1976 Newspaper Article

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Monday, November 29, 1976
Houston Chronicle

by Betty Ewing

Winds of Time and social change have shirled the goose girl weather vane atop unique River Oaks Elementary School ever since it opened on a once-wooded plat of Houston’s most expensive in-town real estate.

But she’s still here and so are architect Harry D. payne, 85, who put her there and Eva Margaret Davis, 89, the first principal, and an impressive alumni flock that includes one who grew up to be Mayor of Houston.

All ex-students from the founding year of 1929 through 1969 are invited (those from later years are considered too young for the festivities) to an open house Tuesday from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. It’s part of the Houston Independent School District’s 100th celebration.

Architect Payne was practicing in St. Louis when the HISD retained him for the purpose of designing schools. He came to Houston in 1926 and drew up the same plan for six schools – River Oaks, Edgar Allen Poe, Eugene Field, Wharton, Briscoe and Henderson. But he insisted on different exteriors.

“After much debate the board acredited my proposal,” the architect told school archivist Georgiana Childs. “I am proud that each school has its own identity.”

River Oaks has a French Colonial exterior and the kindergarten has a real fireplace.

“The weathervane we designed, the Goose Girl flapping her apron and the two ganders standing by, was to suggest a familiar story,” he a said. “It would make the school building a cordial and friendly place.”

Architect Payne, who has designed 150 schools in Houston and Corpus Christi and other locales in the Gulf Coast area, says the finished River Oaks Elementary School became one of his favorite designs.

The premier principal, Eva Margaret Davis, was recovering from a spinal operation in New York City hospital when a letter from the late Houston school superintendent, Dr. E. E. Oberholtzer, invited her to become head of the new school.

Ms. Davis, a divine little lady who says she’ll be 90 on March 1 in a voice that is younger than springtime, has been serving as principal of Longfellow. She and Dr. Oberholtzer has been colleagues in the Tulsa, Okla., school system. River Oaks Elementary was destined to be a different school.

In fact, three particularly progressive Houston women, Miss Ima Hogg, childless, but later to serve ably on the Houston School board, Mrs. Agnese Carter Nelms and Mrs. Pat Houstoun, at first had thought about starting a good up-to-date private school. But they were impressed with the progressive philosophy of educator Oberholtzer and offered to help support the new school by setting up what was called a Supplementary Aids committee. In those days apparently the board passed out most of its equipment funds to junior and senior high schools. Theelementary schools had to fend for themselves via the PTa and teachers. But not River Oaks. To the rescue came the Supplementary Aids Committee.

“First of all we had a library – all furnished, carpeted, supplied with draperies, bookshelves and books,” said Ms. Davis. “I don’t think any other public school in Houston had a library equal to it at the time.”

A Victorola was supplied for music appreciation, she said paper towels for the restrooms, visual aids and clay and large rolls of paper for art teacher Slingluff’s classes.

The gave each teacher $10 a month to buy paper clips and other odds and ends and sent them to special courses at Columbia University.

Photo Insert: (Class of Children & Mayor Fred Hofheinz) Recognize the little third grader, circa 1946, that the arrow points to? Following his father into politics, young Fred became the second Mayor Hofheinz.

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