Rounding out our reports on Austin gems that celebrated their centennials this week, Matthews and Metz elementary schools proved that too much of a good thing is still a good thing.
The crowds for their joint birthday parties at the Austin History Center overflowed the main assembly hall to fill the corridors and lobbies where the excellent “Making the Grade” exhibit explains Austin’s schooling past. Choirs sang theirs school songs as well as the state’s dusty, old anthem, “Texas, Our Texas.” Dignitaries, such as former Austin school district superintendent Pat Forgione, spoke about the role of public schools in the city’s making.
Matthews, built at 906 W. Lynn St., provided education for better-off Anglo children who lived west of Shoal Creek and east of the Great International and Northern Railroad, in what is now called Old West Austin and Clarksville. Metz, 804 Robert Martinez, Jr. St., served working class Anglos and a few Latinos in lower East Austin. When Zavala Elementary School was built just a few blocks away in 1936, most area Latinos were steered in that direction. That trend was reversed as the neighborhood changed again.
Yet as archivist Molly Hults ably demonstrates in “Making the Grade,” this story isn’t just about de facto or de jure segregation. The fluid histories of Austin schools overlap and generate unexpected currents and eddies. I hope the Center makes a book out it.