONG" and is dedicated to Ida McDermott. The music was composed by the Wainwrights, but it says "Words by Miss Geraldine Himburg."

Warren became superintendent of schools in Fostoria in 1918, having previously held that position in East Liverpool.

By 1919, Ida McDermott had more extensive pedigree in Fostoia education. She was born in Lima in 1864 and began her teaching career in 1881 in rural Wyandot County.

She came to the Fostoria public schools in 1890. She became principal of the high school in 1895and held that post until 1928 when she stepped down as principal. However, she continued to teach English until her retirement in 1934.

So once again, who was Geraldine? Her picture is nowhere to be found on the sheet music. I went scurrying to the reference department at good, old Kaubisch Memorial Public Library.

First stop, the 1919 FHS yearbook I guessed (correctly, for a change) that Geraldine might have been a student and that she would have been a senior.

Wainwright held a contest for the honor of writing the words. He had his music students submit entries.

Not only were Geraldine's lyrics chosen, she won $5 to boot.

She was a good student, the valedictorian of her class. Her nickname was "Jerry" and her yearbook quote read: "By studious means she wins her way."

The yearbook didn't list the members of the Girls Glee Club and the Glee Chorus, but if Geraldine liked music, perhaps she sang in those. She co-authored the junior class prophecy in the 1918 yearbook. She wrote a poem "To A California Poppy," that appeared in the 1919 yearbook.

Geraldine was born March 24, 1901, to John and Carrie Himburg. They lived at 258 E. Fremont. She had one sister named Ruth. Her father died when Geraldine was only 6 years old.

Geraldine's middle name was Louise and after high school she went to college. In 1922, she returned to Fostoria to teach at Whittier School. She lived with her mother.

In 1929, Carrie moved to Middletown. Geraldine went with her and continued to teach. Carrie passed away in 1964 at the age of 83. According to Carrie's obituary, Geraldine never married and always lived with her mother.

Carrie was born in Fostoria and she's buried in Fountain Cemetery even though she lived in Middletown for 37 years.

The first few lines of the Football song went: "Team, Rah! Team Rah! Rah! Rah! Team – We've got the men – Who make the team – They are the best in old O-hi-o! They've got the grit – To do their bit – They always win – Or die!"

That dying part seems extreme even by the rigorous standards of a competitive sport. Luckily the FHS footballers only died once in 1919, winning 10 of 12 games.

Geraldine wrote three verses for her school song. The first goes: "Devotion to Fostoria High, Across the space of time. Her noble sons and daughter sing, her praise in every clime. They clamor to the ladders's top, for choicest fruits each year. They bow in homage at the shrine, Their Alma Mater Dear."

Geraldine remained in Middletown after her mother's death. She passed away in December 1978.

Her lyrics haven't passed away, though. The words to Fostoria High's alma mater are the same today as whey were when Geraldine wrote them 84 years ago.