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Miss. Wallaces School for Girls and Boys

A Handbook Of Private Schools For American Boys And Girls An Annual Survey Twenty Second Edition
by Porter Sargent, Publication date 1938:

MISS WALLACE'S SCHOOL, 303 Pacific Ave. Girls Bdg 12-18, Day 3-18; Boys 3-13 Est 1923. Mary Wallace, Head Mistress.

Enr: Bdg 8, Day 22. Fac: 12. Tui: Bdg $1000-1400, Day $300-400. Courses 14 yrs: Pre-Primary Grades I-VIII High Sch 1-4 Col Prep English Diploma Domestic Science Languages. Proprietary. Undenominational. CE B candidates '37, 0; '32-
36, 2. Entered Col '34, 16. Alumni 21. Accredited to Calif Univ, Mills, etc.
This school was opened by Miss Wallace after many years as a teacher. The lower school is coeducational.

miss wallace school map.jp2

Oakland Tribune - Thu - Jan. 1, 1931:

Miss Wallace's School in Piedmont hai for six years held, every class out of doors in all weathers.

"The education of the child," says this educator, "Is conceded  the most vital problem that faces the world today. There are three phases of this education the physical, the mental and the spiritual and each of these is dependent upon the others, so teaching is a
complex problem..


"Every health educator is preaching fresh air, and sunlight, yet the average child sits in practically closed schoolrooms, breathing the air vitiated by his companions and so lowering his resistance to infectious disease.

"Schoolrooms are sheltered verandas facing the south and it is extraordinary how free the children are from the bugbear of every teacher the common ordinary cold'.'

Modesto News Herald - Sat - Jul. 30, 1932:

Two outstanding mistakes that Miss Wallace feels have been made in modern education are: The lack of individual instruction and the neglect of the physical welfare of the pupil.

Small classes, in which individual problems are given attention, are held outdoors at the school, and, Miss Wallace said, the two thoughts kept constantly in mind are the need for leaders in modern life, and the necessity for physical fitness.

Stockton Daily Independent -

Sun - Jan. 19, 1930

The Fresno Bee The Republican - Sun - Dec. 27, 1942:

School For Girls Has High Standards

One of the highest academic standings in the West is enjoyed by Miss Wallace's School for Girls, located in the Piedmont hills of the bay district.

Students at the accredited institution repeatedly have made excellent showings in nationwide tests, having won a cup three times in the past few years.

Semiannual plays are an interesting feature of the program, as stagecraft and costuming are taught in conjunction with diction and acting. Teas, dances, plays, concerts and opera are part of the curriculum. Domestic opportunities are offered in cooking, sewing and the care of children.


The various activities are intended to give each girl poise, termed by heads of the school the greatest quality a girl can acquire.


Oakland Tribune - Thu - Jan. 1, 1931

The Shurtleff and Lawton families : genealogy and history by Shurtleff, William, Publication date 2005

So in September 1927 they were both enrolled for a year at Miss Wallace's school in the Piedmont hills. Miss Wallace was a teacher with modern ideas. Some of the classes were held out-of-doors. The kids studied Latin, played tennis, and learned how to pass an entrance exam. 

The Collegian Magazine,  April 30, 2019

"It all started in a small very snooty place called Piedmont." So my grandmother begins her unpublished memoir How Green Was My Volley. 

I find it, twenty-seven unstapled pieces of paper, in a drawer in my dad’s desk. I don’t remember what I was looking for. The font is large and the sentences succinct. It maps a time far before mine when my grandmother was young and unattached to children or to a husband or to money. There is a brevity to her prose that I am unable to unpack. It’s difficult to tease out a deeper emotional significance from terse sentences such as “Well … I liked winning.”

Arvilla’s hands are so small that they can’t fit around any of the tennis rackets available at Mrs. Wallace’s School for Girls and Boys, and so a special racket is cut for her. Miniature, with a delicate handle. Mrs. Wallace’s School has only thirty students and only three walls. A fourth wall can be created by drawing a thick canvas curtain, but the curtain is only used if the weather is especially bad. On the usual cold California days that Mrs. Wallace, a strict, widowed, English woman, doesn’t think worthy of the fourth wall, the children attend classes with thick wool blankets. 

The grass on the tennis court is overgrown, and the ground bumpy and uneven. But something inside her clicks when she steps onto the court. There is a certain fluidity to my grandmother’s form, a sort of angelic grace that does not exist in her movements off court. Mrs. Wallace, standing on the sidelines by the net, notices and enters Arvilla into her first tournament, the Kiddie Cup. 

