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WYOMING FIRST: Polished Corners of the Temple Wall by Lea Schoenewald


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This week we are featuring Polished Corners of the Temple Wall by Lea Schoenewald from Thermopolis, Wyoming

Author Lea Schoenewald, Thermopolis, Wyoming PO Box549 Thermopolis,WY 82443

Lea Schoenewald was born and raised in Thermopolis.  She grew up hearing stories about Ivinson Hall, a boarding school for girls in Laramie, from her mother, Bette (DeBerry) Cavalli, who was born and raised in Laramie.  Lea’s mother didn’t attend Ivinson Hall, but she did attend the University of Wyoming’s Prep School in Laramie with the Ivinson Hall girls.  So did her mother’s sister, Gladys (DeBerry) Rees and their cousin, Marion (Keller) Meyers. The school was in existence from 1921-1957.  Edward Ivinson donated his beautiful home (known as the “Ivinson Mansion”) to the Episcopal Missionary District of Wyoming, to be used as a boarding school for Wyoming farm and ranch girls.  They lived in the mansion during the school year and walked up Ivinson Avenue every school day to attend Prep. The stories Lea most remember from her Mom, Gladys, and Marion were about how strict the rules were at Ivinson Hall and how the girls had to wear uniforms.  The principal from 1934-1952, Miss Whitehead, had a very strong influence on all of the girls; as did all of the Ivinson principals.

In 1993, Lea attended her mother’s 50th high school reunion with her.  Lea thinks that may have been the time she started thinking about writing a book about Ivinson Hall. In 1998, Lea decided to “jump in” and see what might happen.  The first person she spoke to about Ivinson Hall was Beverly MacNeel, Edward and Jane Ivinson’s great-granddaughter.  She received much of the information included in the introduction and chapter I of the book and was encouraged to pursue the project. Lea’s aunt Gladys lived in Laramie and knew so many people with ties to Ivinson Hall.  Gladys sent her to the Laramie Plains Museum, where Lea had total access to the Ivinson Hall, and the entire Laramie Plains Museum archive, plus wonderful encouragement and assistance. Dorothy (Holmes) “Spezie” Cleveland, an Ivinson Hall girl who lived in Laramie, got Lea in contact with several other Ivinson Hall girls.  She also had donated several pieces of Ivinson Hall memorabilia to the Laramie Plains Museum, including one of her Ivinson Hall handbooks.  It contained the words to the Ivinson Hall hymn, “Polished Corners of the Temple Wall”.  That’s when Lea knew she had found the title for the book.

Because Ivinson Hall was sponsored by the Episcopal Church, the St. Matthew’s Cathedral archive was a source of many pictures and accounts of Ivinson Hall, as well as copies of “The Wyoming Churchman” newsletters. Her mother had saved all of her Prep “Saddlebag” newspapers, which were a wealth of Prep and Ivinson Hall information; pictures of her mother and articles about her and her Ivinson Hall friends. The staff at the Laramie Daily Boomerang gave Lea full access to their archive. Lea compiled articles and photographs about Ivinson Hall and Prep that appeared in the Boomerang, the Republican, and the Daily Bulletin during Ivinson Hall’s existence. She also spent countless hours in the Chisum Special Collections Room at Coe Library, The American Heritage Center, the Albany County Library, and the Coe Media Center.  The articles and photographs are presented in the book exactly as they appeared in the papers. The staff at the University Lab School provided Lea with a DVD of all the Prep yearbooks from 1920 to 2007.  It was amazing to see how the Ivinson girls changed over the years—hairstyles, music they listened to, how they dressed, what was acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and how they saw the world in which they lived.Lea’s favorite part of this whole process was calling the women who attended Ivinson Hall, or their families and friends, and telling them about the book.  Each person shared their reminiscences, and whether brief or lengthy, each added much to what really became an historical tapestry.

In the summer of 2011, Lea retired from teaching.  She thought for all intents and purposes, she was done with the book, and set out to celebrate that accomplishment.  But then her dear friend Mary Mountain, Executive Director of the Laramie Plains Museum, suggested she include current events throughout the book. With many more weeks of research, Lea printed out a timeline of current events from “Wikepedia”, and asked her high school Civics teacher for his help.  They sat for hours at his kitchen table, as he helped her choose and verify the events to include.  He also had insights into the various events that Lea couldn’t possibly have gotten anywhere else. Many people have said the current events added such a relevant perspective to the history.  Several of the Ivinson Hall girls also commented that the current events helped bring back memories more vividly for them. Lea’s biggest hope is that the people who appear in the book, their families and friends, are pleased and they feel that their memories have been honored.  Lea hopes that the memory of Ivinson Hall is honored as well, how it came to be, and the amazing people who were associated with it over the years. Lea feels truly blessed to have had this opportunity.

There will be a book signing Saturday, Oct. 13th, in the University of Wyoming Union from 11-1.  The book is also available at the UW Bookstore, the Depot Gift Shop and State Museum Gift Shop in Cheyenne, the Laramie Plains Museum Gift Shop, Wind City Books and Blue Heron Books in Casper, the Little Snake River Museum in Savery, the Storyteller and Hot Springs County Museum and Cultural Center in Thermopolis, Dog-Eared Books in Afton, Whistle-Stop Book Store and the Wyoming State Pioneer Museum in Douglas, and at

Patricia Frolander, Wyoming’s Poet Laureate for 2011-2013, said of this book:  “Impeccably researched, delightfully written, remarkably interesting. Don't miss an opportunity to come to know these women who have enriched the Wyoming landscape."

Lea’s current project is assisting Charlie Petersen of Laramie in writing an historical novel about the Big Boy locomotives coming to the West.  It will be called Full Steam Ahead. VISIT OUR WEBSITE & READ THE CURRENT ISSUE: OUR SISTER PUBLICATIONS:  Wyoming Weddings  Wyovore  WYO XY The Wyoming Woman