Norwalk, Ohio High School Class of 1907

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Norwalk High School Class of 1907: Front Row: Ruth Jenkins, Irene Eline, Irene Bragdon, Myrtle Woodruff. Second Row: Lillian Smith, Eugene Bloxham, Arthur Young, Carrie Spurrier, Harriott Wickham, Robert Venus, Ruby Hoyt. Third Row: Sarah Barnett, Fred Osborne, Nina Humiston, Earl Sinclair, Florence Davidson, Inez Adams, Stephen Young, Fred French. Fourth Row: Homer Beattie, Florence Bascom, Alice McCammon, Sheldon Laning, Edna West, Harry Holiday, Cleo Collins.

How many times have you come across an old family photo, but have no idea of the identity of the people in it? Unfortunately, too often our ancestors neglected to scrawl identifying information on the backs of their photos. Fortunately for me, my grandmother Harriott Wickham (second row, third from left in the photo above) understood how important it is to record names of people in her photos for future generations. She not only preserved this photo of her graduating class, she also recorded her classmates’ names on an accompanying scrap of paper.

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Old Norwalk High School

The members of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 are no more. But in their day, at the beginning of their adult lives, they were full of enthusiasm and hope for the future. As I gazed at their faces, so serious, yet so full of life, I wondered who they were and how they lived their lives? I decided to find out.

Not only had my grandmother recorded the names of her classmates, she kept a diaries during those years that describe many of them and tell of her interactions with them. Unfortunately, the diary for her senior year is missing, but she did preserve one for May 1908 to May 1909. From it, and from information I gleaned from research, I began to form a picture of these young people and their families; of where they came from and how they spent their senior year–and the rest of their lives.

What did they do? In small town America of the early 20th Century, young people went to balls, hung out at the library, formed societies, performed in plays and concerts, and played basketball (both boys and girls). They had séances and house parties and spent their summers in cottages on Lake Erie, lazing away the days and dancing at “The Grove” at Ruggles Beach at night.

Who were they and their families? What stock did they come from and how did they spend their lives after graduation? Because I have their names, I’ve been able to answer some of those questions. One of the young men in the photo became a U.S. Senator, but the rest of the the class led ordinary lives: some did not do well, some of them had successful careers. But each one of them has a story I want to tell.

Using my grandma’s diaries and research on the internet, I’m continuing to flesh out the stories behind these faces. Over the next year, I’ll post what I’ve learned–and what I don’t know. I ask your help as I take this journey: to correct my mistakes, and to add your stories to the tale of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907.

 

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Commencement 1907 – Musical Interludes

Eight graduates of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 spoke at the Commencement Ceremony on June 14, 1907 — two each chosen in four categories: for best grades for regular work, and best grades for literary work, and those chosen by their fellow students and by the faculty.

Those were not the only graduate contributions to the program, however. Musical performances also shone. As The Norwalk Evening Herald reported, “All the speeches were fine, and the choruses and other musical numbers correspondingly good.”

After Homer Beattie’s oration, “The Call of the Wild,” Florence Bascom and Lillian Smith sang a ballad, “Oh, That We Two Were Maying,” with the young ladies’ voices “blending well, making the number most pleasing.”

Oh! that we two were Maying,
Down the stream of the soft spring breeze;
Like children with violets playing
In the shade of the whisp’ring trees.

Oh! that we two sat dreaming
On the sward of the sheep-trimm’d down,
Watching the white mist streaming
O’er river, and mead, and town.

Oh! that we two lay sleeping,
In our nest in the churchyard sod,
With our limbs at rest on the quiet earth’s breast,
And our souls at home with God. [1]

 

Nina Humiston’s recitation of the poem, “Bud’s Fairy Tale” was followed by “Come Where the Lillies Bloom,” sung by Ruby Hoyt, Lillian Smith, class president Arthur Young and Sheldon Laning.

Come where the lilies.
The sweet fragrant lilies;
Oh, come where the lilies bloom so fair;
Down in the meadows,
The green verdant meadows,
Oh, come where sweet fragrance tills the air. [2]

 

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Between Alice McCammon’s essay, “Fashion Rules the World,” and Carrie Spurrier’s “Vennering,” the Girl’s Glee Club sang two ballads, “Carmena Waltz,” and “There Little Girl Don’t Cry.”

