By Myra Lee Adams Goff
The beautiful two-story New Braunfels Independent School District’s Administration Building on Mill St. brings back high school memories, especially in August.
Shortly after Hermann Seele taught school here under the elm trees beneath the Sophienburg hill, the city took over the responsibility of educating its children. In 1853 the children met in a rented building and finally the New Braunfels Academy was built in 1855 on the corner of Mill and Academy. This building was replaced by a new building built just eight feet behind the Academy. The Academy was then torn down.
In 1914 the Mill Street school opened for all grades in the city (1-11) and remained that way until Carl Schurz and Lamar Elementary schools were built in 1924. Then the Mill St. school became New Braunfels High School (7-12).
When this school was bursting at the seams in the late 1940s, more and more classes were held in the basement of the giant two story building. First hand experience tells me that classes and activities in the basement were a little more interesting than in the rest of the building.
Dominating that underground floor and making the most noise, was the centrally located band hall. The door going into the big room was a giant sound-proof structure that made a terrific swooshing noise when it closed. Across from the band hall was a giant boiler that also made a giant swooshing noise.
The basement held the first commissary, a social hang-out run by the student council. Nothing nutritious, only candy and snacks, but it wasn’t the food that was the attraction – it was who was working there and who got out of class on who-knows-what pretense to check things out. That’s where the bathrooms were too and that trough-like water fountain.
Right next to the commissary was the chemistry lab. It had the reputation of concocting the most horrendous odors, mostly from sulfur, I think, due to the rotten egg smell. On the next floor, right above the lab was Edwin Harden’s English class and several times a week, these chemicals would waft up through the cracks between the floor boards and entertain the English students above. Mr. Harden ran a tight ship, so he merely mixed sulfur with Shakespeare.
Ina Mae Rowe’s math class provided a little stability to the basement. She was the terror of the math department. Terror only to those whose brains were math dead. She seated her students according to their mathematical ability. The Einsteins of the math world were in front of the class, the “not quite awake” math students in the center just waiting to be inspired, and the “better luck next time” math students at the back of the room. Come to think of it, maybe the students placed themselves that way, you know, a sort of math pecking order.
Those successful math students in the front swear by her ability to teach. I sat in the middle waiting to be inspired. The mathematical part of my brain slept through any kind of math class. The social part of my brain stayed wide awake observing those math creatures in the class. Socially I concluded that much more fun could be had from about the middle of the room to the back.
This took place in 1949,’50, and ‘51. Something had to give and so a new High School was built on Guenther St. and the Class of ’51 was the last to graduate from the old Mill Street school. Those three classes are getting together for a giant three class reunion this next April to celebrate being the last classes in that school.
Eventually the Mill Street school was turned into a junior high and then at some point it was condemned. The building was then “uncondemned,” renovated, and now houses the NBISD administration offices.
If walls could talk!