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Andover Hill School by William Phillips Graves


About one hundred and sixteen years ago a small school was started in a carpenter's shop on Andover Hill. This little school of about twelve boys was the origin of the great Phillips Academy, which now numbers about five hundred. Its founder was a certain Judge Samuel Phillips, a prominent young lawyer and statesman in Massachusetts during the Revolution. Besides giving much of his own money to the school, he enlisted the aid of some of his relatives, all of whom were very rich for those days, and soon had them so much interested in founding schools that his uncle, John Phillips, started a similar one in Exeter, New Hampshire, and named it Phillips Exeter Academy.

The little academy in Andover did not long hold its sessions in a carpenter's shop. It was soon provided with a good building by its wealthy founder; and, with an energetic principal and a fine set of boys, many of whom afterwards became famous men, the school flourished at once, and became widely known.

The location of the school has been shifted about on Andover Hill, for its buildings were several times burned down. One of them, the Science Building, is said to have been set on fire by a boy in revenge for having been severely disciplined. Tradition says that he is still living. If he should risk coming to Andover now, and could see the fine new Science Building which replaces the one he destroyed, I venture to say that his conscience would be immensely relieved.

THE PRESENT GYMNASIUM. Where Oliver Wendell Holmes went to school. THE PRESENT GYMNASIUM.

Where Oliver Wendell Holmes went to school.

The present Gymnasium is the old school-house which Oliver Wendell Holmes attended in his boyhood, and which he has immortalized in his poem read at the centennial celebration in 1878:

"The morning came. I reached the classic hall.
A clock face eyed me, staring from the wall.
Beneath its hands a printed line I read—
Youth is Life's Seed Time;' so the clock face said.
Some took its counsel, as the sequel showed,
Sowed their wild oats, and reaped as they had sowed.
How all comes back—the upward slanting floor.
The masters' thrones that flanked the master's door,
The long outstretching alleys that divide
The row of desks that stands on either side,
The staring boys, a face to every desk,
Bright, dull, pale, blooming, common, picturesque."

The life at Andover is more like college life than at most schools. The boys have their rooms in private boarding-houses, or small dormitories on and near the Hill. Here they do all their studying during day study hours, and here they must be at eight o'clock in the evening, for at a quarter before eight the academy bell begins to toll warningly until five minutes before the hour, when it rings rapidly. This means that every boy not within walking distance of his home must run, and woe to him who is discovered lingering on the street after eight!


Of course many of the teachers acquire great reputations as eagle-eyed detectives or lightning sprinters, and traditions are not dead yet of the hot races that have taken place between belated youths and some sprinting instructor. Sometimes this pursuer is a real teacher, but often he is only a boy theatrically made up to represent some dignified teacher, and who is out for a little exercise. I can remember one genuine race, when the culprit was discovered skylarking around the enchanted grounds of the "Fem. Sem." His pursuer, though a heavy man, and with the worst record in the faculty as a sprinter, maintained a most lively pace, and the race never ended until our young friend was dragged, panting and very much scared, from under his bed.

Besides these boarding-houses there are the famous English and Latin "Commons." These are ranged in rows at each end of the campus or playground. The houses, which resemble factory cottages, are not beautiful architecturally; but boys do not care for that usually. These rooms are very cheap, and are primarily meant for boys who cannot afford the greater luxury of private boarding-houses. Yet they are very comfortable, and, from the greater independence and pleasant dormitory life, many richer fellows are found there.

The life in these Commons is quite like college life. In front of each row is a low fence, where, as at Yale, fellows gather of a warm evening and sing songs and have a good sociable time generally. Each boy must care for his own room; and every Friday noon an inspection of rooms is made by the faculty, so that beds are made up and clothes put away once a week at least.


The day's work at Phillips begins at 8.10 in the morning, when, after much tolling and rapid ringing of the old bell, the whole five hundred boys assemble for prayers in the great Academy Hall, where hang the portraits of teachers and benefactors and founders of a century back. Recitations are held during the day until half past four, when all hands turn out for a good time. Every tennis-court and ball-ground is immediately more than occupied. The first teams begin to practise on the campus, the athletic team gets to work on the track, and bicyclers start off in all directions. Others stroll off for a walk to Indian Ridge, or the old railroad, or Sunset Rock, or Allen Hinton's. Allen Hinton is the famous ice-cream man. No one can make better ice-cream than he. Besides his fame as an ice-cream maker, he is the greatest fox-hunter for miles around, and his stories of fox-hunting and his experiences in the war are something worth hearing.

Then "Chap's" is a great meeting-place for those who like eating better than exercise. Here boys have drunk soda-water and eaten candy and griddle-cakes, and ruined their digestions for years and years. The benches and stalls are so thickly inscribed with names that it is difficult to find room to carve a new one.

Andover has always been noted for its fine athletic teams. The great rivalry between Exeter and Andover has brought the standard of athletics up very high, so that college Freshman teams are usually beaten by the Phillips boys, and even the Yale and Harvard 'varsity teams often have no easy task in overcoming them.

For many years the great events of the school year have been the football and baseball games with Exeter. For weeks before the game the chief topics of conversation are the chalices of victory and the prospects of this and that man for the team. As the day for the game draws near, the excitement increases. Crowds watch the daily practice, and under appointed leaders work up new cheers or practise on the old ones, so that those who do not belong to the teams have at least a chance to beat Exeter at yelling.

Finally the great day arrives. Every man in school who owns or can borrow a couple of dollars has his excursion ticket, and eight or ten yards of blue and white ribbon with which to decorate his cane, hat, and button-hole. After the morning recitation the whole school, supported by half the town of Andover and certain extraordinary mascots, board the special train for Exeter, gay with flags and ribbons, and noisy with tin horns. Even the cars and engine are draped with blue.