“It so happened that I won the Kiddie Cup tournament and at age ten fell in love with the game,” my grandmother writes. She follows this with the enthusiastic declaration: “That is the beginning of my story ‘HOW GREEN WAS MY VOLLEY.’”

All she does is practice, but she loves it. After finishing her school work, mostly Shakespeare (Mrs. Wallace assigns lots of Shakespeare), she goes to the court. Her parents, Tesa and Hollister McGuire, tight-lipped and prudent, don’t quite understand their daughter’s obsession with the game. There is something soothing about the smell of the clay, the sound the ball makes when it hits the center of the racket just right. And the control. 


Oakland Tribune - Sun - Aug. 31, 1952

PIEDMONT, Aug. 30. - Miss Mary Wallace, whose private school here has drawn students from all over the world for the past 27 years, unexpectedly announced today the school would not reopen on September 16.

Miss Wallace said she was retiring to pursue a writing career. Her announcement sounded the doom of the famed school at 303 Pacific Avenue, known as Miss Wallace's School for Girls, which occupies the former Towne mansion with a square block of property, including tennis courts, a large classroom building and service structures.

The school's white-haired founder said she probably would sell the big building where many of her students boarded. The white structure has about 18 rooms. Its living room, which has a sweeping view of the bay, can seat more than 200 persons.


Miss Wallace said she had not yet decided what to do with the remainder of the school property. But she will continue to live in the former classroom structure.


Coming to Piedmont after living with her family in many parts of the world, including New York, where she was born; London, San Diego and Calistoga, Miss Wallace first began her school in a house on Sotelo Avenue in 1925.


Shortly afterwards she purchased the hilltop Towne mansion and remodeled it to accommodate the flow of students who came in small numbers from all over the United States, the Orient, Alaska and Mexico.

Although known as Miss Wallace's School for Girls, the school had taught boys up to the eighth grade and girls through high

Among its graduates have been R. Stanley Dollar, Diana Dollar, now Mrs. Joseph Hickingbotham Jr.; Barbara Wright, Arvilla MeGuire and Dorothy Warenskjold, the opera singer.


More than 100 students attended the school in small classes
through the years. The institution had about 10 teachers.


Miss Wallace said some of her teachers would instruct pupils privately where hardships had school.


"But I'm going to move to a small place somewhere," she said firmly, "and write a book.”

Oakland Tribune - Fri - Mar. 24, 1961


Mary Wallace, Girls' School Founder, Dies

Miss Mary Wallace is mourned today by pupils-including social, civic and industrial leaders-of the exclusive private school she operated here for 35 years.


Miss Wallace, who was 81, remained the strong personality and vital leader of the school at 116 Hagar St. until she became ill two weeks ago. She died yesterday in an Oakland rest home,


During the years her school gave educational impetus to boys and girls, many of whom later distinguished themselves.


Until 1952 the institution was known as Miss Walace's School for Girls, although boys were taught up to the eighth grade. Girls studied there through high school and were boarded there.

Her announcement then that she was closing the school caused such a storm of pro- test that she abandoned plans for retirement. Since then she has operated a co-educational grammar school.


Miss Wallace was an exponent of fresh air, so much so her pupils were instructed in rooms with only three walls, the fourth side being exposed to the outdoors. Each pupil had his own wool robe to put over knees in cold weather. The result was regarded as a
healthy regime without colds.


A woman with a consuming interest in culture, for years she supervised production of a Shakespeare play in June and a Christmas morality play.

Graduates of the school included the noted soprano Dorothy Warenskjold, R. Stanley Dollar and the former Diana Dollar, now Mrs. Joseph Hickingbotham.


A native of New York, Miss Wallace was educated in London. She was a country schoolteacher in the Napa Valley before coming to Piedmont. She began her school in 1925 in a house on (26) Sotelo Ave.


Shortly afterwards she purchased the hilltop Towne mansion at 303 Pacific Ave, and remodeled it to accommodate the flow of students from throughout the United States and abroad.


After the boarding school was closed, the old Towne property was sold and the school consolidated in the annex next door, with living quarters for Miss Wallace above it.

They were shared by Mrs. Frank C. Kelsey, assistant head mistress and old friend, who has been associated with the school for years.

Miss Wallace's only relative is a niece, Julia Wallace, in Australia.

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