Over the next year, I be posting articles about each member of the Class of 1907 on the anniversary of their birth. Today, we’ll begin with Irene Eline; her birthday is past, but because it was only last week, just before I began this series of posts, I hope you will forgive me.
Irene celebrated her seventeenth birthday on September 5, which fell on Wednesday in 1906. Two days previously, Norwalk had celebrated Labor Day, which was a big deal in those days.
Hers was a laboring family. Her father Joseph was a cabinet maker at a piano factory in town, probably A.B. Chase . Sister Lillian, age 19, was a stenographer at Pressing & Orr, a manufacturer of Wilton Brand Ketchup  and other food products. Irene’s Aunt Margaret, who was living with the family in 1900, was a seamstress.
The family lived at 180 Whittlesey Avenue, over seven blocks north of Main Street, in the blue collar part of town. The do not count among the Firelands Pioneers featured in The Sufferers’ Land which is posted on the Firelands History Website. Joseph and his wife Anne, were originally from Maryland, and moved to Norwalk from Pennsylvania sometime between the birth of their eldest child, Mary and Lillian.
How did Irene spend her birthday? School had just begun, so we can imagine she spent the day in class. The high school in those days was at Main and Foster Streets, so she had a walk of almost a mile. What celebration could we imagine for her when she returned home. Her father and mother would be there, and her sister Lillian. Her eldest sister Mary was probably still at home, but by 1909 she was married to James Cooper, a boiler maker with the railroad. And there were three young children in the home: her brother Robert, age 6, and sisters Ruth, age 3 and Catherine, age 2.
But what about friends? Who were they, and where did they live. Just as in any society and at any time, there are stratums of society that dictate whom we associate with. That would have been the case in 1906 Norwalk. In my grandmother’s diaries and other papers and photos from that time, she never mentions Irene as being her friend. But she moved in different circles from people in north Norwalk. In her diary entry for December 30, 1908, she wrote of meeting a young man named John Yerpe, who she liked. But, she added: “if he were only something other than a Swedish mechanic’s son from north of twon, he would make a hit, I’m sure.” We’ll further explore this social divide in future posts.
 A.B. Chase was founded in Norwalk in 1875. See the Antique Piano Shop Website for details.
 Andrew F. Smith, Pure Ketchup: A History of America’s National Condiment, with Recipes, University of South Carolina Press, 1996, p. 219.