Godwin Heights High School Memories

(From Lawrence J. Brink, Class of 1935 Tapes made 2000-2001) 

      Lawrence "Bud" Brink attended the Godwin Elementary School from second through sixth grade.  He transferred to the Newhall School for seventh and eighth grade because the family moved.  Then Bud returned to Godwin Heights High School in the fall of 1931 for ninth grade and rejoined friends from his elementary days. 

      "My years at Godwin Heights High School are a period in my life which are very memorable.  It was a great time and an influence on my future life." 

      Godwin, on the south side of Grand Rapids, first built a three story building facing Division Avenue near 34th Street.  The lower north end had a "little" original gymnasium, the south end housed the auditorium.  The first floor was mainly the elementary grade classrooms.  The second floor, Jr. High classrooms.  The upper floor north end was a big study hall the full width of the building.  Classrooms lined each side of the hallway to the south end where the Chemistry and Biology labs were located along with the Principal's office. 

      Numerous additions were made as enrollment increased.  An addition to the three story building caused a need for a ramp on each floor as the halls were about one foot off from meeting up between old and new.  Finally, what was known as the “high school building” was built.  It was around the corner and faced Allen Road (now 36th St.).  Between this building and the older sections was the library and the superintendent's office.  The newer high school had a new "regulation size" gymnasium on the back with metal beams supporting the roof.  "It was great fun during basketball practice to throw the ball up through the beams and into the baskets."  

      The Godwin High School began as a class D school, but by the fall of 1931 had just barely become a class C school.  The superintendent was Charles C. Saur, who served in that capacity for many years.  The Board of Education members were mostly from the farm country surrounding the school.  Trustee, Frank Rackett, was a big asparagus farmer across Allen Road from the school and Trustee, Frank Bartells, had a large dairy farm operation east of the school. 

      The staff of teachers, for the most part, were recent college graduates, often only five years or so older than their students.  They were a dedicated group who sometimes endured "payless paydays" due to the economy of the Great Depression.  But, they all were involved in student activities outside the classroom time.  They assisted with drama and music productions, coached athletic teams, drove athletes to away games and were the spectators who cheered them on.  

Superintendent Charles C. Saur:  He was there from the early days of the school and served for close to forty years in that position.  Also, had interest in politics and ran for the State Legislature several times, but didn't win.  Mr. Saur did many good things for the students and was always a very approachable man.  He filled in as a coach when needed and also drove players to ball games and entertained his passengers with recitations of poetry or political discussions.  He taught the government class when no teacher was available to do it and the State of Michigan required all seniors to take it.  Mr. Saur once played the male lead in a school play.  He shut himself in his office and studied the script all day, filling in that evening for the ailing student who couldn't perform the lead role. 

Margaret A. Brumbaugh:  She was the High School Principal and also taught English and Literature classes. 

W. Wallace Blair:  He was the Jr. High Principal.  In addition he taught Chemistry, Geometry, Trigonometry, Algebra and Advanced Algebra.  He was musical and artistic and always involved in school plays.  He eventually moved to California to teach. 

Margaret Blair:  The sister of W. Wallace Blair.  She taught Business Law and other Business related classes. 

Roma Dean Helwig:  She was a class advisor and she taught Biology classes. 

William T. Kutsche:  He taught Speech class and was the debate coach and assisted with football practice and games. 

Gladys Gaut Saur:  Wife of Superintendent, Saur.  She taught U.S. History, World History and English.  "An excellent teacher who prepared her students well for college, making Freshman college English and History classes an easy A". 

She also created a course that taught manners and social graces and, for lack of a better name, was called "Auditorium".  It was a popular class with the students.  Each student had to keep a notebook titled, "To Make Life Better For You".  The course included classic literature, Art Appreciation with study of famous artists and a field trip to the Grand Rapids Art Institute.  Music appreciation included learning what all the instruments in an orchestra were, as well as famous composers and attending a concert.  After learning proper table settings and how to use all the silver and goblets at a formal dinner, the class went to a formal restaurant and had dinner for practical experience.  They also learned how to improvise after dinner toasts and speeches. 

Erwilli M. Schneider:  She taught business courses and was class advisor for the class of 1935.  Helped them plan senior skip day and the Jr., Sr. Prom.  She attended the 40th reunion in 1975. 

