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Students Strike at East Greenville High School
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor
2020-01-01

            In the past decade, strikes by students have become a way for young people to express their feelings about important items from the environment to equality.

Some male students at the East Greenville High School decided to go on strike in
December of 1919, trying to extend their Christmas vacations so they could earn
a little extra money working at the local ice plants.

            But, when the decade changed from 1919 to 1920, students in this area chose to strike over working conditions – that is, they wanted an extra week off during Christmas vacation.  That would have been the week to include New Year's Day.  Not to sit around watching television or playing video-games, but to go to work.

            Well, not all students.  At the time girls chose to go back to school along with a few of the boys (at the prodding of their parents.)

            The pristine waters of the Perkiomen, Hosensack, and Macoby Creeks along with their proximity to the railroad made ice-making one of the largest businesses in the area at the time.  So big that during the ice season, the large enterprises employed more than 1,000 men and eight carloads of ice were being shipped by rail to Philadelphia from the Upper Perkiomen Valley region.  Labor shortages were not uncommon during the winter months.

            The winter of 1917-1918 helped local ice-makers produce a bumper crop and they were hoping for the same for 1918-1919.

            Most of the local ice-makers sat back and waited for the ice to freeze to 12-14 inches, but that didn't happen and 1918-1919 didn't produce nearly what the previous year did.

            So, the ice-barons were hoping to make a solid recovery at the turn of the decade.  Mother-Nature obliged with an early freeze and by Christmas of 1919, ice on the local ponds reached a thickness of 8 to 12 inches. 

            Taking advantage of the early freeze, and not wanting the make the same mistake they made last year, meant plenty of work for the high-school boys during the holiday break.  So much so that they started a petition which was sent to the School Board demanding (not asking) that the Christmas vacation be extended so they wouldn't have to return to school until January 6.

This Palm ice house, along the Hosensack Creek, had begun making ice in Dec-
ember of 1919 to try and make up for a poor ice harvest the previous year.

            According to a front-page story in January 2, 2020 edition of the Town and Country newspaper, "Whatever the Board's intentions were regarding the holiday season is not known and of course does not enter here, but the fact remains that the Board decided to have sessions of school during this week. [as scheduled]"

            On Monday, December 29, 1919 the strike order was issued.  According to the newspaper account, practically all of the boys remained away from school.  By noon of that day, some parents had seen to it that their truants returned to school.  Tuesday morning saw even more returning to the classroom. 

            Still around 10 students remained on "school-strike."

            An interesting lesson was opined by the newspaper reporter at the end of the story when he penned about the youthful strikers: "Many of these are working on the ice-dams at Palm and East Greenville, where they are earning money which some day may come in mighty handy for the paying of tutors to help them make up for the education they missed this week. 


 

 

 

 

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