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Encyclopedia Dubuque

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PARK LIFE

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Under the banner of "Park Life" boys work on a farm. American Primary Teacher, Boston: New England Publishing Company, September 1910, p. 245
A photograph of Park Life participants having a picnic.
PARK LIFE. Park Life, a pioneering Dubuque program to prevent juvenile delinquency, was the idea of B. J. HORCHEM, a Dubuque educator and principal of AUDUBON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. (1) Established in 1907 as an outdoor camp where boys planted gardens and studied nature, Park Life was Horchem's way of keeping city children involved in positive activities over the summer. He hoped that eventually the public schools would become year-round making the summer outdoor classes part of the regular program. His motto was "Form, Not Reform."

In 1910 the camp was located at the far end of EAGLE POINT PARK in an open field and a short distance from the forest. Tents were used only for sleeping at night and were open all day. A house on the property was used for a kitchen and workhouse. All the cooking for the camp was done by one of the twelve to fifteen boys attending. The additional space was used to store the tools needed for camping, carpentry, and field work. In 1910 the latest additions included a front porch to the concrete house. (2)

The day began at 5:30 a.m. with a swim in the river. Breakfast was served as soon as they return and the the dishes were washed. Three acres of land around the camp was cultivated by the boys. Among the crops were potatoes, onions, parsley, radishes, and corn. On a typical day, two boys took hand cultivators to root out weeds. Others gathered vegetables for the day's meals and the rest work wit tools to repair or improve the conveniences around the camp. After lunch, chores were resumed until a game was started that involved everyone. Following supper, the boys were allowed to do their own activities until sleep time was called. (3)

All nature studies were done on living subjects with the destruction of anything discouraged. In 1910 two groups of the New York Minorca eggs were sent to the boys by a U. S. Customs Inspector. Iowa State Game Warden George A. Lincoln gave the boys a number of pheasant eggs to observe. The park at that time covered 250 acres. (4)

The program was incorporated in 1911 with a board of directors that included Judge Matthew C. MATTHEWS, George W. Myers, Robert Percy ROEDELL and a board of trustees that included twenty-four of Dubuque's most prominent business and professional leaders. The chapter was part of the Agassiz Association. (5)

Park Life received glowing reports in the May, 1912 issue of American Magazine and great interest at the National Education Association meeting in San Francisco. It, however, had a difficult time financially. Horchem kept the project going initially using his own money. Local businessmen later came to his aid. On April 21, 1911, Park Life was incorporated. The following year, the 415-acre Zollicoffer farm just north of Dubuque was purchased for Park Life use.

Horchem plan drew nationwide attention. In June, 1912 in addressing a group of educators in Cleveland, Ohio, he remarked that "a school boy from twelve years upwards, afloat on the streets, learning no good, is an indictment of our educational system." In addition to the work of caring for different kinds of crops and varieties of animals there should be other diversions like fishing, swimming, and rowing--always something to do, whether physical or intellectual. He admitted freely that Park Life involved the principles of the Boy Scout movement, Garden movement, and PLAYGROUND MOVEMENT. He believed, however, that Park Life cultivated culture with recreation and took the boys not only to the wilderness but to scenes of industrial, scientific, or commercial interest. (6)

The financial prosperity of Park Life was short-lived and the movement came to an end. Despite Horchem’s plans to establish metal and woodworking shops, financial aid to the project gradually declined. The development of other youth organizations also took away potential members.

A Park Life magazine was attempted in 1910. The following is the June issue:

Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Photo courtesy: Murphy Library Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.


































































































































































































































































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Source:

1. Today's Education Vol. 6, Washington, D. C.: National Education Association of the United States, 1917, p. 161

2. The Guide to Nature, Connecticut: The Agassiz Association, 1909, p. 33. Online: http://books.google.com/books?id=7c4eAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA33&lpg=PA33&dq=Park+Life+%28dubuque%29&source=bl&ots=t-tNGkJTmr&sig=7bVNayveKrMENann4em3d-fJAGM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=iIdNU-3hIrbKsQTF-oCoCw&ved=0CH4Q6AEwCg#v=onepage&q=Park%20Life%20%28dubuque%29&f=false

3. "Park Life Camp in Full Swing," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, June 26, 1910, p. 5

4. "Park Life Improved," Telegraph Herald, May 26, 1910, p. 6

5. "Park Life Idea Grows," Telegraph Herald-Times Journal, April 24, 1912, p. 5

6. "Tells Educators of Park Life Plan," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, June 16, 1912, p. 16