State Historic Site
Rosa-Maye & Manville Kendrick (AHC Kendrick Collection, TESHS)
Beryl Ladd, 1911 (Ladd Collection, SCFPL)
A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
March 2008 - December 2008
Art, music and literature are integral components of America's cultural existence. As such, it has long been considered best for children to be well-versed as to the best books, the best art and the best music. As The Delineator told its readers in 1904:
Very fortunate is the child who is born into a home where the ideals are high, and where the books, the music, and the conversation are of the best. But such culture is not universal … the average parents have not had in their own childhood such an environment, and it is because there is such a spiritual awakening through the world concerning the child and its needs, that among the hundred and one questions their earnest mothers and fathers are asking is, ‘What shall we give our children to read?’
Before the 1850s, fairy tales and make-believe stories by such literary luminaries as Mother Goose and The Brothers Grimm were frowned upon – unless the message was that disobedience and deception were very wicked and very dangerous. After all, parents counted on books to help give moral instruction to their young.
Even into the 20th Century, parents were concerned about the impact of fairy story staples – ovens hidden inside candy cottages, poisoned apples, and birds baked in a pie – on their innocent children’s young minds. As McCall’s Magazine noted in 1912:
Many grownups have serious doubts about the effect of fairy tales; that these old tales are full of horrors which fill the minds of children with images causing terror; that they often depict the mean and sordid, suggesting evil quite as much as good. … if their children hear so much that is purely fanciful they will be dissatisfied with things of every-day life or fail to distinguish between the real and the unreal.
Starting in the last half of the nineteenth century, literature that excited the imaginations of children began to appear. Books such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Wizard of Oz (1900), and Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906) were encouraged as harmless pleasures. As they grew older, adventure-loving boys were encouraged to read books by Robert Louis Stevenson, Alexander Dumas and Rudyard Kipling. Girls, considered to be overly influenced by “the mild literary gruel of sentimental girlhood,” were steered towards the works of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Willa Cather and Louisa May Alcott.
Like other young Americans, Rosa-Maye and Manville Kendrick, as well as their own children, enjoyed all these books, plus poetry, history, travelogues and magazine short stories.
Like reading, music was an important part of life in the Kendrick household, as it was in many an upper and middle-class household. By the 1920s, it was considered by some to be an essential component in the creation of a well-rounded child. As Mrs. Herman M. Biggs of the National Federation of Day Nurseries stated in 1927, “It is the duty of every mother to give her child the opportunity to become acquainted with at least one musical instrument.”
Eula Kendrick was ahead of the curve as far as music in the home was concerned. Like their mother, Rosa-Maye and Manville both played the piano and sang. They took music lessons after school, as well. In 1913, Rosa-Maye joined her school's Glee Club in a performance that had - for the singers, at least - a shocking conclusion:
Last night the Glee Club sang at the Orpheum. I decided to sing too, at the last moment, and wore my grey broadcloth. We sang two songs and then for encore we decided that instead of just singing the last verse of the first [song] as we had done before, we would sing the first song all the way through. Now since we didn’t tell Mr. Klindt of this, just as we reached the middle of the song full force – down went the curtain! Can you imagine our amazement? The girls stared at one another with blank faces, then all began to laugh. It was a good joke on us.
Her father responded jokingly,
I enjoyed the joke on your club of singers; the only inference to be drawn is that the curtain man concluded there was a limit to what the audience could stand and took the only available means at hand to relieve it of any further punishment!
In addition to the piano, Manville played the mandolin and, according to his father, another instrument as well. Writing about a proposed trip in 1915, John told Eula: “Manville says he can get away with me and I am sure it will be agreeable with all the neighbors, owing to his devotion to that horn.” No word what kind of horn it was, but we know Manville owned a bugle at one time! When he was at boarding school, Manville belonged to a Mandolin Club that included over twenty players.
The piano was probably the most common instrument in the American home. Dozens of advertisements and magazine articles sponsored by the National Piano Manufacturers’ Association in the 1910s and 1920s touted the numerous benefits of the piano for both the children and their families:
Poise, Magnetism, Charm, Culture – these qualities go hand in hand with the ability to play the piano. For a hundred years the American family has rallied around the piano. It is the heart-instrument of the home. In great mansions, in small homes, wherever there are children, the country over, the piano is a vital force in broadening culture and strengthening the ties of the home life.
With the opportunity to learn an instrument came the obligation to practice the instrument! Most children disliked practicing, something Mary Wilson Sherwood noted in her 1881 book, Home Amusement:
The family circle which has learned three or four instruments, the brothers who can sing, are to be envied. They can never suffer from a dull evening. However, the only deep shadow to the musical picture is the necessity of practicing, which is not a home amusement; it is a home torture.
When Eula Kendrick was a girl, she studied art as well as music. At finishing school in Texas, she learned to paint with oils and executed several large canvases prior to her marriage. Later, she did smaller paintings of ranch scenes and Sheridan area scenery.
We know little of the artistic talents of Manville and Rosa-Maye other than the fact that Rosa-Maye completed a couple of small watercolors and Manville doodled on everything! Two of their children - cousins Hugh Kendrick and Kendrick Harmon - were both born artists. Kendrick Harmon became very skilled at detailed pen and ink drawings while Hugh, who died in 1952, apparently showed some talent at an early age. In 1939, Manville sent his mother one of Hugh's drawings, made when the boy was five years old:
I am enclosing one of Hugh’s works of art. I never thought to have a painter in the family, but that seems to be the way of it. How he would be if the process were involved in that of schooling, I do not know; but when he does it for his own amusement, there seems to be no labor of composition. He dashes it off with a bold, free hand that is worth the beholding.