School artifacts, vintage toys on display at the Rockville Centre Public Library


What is the past participle of rive? Do you know many pecks there are in 597 quarts, or the number of rods in 8 ½ miles?

Such answers can be found in Higher Lessons in English, by Reed & Kellogg, and Complete Graded Arithmetic, by George E. Atwood, each written in the late 19th century. The books sit in a cabinet adjacent to some bookshelves at the Rockville Centre Public Library.

“Your average school child in 1895 would know pecks and rods and how to diagram sentences,” said Alene Scoblete, local history librarian and archivist, as she pointed to the contents arranged safely behind glass.

The display of Rockville Centre school artifacts, as well as one across from it showcasing vintage toys, will be at the library through the end of the month. Each April, Scoblete said, she works with the Phillips House Museum — at 28 Hempstead Ave. — to set up displays of antiques. In previous years, she recalled, the library has put kitchen gadgets and historical photography artifacts on display for visitors to peruse.

A box of Crayola crayons dating back to about 1905, a 19th century fountain pen with a nib made of 14-karat gold and a 1950s pencil sharpener occupied the glass shelves.

Photographs of Rockville Centre schools complemented the artifacts, alongside descriptions about the buildings’ histories. Morris School, for example, which was demolished in the early-1980s, opened in 1915 due to overcrowding in the school district. A brick from the school is situated beneath a historical photo of the 10-room school.

Also in the display is an “S” patch from South Side High School and a dedication program marking the school’s opening at its current Shepherd Street location in 1955. Previously, the high school occupied the current site of Village Hall on College Place and then where South Side Middle School sits on Hillside Avenue.

“It boasted an auditorium seating 805 and a gymnasium seating 1,060 spectators,” a card next to the program and patch read. “Music facilities, science labs, fine and industrial arts spaces, a library seating 90, a cafeteria seating 350, a rifle range, classrooms in an efficient layout and an elevator all made this building the pride of the district.”

Scoblete walked over the vintage toys display just steps away, pointing out a Panelmatic Jr. Toy Iron, produced by the Rochester-based Samson United Corporation circa 1940. She called the toy controversial, noting that it heats up when plugged in. A caption next to the toy asks, “Would you let your child play with this?”

Also in the case was a Topsy-Turvy Doll, which was also marked by controversy. These dolls have an African-American doll and a Caucasian doll fused together, sharing a reversible skirt, and were prevalent from the Civil War through the mid-1900s.

Frank Seipp, president of the Phillips House Museum, which depicts life in Rockville Centre during the 19th and 20th centuries, said the artifacts have come from the village, or from various donors, from Rockville Centre and beyond. Seipp said he has helped collect them over the last 50 years or so, and the museum lets the library borrow the items so that members of the community have another place to view them.

“We have to know where we came from,” Seipp said. “These are the things that were state-of-the-art at that particular period of time. . . . It’s important for the young people to know where it comes from.”