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Remembering North Salem's Teacher Curfew

NORTH SALEM, N.Y., September 1927 - The principal, teachers and janitor of the North Salem public school were requested to observe a 10 o’clock curfew, reported The New York Times . Charles E. Keeler, president of the Board of Education, asked school staff to limit their evenings out on school days to a 10 o’clock closure, in order to “create an example to follow.”

Keeler said the step was taken so that, “those concerned may be in the best condition for instruction and training of children. If children see teachers on the street or attending functions after 10 o’clock, they too might be inclined to follow the lead. It would be very detrimental to their health and studies.

“From a business point of view,” he added, “teachers are paid by the board, so [we] have a right to expect them to be on the job when the school bell rings in the morning, clear-eyed and keen for the day’s duties.” He did not call for them to be bushy-tailed.

Two days later, The Times reported, “The so-called curfew came and went tonight.” The teachers were not home by 10 o’clock. They had gone to Brewster to see the film, Beau Geste, starring Ronald Colman.

Nor was Mr. Keeler at home. “His landlady said he would not be in until tomorrow.” He was tracked down, visiting at the home of the Reverend Dr. Robert Russell, 92-year-old Episcopal clergyman.

Keeler said he was pained by the “adverse publicity that had accrued in North Salem since the newspapers started printing the [curfew] story. The newspapers all got me wrong. All we did was to request the teachers to be in bed by 10 o’clock at least three nights a week. There was no compulsion.”

Keeler made it clear that he is in favor of early hours for teachers. “We may be old-fashioned, but we think teaching is like any other business. When a girl enters it, we believe that her mind and energies should be on her school first and on movies and dancing second. At least for three nights a week.”

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