By Don McAlavy: Curry historian
“I don’t know when the school began,” said Rowena (Crume) Preuit, “but the Benson School of Commerce was going on in the school year 1943-44 when I was teaching at Vaughn. World War II was going on, and I thought I needed some more business classes, so at the end of the school term at Vaughn I enrolled at the Benson School of Commerce in Clovis.
“A few weeks later a lady teacher at Benson’s resigned as her serviceman was transferred to another assignment. Mr. Benson (John Benson was the founder of this school) had seen my transcript of graduating from ENMC at Portales (with honors) and knew I had taught for three years, so he hired me to teach. I still thought it would be temporary.
“I began teaching small children to type, which was so much fun. If they had been to school one year and knew the alphabet, they could take typing. It cost each one $40 for the summer session. I had a little time for my own studies, but not much, as he added more classes and more for me to do, as I made progress. He added Stenotypy, and I bought a stenotype and was catching on to it quite well.
“I worked the day shift, from 9 to 5, went home for a quick supper, came back and worked 6 to 9 with high school students and others. Some had been out of school for a while.
“When I came to this school, Mr. Benson was married to Ruth. She was a very nice lady and had two teenage daughters by a former marriage. I think she was a widow. He was always dressed in a business suit, was always ‘all business,’ and kept order, and used time wisely,” said Rowena.
“In 1946 the school was preparing to move, right away. The war was over. Sixty World War II veterans had enrolled at Bensons, so more space was needed. (The school, this columnist believes, had started on the northeast corner of Fourth and Connelly, and moved to the vacant half-block where Clovis City Hall is today.)
“I left to get married to Louis Lane ‘Top’ Preuit, a high school classmate, who had been on the Bataan Death March and a prisoner of war in the Pacific for 42 months.
“Mr. Benson had his own ideas about typing: feet flat on the floor, elbows close to your sides; fingers curved and you were to ‘click’ them off of the keys. It all did help on being a speedier typist. He was real good at helping the students find jobs when they were ready.”
The school moved into 5,000 square feet of barrack buildings, this columnist says. My sister Mary Lou went to this school after graduating from the 12th grade. When Rowena was teaching, the staff consisted of four teachers: John Benson, R. V. Phillips, who had just been appointed principal, Lennie Coffman and Rowena.
Besides typing, the school taught accounting, radio mechanics, business administration, secretarial training, salesmanship, civil training, retailing, advanced accounting, cost accounting and court reporting.
Benson was born in Boston. As a child, he went with his parents to England where he served with the British Army in World War I. He came to Clovis in 1935 and in 1941 founded the Benson School of Commerce. In the school year 1965-66, Benson moved his school to 316 West Grand as Clovis needed the site for the new Clovis City Hall. His home at this time was at 312 W. Grand.
Many business people in Clovis today benefited from the Benson School of Commerce, and many of its students found jobs through the school’s placement department.
John Benson died on Jan. 5, 1969. He was survived by daughters Janet, DeJon and Debra. There was no more Benson School of Commerce. It lasted nearly 28 years.
Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: