A stern looking man with a stiff upper lip, Principal Gerhardus Bos walked to the North Fourth Street Christian School building on 221 N. 4th Street in Paterson, New Jersey on a hot September morning. As the factory whistles chimed in the distance, some of the children were playing on the pavement near the side of the school as they often did. Some of the teachers had arrived early to set up for the school day.
The children would file into the hallways, enter their classrooms, enter into Mr. Bos’ office to hand him quarters for the weekly tuition, and resume the day as usual.
However, this day was a more prominent day in the life of Gerhardus Bos. It was his 40th anniversary of teaching at North 4th Street School, what Eastern Christian would later become.
Editor-in-Chief for the “Eastern Echoes” yearbook and newspaper, founder of the name “Eastern Academy” and Christian secondary schools in the Passaic County area, the gym, Bible, history, math, geography, and drawing teacher, benefactor for the opening of the school library, and so much more, Mr. Gerhardus Bos launched Eastern Christian into what it currently is today and helped spread Christian education within the immediate area.
Where It all Started
With an overflow of students in the Amity Street school and a small school wage pay, Mr. Gerhardus Bos joined the organization in (presumed) 1897. With about 75 students enrolled in the small school, Mr. Bos taught in room three. As Eastern Christian got off to a shaky start, notably the student population decreasing and the constant fluctuation of teachers and a wavering support from the public, the principal and staff pushed on with hard work, determination, and sacrifice to provide Christian education to the children in the area.
Soon, the little school began to grow again and in 1899, a new school, “School B,” began to meet in the basement of Paterson’s Fourth Church. In 1908, when the school became overcrowded again, students, waving banners and holding flags, marched from the Amity Street building to the new North Fourth Street building where the school was now located.
The education only went up to 8th grade at this point.
It is unclear what happened during the period of 1908-1912. However, in the years of 1913-1914, an attempt was made to have Christian secondary education in Paterson after teachers wanted training for education. Mr. Bos was one of the first teachers to participate in this experiment. Unfortunately, only one pupil enrolled in his class for high school, Garret Andre. After a disappointing campaign, the subject was dropped until five years later.
Christian Secondary Education in Paterson
Finally, after some support was whipped up for the idea of a secondary Christian school and some postponements of meetings on the subject, in the hall of Holland Young Men’s Christian Association (HYMCA), 150-300 people had shown up for the meeting to discuss the fate of their decision. After a speech from Reverend M. Vander May, a final decision was made to draft a constitution for this new idea.
Mr. Gerardus Bos was one of the individuals assigned to this job and was elected to be on the first board of directors.
It was, furthermore, voted that the secondary school should be on the second floor of the North 4th Street building and serve not only the Dutch community in the surrounding area, but the children outside of Paterson as well named “The Christian High School for Paterson and Vicinity.”
The Slow Beginnings
On September 3, 1919, the new high school building opened on the second floor of the North 4th Street building and around 17 new students enrolled. Gerhardus Bos was acting principal for the new high school and was principal for the North 4th Street building as well.
In need of new desks in the building, as the students had been using wooden horses as desks, Principal Bos and a new teacher, Mr. Schoolland, with the help of several others, unpacked the new desks and screwed them to the floor.
Now, things were beginning to move along.
Mr. Schoolland and Principal Bos split up the teaching jobs evenly between the two of them. Mr. Schoolland would teach Latin, history, algebra and English while Mr. Bos taught review of American history, math, geography, and some drawing.
In 1921, student enrollment in the new high school increased dramatically and with that came the need for more teaching opportunities. More teachers were added on board to the school, some coming and going (Mr. Schoolland had left during this period), but the new high school was finally able to boast three teachers, Messrs. J. P. Van Amstel, Mr. J. G. Kooistra, and Mr. Fred Haan, the science teacher, and a principal, Mr. Gerhardus Bos.
While pay may not have been the best and enrollment fluctuated chaotically, God continued to provide for the new secondary school.
After some discussion with the Christian Schools in the Midwest about textbooks and courses with Mr. Bos, the school board had decided to add higher grades to the school and added classes such as advanced math and science. Mr. Bos had communicated with teachers from Saint John’s High School about needed science equipment. Through careful spending and some sacrifices, this was able to be completed.
The Bible class was taken over by Miss Bell from Gerhardus Bos and as some students returned for teaching jobs for the elementary school, North Fourth Street, Mr. Gerhardus continued teaching review subjects.
A set of rules were drawn up for the teachers and students by Mr. Bos and the school board, which would result in detention if broken:
Talking out loud in the study room
Talking back to a teacher
Whispering when not necessary
Throwing or shooting paper
Making undue noise during change of periods
Coming late without a proper excuse
When sent to the office
When homework or assignments were not finished
And for teachers:
Be prepared for every study
Be strict, but just
Don’t lecture; discuss
Be on time
Don’t keep the whole class in for detention unless the trouble maker cannot be detected; then we hold the class guilty
The board wishes the teachers to be fair and just but strict
In September of 1922, the library began to grow after a purchase of thirty books and two bookshelves. Mr. Bos contributed to the library after finding “a beautiful selection of books at a cheap price” in New York. Furthermore, a kickstarter campaign was led through “The Eastern Echoes,” the school newspaper, for library books. The goal was about 1,000 books. The goal was never met, but a good effort was made and many books did enter the newly formed library.
In the same year, after financial hardships and at the brink of bankruptcy, Eastern Christian needed a remodel. The board raised tuition to $40.00 and after Mr. Bos’ negotiation with another school in Iowa, the name “Eastern Academy” was chosen for its appealing sound for the new high school. A bazaar was held to gather the school community and to raise money for projects. This was accomplished and the school was back on track.
Later, official recognition for the high school, as promoted by Mr. Bos, was made on January 9th, 1923.
During the first three years of his administration, Mr. Bos taught physical education which included callisthenics and some games. It was soon taken over by another teacher and accounted for her progress in “The Echoes,” now a growing outlet for Eastern Christian news, of which Mr. Bos was the Editor-in-Chief (first appearance in January of 1923).
Extracurricular activities increased within the school community during this time such as a chorus club, debating, and a Christmas program that was performed by the juniors and seniors.
The first graduation was held in 1923 with nine graduates; five girls and four boys-- four began teaching at North Fourth Street Christian and some left for higher education in college.
God continued to provide for the school and through the administration of Gerhardus Bos as principal of North 4th Street Christian and Eastern Academy.
In 1924, Eastern Academy was moved away from the North 4th Street building and was now on North 7th Street in Paterson. A change in administration had begun as well from Gerhardus Bos to William G. Rozeboom. Mr. Bos continued to stay the principal at North 4th Street.
It is unclear exactly what happened after his administration in Eastern Academy, but he continued to be principal of the North 4th Street Christian School until his retirement in 1949, which marked his teaching for 40 years.
Mr. Gerhardus Bos changed the Eastern Christian community forever with his efforts to unite the school and show God’s love to his neighbors, community, and pupils through Christian education. With a steady hand, strong determination, and the provision of God, Eastern Christian had grown into what it has become today. As one of his former pupils puts it: “[He] was always concerned that the pupils’ behavior be very good so that people would see that Christ makes a difference, even in the behavior of young Christian-school students.”