Imagine the surprise, exhilaration and excitement that swept over Robie Mathews – affectionately known at William Chrisman High School as Robie Bear – when she was informed last month that a piece of Chrisman history had been found in a junk shop in faraway New Castle, Delaware.
It's a “real treasure,” exclaims the 1967 Chrisman graduate, who serves her beloved alma mater as its alumni coordinator. She also is alumni coordinator of the Independence School District. Causing all the excitement is the recent discovery of a 30-by-40-inch cardboard poster bearing photographs of all 47 members of the 1956-57 As You Like It Drama Society.
The story unfolds with Ryan Bolles running across the impressive poster while browsing through the thrift store with his sister. Recognizing it as an “historical jewell,” he was anxious to find someone who knew something about the 60-year-old poster. So using the Internet, he eventually traces it to Chrisman High.
Bolles emailed: “... I'm guessing someone died here (New Castle) and it was in their estate. I've attached a picture of just the center portion of the overall picture. I looked through your school directory and hoped you might have the most interest in helping (me) out. ... I'm wondering if you can connect me (with) an alumni society or someone who might be interested in this poster board of photos so that maybe I can facilitate the board getting back to someone from your school? It just seems like it should be there instead of a second-hand shop.”
Bolles, though, didn't wait long to find someone interested in taking care of the unframed poster with its two tattered corners.
“I fired back, 'Yes! Yes! Yes!,' says Robie, a member of the William Chrisman Hall of Fame, who says the shop owner donated the cherished keepsake to her and she gladly paid mailing expenses for its return. “Now I own it,” she says excitedly. “I'm the keeper of it. It's mine and I am going to find it a home. I don't know its final resting place, but it's not going to be in a landfill.”
Robie is thankful to have this piece of Chrisman history in her possession, she says, because it was destined for the Delaware River that flowed past the thrift shop. “The owners weren't going to keep it any longer,” she says, adding: “They wanted it out of their store in the next six months. And we were glad to get rid of it.
Noting the poster is “old-time history,” Robie says there are many unanswered questions about it. “My gosh,” she vigorously says. “How did it get to Delaware? Who in the picture carried it out? How did it get out of (the) old Chrisman? What happened to the missing frame?”
In her exhaustive research to learn more about the “As You's,” Robie discovered there were once two other all-female service organizations at Chrisman in the 1950s, '60s , '70s and '80s: the Shakespeareans Literary Society, also known as the “Shakes,” and the Nautilus Literary Society. Today, none of these organizations exist.
Robie, who taught third grade at Ott Elementary School for 30 years, says a friend involved in publishing high school yearbooks told her that in the 1970s “As You Like It” and the Shakesperians merged to became one society – the Shays. Dwindling membership and lack of interest took its toll.
What's bugging Robie is she doesn't know when the “As You's” disbanded, and neither do the Chrisman alumns that she has asked. No one knows. And that's unfortunate, she quips, because she can't return the poster to a nonexistent organization.
Also excited about the “treasure” found in Delaware is Ryan Bolles, whose email to Robie reads: “I'd be interested to try and figure out who it was that probably died in Delaware resulting in the (poster) board showing up in the shop where I found it. They told me it was there six months or so. I'm not sure if anyone from the class of 1957 – on your end – would know who it was that lived in Delaware. Of course, it could have been in her husband's belongings and he was the one who just died not long ago. Hard to know. Anyway, I look forward to hearing about the fun people have finding themselves or the loved ones on the poster board.”
Robie's quest to discover more about the “As You's” and to find the proper place to display the large membership poster is just beginning.
Maybe you would like to offer your assistance. If so, email her at email@example.com or call her at 816- 252-6671. She wants to hear from you. So now is the time for all Chrisman Bears to come to the aid of their school. Go Bears!
-- Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.