Miss Spurrier was followed by “The Jolly Blacksmith’s Lay,” [3] sung by the high school quartet: Robert Venus, Sheldon Laning, Arthur Young, and underclassman, Carlton McCague.

 

 

Just before Superintendent Beechy’s final remarks and presentation of diplomas, a Mrs. O. M. Harter sang “Slumber Song,” written by Minnie Cleghorn, who had contributed so much to the education of the Class of 1907, especially the young women of the class.

 

Footnotes

[1] Lyrics are from The LiederNet Archive. Check out this YouTube video for a performance by “Belle and two Beaux” as part of their Victorian evening. Janet Shell, mezzo-soprano. Mark Oldfield, baritone. John Flinders, piano.

[2] Lyrics are from American Old Time Song Lyrics.

[3] Find the lyrics to “The Jolly Blacksmith’s Lay” in the 1910 edition of a trade journal The Master Printer, page 687 on Google Books.

 

Other Sources

Descriptions of musical performances during the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 commencement program are from “Forty Seventh Annual,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 13, 1907, page 1, column 3; “School Life is Ended,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 15, 1907, page 1-2, column 6; and “Get Their Diplomas,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, pages 1,4.

The links for the performers of musical numbers during commencement are to their person pages on the WeRelate wiki.

 

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Commencement Speakers – Chosen by Faculty

In my last post, we saw that Nina Humiston and Sheldon Laning were popular with their fellow students in the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. The last two of the eight speakers at Commencement on June 14, 1907, Homer Beattie and Carrie Spurrier, were probably popular with their classmates as well, but what got them speakers slots was the esteem of the faculty. So, were they were the teachers’ pets of the class?

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Homer Beattie

Homer Beattie’s oration was about the “Call of the Wild,” by which he meant the pioneer spirit that had led to the rapid settlement of the country. “With the coming of the springtime,” he proclaimed, “also comes the wild, restless longing to leave civilization behind and to plunge into the woods or to fish or hunt.” But, he continued, this draw to wide open places led to “war upon the wilderness.” I must say, his views do not sound like those of an environmentalist to me. They seem to be of those who love the outdoors, but also want to exploit it.

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Carrie Spurrier

“Veneering” was the subject of Carrie Spurrier’s essay, which according to the newspapers’ reports, she read in a fine manner. “The object of veneering,” she said, “is to make things seem better than it seems.” Like other speakers before her, she blamed the pursuit of wealth as the problem. People who spend their lives accumulating wealth seek to “buy their way into society.” That, she stated firmly, is not a good thing. [1]

So how did these two young people’s lives turn out? Homer Beattie went on to college, then answered the “Call of the Wild,” by becoming a forester for Huron County. He never married, and lived and died in his family home in Norwalk. [2] After graduating, Carrie Spurrier went to work in her father’s crockery and home furnishing store on Main Street. But she did not remain independent, like Irene Bragdon, who had a career as a stenographer. She followed Nina Humiston’s path. In 1915, she married a banker, and lived a comfortable, may we say wealthy, life in Lakewood as the wife of a successful man. [3]

Next up: Musical Interludes.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Descriptions of Homer and Carrie’s presentations are from “Forty Seventh Annual,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 13, 1907, page 1, column 3; “School Life is Ended,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 15, 1907, page 1-2, column 6; and “Get Their Diplomas,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, pages 1,4.

[2] From the Carrie Spurrier person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

[3] From the Homer Beattie person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

 

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Commencement Speakers – Chosen by the Class

Unlike the speakers described in my previous two posts, who were chosen for best grades in regular work and best grades in literary work, the other four speakers at Norwalk High School’s Class of 1907 Commencement were not selected for academic performance. Today, we look at Sheldon Laning and Nina Humiston, who were chosen by the class – a popularity contest, it seems.

sheldon-laning

Sheldon Laning

As the son of a U.S. Congressman, Sheldon Laning would be expected to talk about politics, and he did not disappoint. His oration was titled “Our National Peril and How to Avoid It.” The national peril, in his view, was the system of political bosses, who selected candidates for office in “smoke-filled rooms.” His solution to this problem, was to adopt primaries, and allow voters to decide who would represent their parties in general elections. These days, of course, primaries are used by parties to select candidates in most states, so Mr. Laning was prescient in that regard. That his father was selected in by the party is ironic.

Nina Humiston Commencement Photo 1907

Nina Humiston

Like Irene Bragdon, Nina Humiston broke the norm for female students, although, unlike Irene, she did not risk tackling an oration. She instead opted for a recitation of the poem Bud’s Fairy Tale. According to newspaper accounts, “Miss Humiston’s imitation of a small child telling a highly imaginary stories was almost perfect, and was greeted by the audience with laughter and applause.” [1] Although she did not sing at the commencement ceremony, Nina was quite the musical performer as well. Like Ora Tuttle, subject of the Serendipity post on this site, Nina was active in the Methodist Church and performed at services and at church and social events. [2]

So how did these two young people fare in life? Sheldon Laning did not venture into politics, like his father. He did follow in his dad’s footsteps when it came to  business, though. After obtaining a law degree, he moved to Chicago where he worked in the automotive industry. In 1915, he married fellow Norwalk High School graduate Mildred Monnett (Class of 1908), then returned to Norwalk and took over the family publishing business, where he spent the remainder of his working life. [3]

Like many of the other young women in her class, Nina Humiston married soon after graduation. In 1908, she wed Henry Ronk, a fellow Norwalk graduate who had also been active in the Methodist Church. Henry was seven years her senior and had already graduated from college. They set up house in Shaker Heights where Henry established a successful accounting practice. [4]

That’s it for the two speakers who were selected for this honor by their classmates. Next up: the two speakers chosen by the faculty.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Descriptions of Sheldon and Nina’s presentations are from “Forty Seventh Annual,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 13, 1907, page 1, column 3; “School Life is Ended,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 15, 1907, page 1-2, column 6; and “Get Their Diplomas,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, pages 1,4.

[2] “Good Meeting,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, March 30, 1903, page 4, column 4.

[3] From the Stephen Laning person page in the WeRelate Wiki.

[4] From the Nina Humiston person page in the WeRelate Wiki.

 

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Commencement Speakers – Best Grades in Literary Work

Two women in the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 , Inez Adams and Alice McCammon, were selected for best grades in literary work. Unlike Irene Bragdon, who was honored in the best grades for regular work category, they did not venture into the male domain of oratory, but read essays, apparently the preferred feminine mode of expression.

Inez Adams Commencement Photo 1907

Inez Adams

Inez Adams was one of the older members of the Class of 1907: nineteen at graduation. She came from a working class background; her father Martin was a foreman in a printing plant. So it was fitting, perhaps, that the cautionary title of her essay was “The Tendency of Luxury.”

“Wealth and its co-worker, luxury,” she proclaimed, “have made states, countries, and nations yield to them since the dawn of history.” She went on to condemn those who pursued riches, as an aristocracy contributing to downfall of America. Coming at the end of the “Gilded Age” this sentiment is understandable. She concluded forcefully with this warning, “if we cannot destroy the luxury that is ruining us, America will soon become like Rome was before her downfall.”

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Alice McCammon

Alice McCammon was even older than Inez — she graduated at the age of twenty — and lived on a farm in Greenfield Township, where she had been born. Her essay was “Fashion vrs. Reason,” and like Miss Bragdon’s warnings about the dangers of pursuing wealth and luxury, hers was a cautionary tale about becoming a slave to fashion. She warned about following the crowd, and concluded by declaring that “one thing is always in fashion, good health.”

So what happened to these two young women? Inez Adams, like Irene Bragdon, never married. Soon after graduation, her family moved to Minnesota, where she began a life-long career as a stenographer with an insurance company. In her essay, she disparaged the pursuit of wealth, in her life, she followed her own advice. [3]

Alice McCammon also appears to have followed her own advice. She continued to live in Greenfield Township after graduation, becoming a teacher in a local school. In 1915 married a local farmer, and spent the rest of her life as a farmer’s wife. [4]

 

Footnotes:

[1] “Forty Seventh Annual,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 13, 1907, page 1, column 3; “School Life is Ended,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 15, 1907, page 1-2, column 6; and “Get Their Diplomas,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, pages 1,4.

[3] From the Inez Adams person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

[4] From the Alice McCammon person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

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Class Dance

June 19 fell on a Wednesday in 1907. That evening, the recent graduates of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 hosted a dance at Link Hall, which they had decorated with a Native American theme, with skins on the walls and wigwams set up in the corners of the banquet room.

1907 Dancing

A formal dance – June 1, 1907 [1]

In the reception line greeting the crowd of a hundred and fifty graduates and guests were the class officers: President Arthur Young, Vice President Harriot Wickham, Secretary Carrie Spurrier, and Treasurer Robert Venus.

 

Officers of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 [2]

Dancing began around 8:30 p.m., with Arthur Young and out of town guest Harriet Nufer leading the Grand March. The festivities continued until midnight, but no worries – the class did not need to rise early for school the next morning.

The dance concluded a month of ceremony and festival that marked the Class of 1907’s transition from school to adult life. And what would that life hold for these graduates?

It would be a different life – to be sure. The world they had grown up in was about to be upended by war. The peaceful small town America that had been their life was about to be shattered. A few of these graduates would stay in Norwalk, but most of them would not. They would move to larger cities, Cleveland and Detroit mainly. The men would go into careers in business. Most of the women would marry men who did the same, although a few would pursue careers in nursing or teaching and never marry, or would wed late in life. In subsequent posts, we’ll see how they all fared.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Photo of Lawn Tennis Club ball at Charters Towers, 1907 Elegantly gowned women and formally dressed gentlemen are crowded on the dance floor of the hall. From Wikipedia Commons.

[2] Individual photos clipped from Class of 1907 Commencement Photo.

[3] Descriptions of the class dance are from accounts in “Seniors Have a Gay Time,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, June 20, 1907, page 4, column 3, and “Senior Class Dance,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 20, 1907, page 1, column 7

 

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Commencement Speakers – Best Grades in Regular Work

In my post, Norwalk High School Commencement, 1907, we learned that instead of remarks by a respected member of the community and a Valedictorian and Salutatorian, eight members of the Class of 1907 were selected as class speakers. Two of those eight were Arthur Young and Irene Bragdon, chosen for best grades in regular subjects.

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Arthur Young

Arthur Young, president of the class, delivered a “splendid oration” on “The Masterful Man.” According to the Norwalk Evening Herald, Mr. Young was a natural orator, with a with a fine speaking voice.

“The man is a thousand times more important the man’s work,” he proclaimed, and then went on to add that more important than what a man accomplishes is what obstacles he overcomes. One of these obstacles, according to Arthur, was the pursuit of wealth.

Interesting, isn’t it, that Mr. Young’s address is about the masterful man? In that age, women were not expected to strive. I wonder what his teacher Minnie Cleghorn thought about that. As we saw in my Athletic Girl series of posts, she had encouraged her female students become strong and confident women.

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Irene Bragdon

The other class speaker selected for best grades in regular subjects, Irene Bragdon, seemed to have taken Miss Cleghorn’s guidance to heart. The other female students who spoke that night read essays, but Miss Bragdon broke with that tradition and followed the lead of her male counterparts with an oration. Her subject was “The Power of Prejudice.

“It is our boast as American people that we are free minded,” she said.” But is this so? In church and in state we are prejudiced, and this prejudice is growing.” She went on to blame the growth of prejudice on newspapers, and leaders of religious and government leaders in terms and words that I think would resonate with modern readers. Words of a confident young woman? I think so. [1]

So how did they turn out, these two high achievers in their high school class? Arthur was one of the few who went on to college. He married and went into banking, rising to become a Vice President at National City Bank in Cleveland, apparently, finding that wealth was not such an obstacle after all. [2] Irene Bragdon became a teacher, like Minnie Cleghorn, who had been her inspiration. Unlike most of her fellow students, she never married, spending the rest of her life in Norwalk, living in the same home as when she graduated.

That’s it for these two speakers. In my next post, we’ll check out the two students selected for best grades in literary subjects.

 

Footnotes:

[1] “Forty Seventh Annual,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 13, 1907, page 1, column 3; “School Life is Ended,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 15, 1907, page 1-2, column 6; and “Get Their Diplomas,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, pages 1,4.

[2] From the Arthur Young person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

[3] From the Irene Bragdon person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

 

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Norwalk High School Commencement, 1907

On Friday, June 14, 1907, one-hundred and ten years ago today, the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 walked across the stage at the Gilmer Theater to receive their diplomas.

What did those young people experience that memorable evening? Well the Norwalk Daily Reflector and the Evening Herald reported extensively in their issues the next day, giving us a blow-by-blow description of the pomp and ceremony.

How did they look that night — these young people about to “join those who are fighting life’s battles,” as the Daily Reflector put it. How were they dressed? We don’t need to imagine. We have a photo taken that very evening at the Gilger. [1] Aren’t they are good looking crew?

 

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Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Front Row: Ruth Jenkins, Irene Eline, Irene Bragdon, Myrtle Woodruff. Second Row: Lillian Smith, Eugene Bloxham, Arthur Young, Carrie Spurrier, Harriott Wickham, Robert Venus, Ruby Hoyt. Third Row: Sarah Barnett, Fred Osborne, Nina Humiston, Earl Sinclair, Florence Davidson, Inez Adams, Stephen Young, Fred French. Fourth Row: Homer Beattie, Florence Bascom, Alice McCammon, Sheldon Laning, Edna West, Harry Holiday, Cleo Collins.

 

The audience arrived at the Gilger to find the auditorium decorated with the school colors of black and gold and Stewart’s Orchestra playing “Slavery Days.” The Norwalk High School Classes of 1904 and 1906 occupied boxes decorated with their class colors. After all had settled into their seats, the curtain rose to reveal the Class of 1907, dressed as captured in the photo above, the women holding a single stemmed American rose. Above them hung a banner in black and gold, with the class slogan “Immer Siegend,” (always victorious). Accompanied by the orchestra, the class sang the chorus of the hymn, “A Dream of Paradise.”

Father in heaven above,
Glorious and mighty;
Send forth Thy Light of Love,
O King most mighty!
Father, Glorious and mighty;
Send forth Thy Light of Love.
Thy Light of Love. [2]

To great applause, the curtain lowered, and when it again raised, the class were seated in wicker chairs set in a semi-circle on the stage. With them were School Superintendent A. D. Beechy, the school faculty, and members of the board of education.

This graduation ceremony was not like what we experience today. There was no Valedictorian and Salutatorian, nor did a respected member of the community address the graduates. Instead, this ceremony focused on the graduates, with orations and essays by speakers selected for academic excellence, interspersed by musical performances by others in the class. [3]

Who were the speakers, and why were they chosen? The newspapers are handy references for this as well. Eight young men and women were honored in four categories: Arthur Young and Irene Bragdon for best grades in regular school work. Inez Adams and Alice McCammon for best grades in literary work; Sheldon Laning and Nina Humiston were chosen by the class; and Homer Beattie and Carrie Spurrier were chosen by the faculty. [4]

What did they talk about, these speakers? The subjects may surprise you. We’ll see what they said, and who they were, in subsequent posts, beginning with Mr. Young and Miss Bragdon.

 

Footnotes:

[1] The commencement photo is from the papers of Harriott Wickham, my grandmother,

Gertrude Ryerson 1

who kindly wrote the names on the back. As I reported in my post, Mystery Girl, missing from this photo is Gertrude Ryerson. Newspaper accounts tell us that twenty-six graduates were at the ceremony, so I do not know why she is not in the commencement photo. It is a mystery. I clipped this image of her from a photo of the Senior / Junior study hall that I also found in my grandmother’s papers.

[2] “A Dream of Paradise,” by Claude Littleton, 1900. Full text of the lyrics and an audio file of the tune are at Hymnary. org.

[3] Lengthy descriptions of the ceremony and fulsome praise for the graduates are in “School Life is Ended,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 15, 1907, page 1-2, column 6, and “Get Their Diplomas,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, pages 1,4.

[4] “Forty Seventh Annual,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 13, 1907, page 1, column 3.“Get Their Diplomas,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, pages 1 and 4.

 

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