Wilbur J. Myers:  "Bill" taught Journalism and in 1934-35 started a school sports journal.  He was also drafted into the position of football coach after the 1931 season.  

Iris J. Bright:  She was a History teacher, drove students to athletic events and eventually moved to California to teach. 

Madonna Stewart:  She was the music teacher. 

Clifford Jones:  He was the assistant football coach and head basketball coach. 

      In the high school days of the class of 1935, there were no busses to transport students and the ride to school was your bike or you walked.  If you lived "out in the sticks" like Bud Brink did on Burlingame, it was too far to go home for lunch and hot lunch programs were non-existent.  Lunch was carried not in a brown bag, but wrapped in wax paper and then an outer wrap of newspaper.  The menu usually consisted of four slices of homemade bread with peanut butter and jelly or cheese, a piece of cake or cookies and perhaps an apple or banana. 

      The accepted dress for a young man in high school was a pair of dress trousers or corduroy pants, a dress shirt with a necktie and, in cooler weather, a sweater.  The "in thing" was a letter sweater which, of course, had to be earned through participation in sports. 

      The fall of 1931 was a rebuilding year for the Godwin Wolverine football team and so, the Freshmen Class, with some good prospects, was immediately put into action.  Fifteen to twenty boys, including returnees, suited up in well worn uniforms and began practice on an open field down Allen Road from the school.  The team, who had no home field, had a "perfect season", losing every game.  That 1931 team included Bud Brink at right end, Harry Clark at left end, Jack Darrow, a running back, and Jimmy Arndt at fullback, as well as Russ Canfield, Jack Laubscher and others. 

      The opponents varied from season to season and from sport to sport for Godwin's teams.  Included were, Grand Rapids Lee, Grandville, Kent City, Coopersville, Rockford, Comstock Park, Zeeland, Sand Lake, Cedar Springs, Grand Rapids Christian, Middleville, Caledonia and Godwin's nemesis, East Grand Rapids, who were perennial winners from a prosperous school district even during The Great Depression. 

      The football team improved the next two seasons under then coach Myers, and during the fall of 1934 the team all pitched in to create a primitive home field, across from the school.  There were no bleachers, score board or lights and few spectators, but the team won seven games, losing only to East Grand Rapids. 

      The basketball team during those years had just one set of uniforms and once the referee made them wear the sweaty shirts from the Freshman game because the opponent's jerseys were too close in color to Godwin’s team.   

      Coach Cliff Jones started Jack Darrow and Russ Canfield as forwards, Jimmy Arndt as a guard, Bud Brink at center and alternated Bob Melville and __ Sheren as the other guard.  They made it to the Regional playoff one year.  If the team scored more than 60 points (didn't happen often in those days), Superintendent Saur and his wife invited them all to their house for dinner as a reward. 

      Spring sports were not available until 1934 because of a lack of funds.  Then, baseball was reinstated.  Jack Darrow was the first baseman, Bud Brink was a pitcher who overworked his arm and suffered much pain in later years.  There was no official track team, just Harry Clark who was a great mile runner.  Arrangements were made by the school for him to run in a few meets as a "one man team" from Godwin. 

      The class of 1935 was the ninth class to graduate from Godwin Heights High School and had forty-seven graduates.  The co-valedictorians were Jean Molesta and Lawrence Brink.  The class did not produce any "famous" people, but sent many hard working, good people out into the world.  Many did not go right on to college because of lack of money to do so.  Some took advantage of the GI Bill after serving in WW II. 

Jimmy Arndt went to work for Herposhiemer's Department Store doing advertising and accounting. 

Lawrence Brink obtained a BA degree at Western Michigan and an MA degree at the University of Michigan.  He was on the faculty of Western Michigan for 44 years prior to retirement in 1980.  By act of the Michigan Legislature, the Printing Services building at WMU was named after him in honor of his long and dedicated service.  He still resides in Kalamazoo in 2010. 

Russ Canfield went into the restaurant business and had a restaurant on Monroe Avenue in Grand Rapids at one time. 

Harry Clark graduated from college and became a Forester with the U.S. Forestry Department. 

Jack Darrow worked as a sales representative for a large book publisher. 

Jack Laubscher went to Ohio State University, joined the ROTC and then became a career Air Force pilot.  He was married to fellow class mate, Jean Molesta.