Why Manlius Pebble Hill School is home for Chuck Beeler
Chuck Beeler came home last night.
This is alumni Clambake Weekend at Manlius Pebble Hill School. Saturday night at the school on Jamesville Road, DeWitt, Chuck (Class of 1954) was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame, along with 11 other graduates.
Chuck has a special connection to Manlius Pebble Hill: He grew up in the 1800s farmhouse that’s now the school’s administration building.
The roots are strong and long for Chuck. Both of his parents worked at the school: His mother, Mary, for 42 years as dean of women, business manager and secretary to the headmaster; dad, also Charles, was maintenance supervisor for the school. Chuck’s children also attended Pebble Hill.
His grandmother, Harriet “Ma” Beeler, worked at Pebble Hill 24 years, as cook and dietician. She planned lunch menus, bought the food and cooked lunch for hundreds of young men in the school’s early days. Chuck says she’s remembered for her beef stew, which she cooked many years over a coal range in the kitchen at the back of the farmhouse. She had an apartment above the kitchen.
Ma’s father, and Chuck’s great-grandfather, was Casper “Cap” Fabing, a legendary figure in the history of DeWitt. Casper’s family once owned three buildings in Orville, the hamlet’s early name, where the present Tops Friendly Market parking lot sits.
Casper started out with the blacksmith’s shop, later switching to a gas station, general store and post office.
According to Chuck, his parents moved into the farmhouse at Pebble Hill in the late 1920s. The school had its first classes in 1927, with 49 students. (Manlius Pebble Hill now has an enrollment of 518.) Chuck and his sister, Mary Linda, had bunk beds in a small bedroom on the second floor.
“I came there right from the hospital and left when I was 18,” Chuck explains.
DeWitt Preservation and Historical Society says the farmhouse dates to 1832, when Asad Wilson bought the farm from James Sackett. The property had several owners, including “Aunt Betsy and Uncle Bill Avery.” Uncle Bill was a retired canal boat captain. Another owner was John Young, a founder of DeWitt.
The land was named “Pebble Hill farm” by a later owner, John Conway and “took on some airs,” according to a 1930 article in the Post-Standard.
The house once was painted white (it’s red now) and had a porch three-quarters of the way around the front. There were a barn and stables.
An account in a school history says “in 1926, a group of Syracuse fathers decided they would like to establish a school outside the city where their boys would receive the benefits of an academic and physical education to train their minds and bodies for the future. Goodyear-Burlingame was teaching their daughters.”
Goodyear, on James Street in Syracuse, was founded in 1888 by sisters Fannie and Harriet Goodyear. When the school closed in 1952, Pebble Hill was encouraged to become coeducational, which it did.
Pebble Hill was structured after the country day school model.
In 1970, Pebble Hill merged with The Manlius School, a military academy for young men begun in 1888 as St. John School. It became Manlius Pebble Hill, prekindergarten through 12th grade.
Chuck was an athletic ace during his years at the school, earning varsity letters in basketball, football, baseball and track. He still holds the Pebble Hill and Manlius record of 42 points, scored in one basketball game against Harley School in Rochester.
He played six-man football as right end and first base four years for the baseball team.
Chuck returned to his alma mater as a faculty member, coaching cross country and junior varsity boys and varsity girls basketball from 1968 to 1970. After the 1970 merger with Manlius, he coached girls varsity basketball and varsity cross country for the school.
He’s retired as a manufacturer’s representative.
Chuck has a vivid memory of when he lived in the old farmhouse and often went up into the cupola atop the house to play.
“You could look out and see all over,” he recalled. “This was the only house around in those days.”