Hazel Lutz envisioned a museum only for children, where they could learn and play, and not be told "Don't Touch." Her dream
came true in 1953, when Manchester's PTA Council decided to sponsor a museum named in her honor. They listened to her idea
of a place where children could enrich their lives through hands-on art activities, contact with nature, history, other
cultures, and many other facets of knowledge.
Even before the establishment of a museum, Miss Lutz practiced her forward-thinking educational concepts. As an art teacher, and, later, Manchester's art supervisor, she brought into class objects and pictures that she collected herself. She encouraged her friends and family to collect and donate artifacts on their travels. She carried her displays in boxes in the trunk of her car from school to school, and incorporated them into her lesson plans. Many of her students still remember the boxes, and the excitement of Miss Lutz's visits.
Florence Johnson, of Manchester, recalls Miss Lutz's coming to Keeney School in the 1930s. "She came to our school once a month. She had a childlike face, a lovely smile, and a soft voice. She wore a blue coat with a white fur color. She was very charming, and very nice to us."
Dick Jenkins, Manchester High School graduating class of 1955, said he adored Miss Lutz. "I first met her when I was a student at Lincoln School. Oh, how I loved Miss Hazel Lutz! She encouraged me to draw and paint. She was very soft-spoken and gentle. She carried herself in the same way – she never charged into a room or down a corridor. Her demeanor while giving a lesson was much like Mr. Rogers. She always had time for you."
Michael Cronin, MHS class of 1961, remembers that "Miss Lutz had the bluest eyes on the planet, and they had a radiant sparkle."
Her fellow teachers also praise Miss Lutz. Thelma Woodbridge, MHS class of 1929, taught elementary school from 1934 to 1970. "Once a month Hazel Lutz had a meeting with all her teachers. The first-grade teachers would meet with her at Lincoln School on one particular day, and the second-grade teachers another day, and so on. She would give us lesson plans for art, and we would teach from those lesson plans. Once a month, she would come to each classroom and teach the art class, and we would be there also. She was a lovely Lady, with a capital ‘L,' very meticulous. I never saw her without a hat – she made them herself. She was quiet, slight, slender, and truly an artist. She made her own Christmas cards, and I've saved every one she sent me. I was very fond of her."
Ed Timbrell, retired teacher and elementary school principal, started teaching at Waddell School shortly after it opened in 1952. "There was a bomb shelter in the basement at Waddell School, and a huge area there where emergency rations and stretchers were stored. That was where Miss Lutz's collections were kept.
"Miss Lutz made a big impression on me with her tips for teachers. To this day, when I see artwork on school windows, I remember it wasn't permitted. Windows were to let the light in. And when you hung things on the wall or bulletin boards, she said to tape them down in all four corners so they will be neat. She was a very neat person. When she came in to work with the children, she was always very soft-spoken, lady-like, and gracious. She wore the white gloves and the hat. At that time, it made an impression on us.
She had good ideas, and quite a bit of persuasiveness – not the table-pounding type of persuasiveness, but a gentle type.
"She was great working with our kids. She commanded respect. The kids didn't need to be chastised all the time. If they weren't paying attention, she'd remind them very gently what they were supposed to be doing.
"Hazel was an unusual person. She thought the kids ought to have museum-type things that they could handle. That idea is still is one of the prime parts of the museum."
When the museum was getting started, it benefited from the generosity of the PTA and local residents, and many volunteers. The Manchester Herald reported in June 1987 a gift from the Lutz family of $400,000.
The town of Manchester provided the museum with its first building – the old Cheney School House on Cedar Street. Charles Jacobson, M.D., third president of the Lutz Board, described a $2,500 gift from Trinity College, which financed the construction of hard cardboard boxes to tote collections to the schools.
Other donations and funding came from local businesses, and today they come from museum members and sponsors far and wide, including the town Board of Education, the federal government (early childhood education grant), the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the Foulds Family Foundation, the Mayor's Fund, and other non-profit organizations.
The museum was only one of Miss Lutz's accomplishments. She was an artist, author, community activist, and nationally known educator. She wrote the elementary art curriculum for Connecticut's Department of Education, many articles on art for professional journals, and chaired the committee that wrote, "This Is Manchester," a book on local history geared toward young people. She drew the illustrations and maps in the book.
Ed. Note: Miss Lutz's "This Is Manchester" book can be accessed on this web site by clicking: This Is Manchester. It is one of the many items on the Kids' Corner home page.
During World War II, she organized 4,000 children's victory gardens in Manchester. She was a founding member of the Manchester Historical Society, and was active in both Manchester and Rockville public libraries. Rockville was her hometown, and she lived at 2 Reed Street her whole life, 1902-1985. The large Victorian house was surrounded by Miss Lutz's extensive gardens. She had one sister, Dr. Cora E. Lutz, and one brother, Frank G. Lutz, who ran the family's hardware store in Rockville. Hazel Lutz never married. In describing her, Charles Jacobson said, "Miss Lutz was a magnificent spinster. The students worshipped her." During her teaching career, she had the company of several other talented single women: the Misses Elisabeth Bennet, Esther Granstrom, Ethel Robb and Hulda Butler, who devoted considerable energy to educating Manchester's youngsters.
Bob Eckert, Executive Director of the museum, displays Miss Lutz's words in framed posters at the museum. He finds these words fresh and inspiring, although Miss Lutz penned them decades ago: "We must at all times keep a well-balanced museum appealing to all facets of a child's curiosity. Nature, Science, Industry, Art, Ethnology, and History must be kept in delicate balance so that no one field of man's experience dominates all the others. In a museum, as in all living things, there is no standing still. We must move forward or we drift backward. No institution is so perfect that it cannot be improved – so it is with ours – a place where leisure learning is a happy experience – a task never ending."
Reproduced 2011 from www.mhs1955.com with permission of its webmaster Dick Jenkins.
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