STOCKTON: Youngsters enjoy solving ‘a true historical puzzle’

By Linda Seida, Staff Writer
   STOCKTON — Stockton Borough Elementary School teacher Doug Hudak was driving along Main Street in New Hope when his gaze fell on a pile of discarded material on the lawn of a house that was being demolished.
   He hadn’t been looking for anything special on his drive through town, but what he found turned out to be very special indeed when he shared it with 13 fifth- and sixth-graders.
   Mr. Hudak had stumbled on a crumbling newspaper that had been published July 1, 1906. The pages were falling apart, so he put the pieces in a bag and brought them back to school and his students.
   ”I was literally handing it to them and it was crumbling,” he said.
   He hoped the students would get a half-hour or an hour of hands-on science and discovery out of examining the newspaper. Instead they got two days’ worth earlier this month.
   ”A solid two days of very inquisitive things,” Mr. Hudak said. “They were enthralled. The things that they found were amazing.”
   The boys and girls had to piece together the crumbling pages if they wanted to read to the end of an article. Mr. Hudak described it as “a true historical puzzle. They couldn’t look to me and say, ‘Can you give me the answer?’ They loved being investigators.”
   An article about President William Howard Taft’s daughter, Helen, and her social engagement at Lake Champlain moved one student to learn more about both the president and the location. “She immediately looked it up on the Internet,” Mr. Hudak said.
   They saw many advertisements for horses. They also saw about a half-dozen ads placed by girls looking for work.
   While the students live in an age when the first black president of the United States is about to take office, the ads gave a glimpse into a very different time. They all started with the words “Colored girl wants job.”
   The price of goods in 1906 tickled the students, and sometimes the goods themselves did, too. For example, no one they know wears yachting shoes, but they saw an ad that said, “Women’s yachting shoes and oxfords” sold for $3 and $3.50. Men’s ties were “26 cents on Fridays only.”
   Unfortunately, the pieces of newspaper Mr. Hudak managed to save did not contain the name of the publication. The class determined it must have been a Philadelphia newspaper because most of the ads were for Philadelphia businesses.