After reaching Exeter a rush is made for the campus, and a mad scramble for seats ensues. Those who are fortunate enough to belong to the secret societies have positions on gayly decked coaches. With Andover men massed on one side of the field and Exeter men on the other, an alternate contest of cheering at once takes place, like the Greek choruses of old. While waiting for the athletes to appear, the excitement is intense. For real genuine excitement a Harvard-Yale contest is a dull affair compared with an Andover-Exeter game.

When you are sixteen years old or less, and at Phillips, you don't care for close games. You want to see your own side make all the runs or touch-downs possible, and although cheering of opponents' errors is strictly against school courtesy, yet the more points your own team makes, and the poorer the other plays, the more you feel like yelling and waving your cane and slapping your friend on the back and congratulating yourself that you went to Andover instead of Exeter.

Such a contest as this was the baseball game of '87. About the seventh inning a mysterious-looking wagon containing something covered with a canvas drove rapidly across the field and disappeared in the woods behind. This strange appearance was soon forgotten in the interest of the game; but the wagon bore the instruments of the Andover Brass Band, who were concealed in the woods, and whom a loyal citizen had hired in case of victory. At the end of the game, when all Andover was tearing madly on the field and bearing off the victors on their shoulders, the band appeared on the scene in full blare. Every one fell in behind them, helping them out with tin horns and cries of "Left, left, left, the Exeter men got left!" And each year some new feature like this is introduced.

Then ensues the usual scene after a victory. The entire wild procession moves to the depot, followed by the chagrined and more or less angry Exeter men. At the depot, after some friendly scuffling and snatching of canes and colors for souvenirs, and deafening cheering on the part of everybody, the special train moves away for Andover, long before stripped of its blue colors, to supply those who have failed to bring a ribbon for themselves.

On the train the expressions of joy do not cease. Every brakeman or conductor who ventures inside a car is immediately put up for a speech. The brakemen often object, and smash their red lanterns about on the heads of small boys, who do not mind it in the least. When Andover is reached, all, tired and hoarse, but happy, make for their boarding-houses for a rousing supper and a little rest before the time-honored celebration in the evening. At half past eight this celebration takes place, and all sally forth, armed with tin horns of huge proportions. Study hours never count on celebration nights.

According to tradition, the members of the victorious team are drawn about in a barge by a rope long enough for the whole school. They are hauled about to the houses of the faculty. Each teacher is lustily cheered by his popular nickname, and then called forth to make a speech. After the round of the faculty houses, the whole mob, not a whit less noisy for all its exertions, retire to the campus. In less than twenty minutes a mass of oil-barrels and fence rails miraculously appears, and is heaped to the size of an ordinary barn. After a bath of kerosene oil a famous fire is set going. All join hands around the fire. The captain of the team is mounted on the shoulders of two sturdy friends. Every one gathers himself together for one last shout, and around they whirl in a wild weird dance. Then the fire begins to die down; it is getting toward midnight; the faculty begin to flit warningly about; all, tired and scarcely able to talk, go quietly home, and the great celebration is over.

This is a sample of what takes place after a victory. After defeat the town in the evening is silent as the grave, and the depression for several days is quite appalling. In these games feeling often runs high, but such things as fights are very rare. At such times Andover and Exeter men speak disrespectfully of each other, but the chances are that one's best friends at college may be these very opponents, and perhaps one likes them all the better for having once done them an injustice.

But Andover does not go in for athletics alone. In their studies the boys are so well trained that at college they usually take high position in their classes without any difficulty whatever. For those who are inclined to literary pursuits there is the Phillipian to try for. It is issued twice a week, and it is considered a great honor to become a member of the editing board. Then there is the Mirror every month, which contains literature of a more solid character. Besides these there are yearly publications which offer prizes for drawings. The Philomathean Society, which has held meetings for seventy years, is the debating society. Those who are sensible enough to join this, and practise speaking before a crowd, receive a training that helps them wonderfully all their lives. This society and a flourishing branch of the Y.M.C.A. are powerful influences in the school. What with the different prize speakings, the glee and banjo clubs, the track-athletic and tennis teams, and numberless other organizations, every boy has a chance to distinguish himself.

Sunday is a delightful day at Andover. The afternoon stroll with one's best friend in the beautiful country around is perhaps the pleasantest experience in the week. Boys are obliged to attend church twice on Sunday, but few of them object to this compulsory attendance, for the services are conducted in turn by the professors of the Theological Seminary, all of whom are very distinguished and interesting men, who never fail to interest their hearers.

The Theological Seminary is situated near the school, and as is always the case, the men are closer students and more devoted to their work than are the members of the Academy proper. That does not mean, however, that they do not join the latter in their social and athletic life. Once they had a baseball team that could completely demolish the Phillips nine. Their pitcher, a famous Yale player, was said to be the only man in the country who could deliver a "snake" curve.

Near Phillips Academy also is situated the Abbot Female Academy. This is a large girls' school. No uninvited boy is allowed on these sacred premises, and all intercourse between the two schools is forbidden. Nevertheless, the stories of midnight serenaders and of encounters with Pat, the Fem. Sem. policeman, would fill a volume.

Every Andover man loves his school, not only for the fun and scrapes that he had there, but for the good that he has received from it. Many of his strongest friendships were formed there, and much of his success at college and in after-life has depended on the associations made at school, while those who have not gone to college feel that they gained at Andover an education by no means scanty.