New Year’s Eve in Norwalk 1906

There was no mention of festivities in either of the two Norwalk newspapers on New Year’s Eve 1906. The citizens of the town were not the partying kind, it seems. Although there were saloons in town, the city fathers did all they could to make life hard for them, by forbidding a turkey raffle Thanksgiving Eve, for instance, leaving saloons’ proprietors holding a stock on unusable poultry. In that environment, it’s no surprise that the town’s newspapers refrained publicizing any New Year’s Eve goings-on in those establishments!

What is a surprise, though, at least to me, is that I have found no mention of a dance at the Norwalk High School in the run up to the New Year. I know from my grandmother’s 1908 diary that one did take place, but there was no mention of it in the newspapers that year, either. This is a curious omission; both the Daily Reflector and the Evening Herald published announcements and accounts of even the most minor social gatherings, but year after year did not mention one of the most memorable events of the Norwalk High School calendar. Curious!

Although I have no record of what happened at the 1906 high school dance, I thought I should enter my grandmother’s account her experience in 1908. The high school dance was not restricted to current students–alumni joined in as well. Dancing was a big deal for young people back then; Norwalk youth spent the long summer evenings dancing at “The Grove” in Ruggles Beach, as I described in my “Summer in the Firelands” post this past September.

history-of-dancingBelow are my grandmother’s diary entries that refer to the 1908 dance. She does not describe the dance itself, but I’ve seen enough English period dramas on PBS to imagine the scene (and other channels as well; I’m thinking of Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice). Interestingly, according to a 1906 book by British author Sir Reginald St. Johnston, The History of Dancing: “It is certain that our American cousins are fonder of dancing than we are, and it is to them that we must look for any new dances” (p. 156).

Anyway, here’s Harriott Wickham’s diary entries for the last few days of 1908.

Dec. 28 – 1908 – Went shopping all this aft. I guess I am going to the dance with Charley Yanquell. Poor child, he might as well take his grandmother. Met Rastus [1] downtown. He is looking for a partner to the dance. Hope he’ll come around my way. Went down to the Sunday School Christmas tree tonight. They always have it on this date, Holy Innocent’s Day. I got a box of candy and an orange, and had some ice cream and cake. After that we went to the play, a stock company show, – and a fair sample. Lots of Pi Kappa girls haven’t bids, even Milly Monnett. She and Harry are off, so I hear.

Dec. 29, 1908 – I have another bid and it’s about time. Rastus Beattie asked me to go with him, and I accepted. I guess Charlie Y. is going to take Edna now. Irene stayed all night with me and we have been together all day. In the afternoon we went downtown and met Rastus. He joined us and wandered around with us all the aft., even down to Grandma’s. In the evening went to a Pi Kappa meeting at Ellen’s. Everyone but Alice and Lucy have bids now. Milly has two, but no one knows with whom she is going. Poor Lucy. I thought that at least she had discovered the truth about Fred, but it seems she hasn’t. Ede got John Roach, so she is safe. Most of the fellows are going to stag it, I guess. –

Dec, 30, 1908 – Well the dance is over, and I had an awfully good time, so much better than I expected that I am quite satisfied. I think almost every one had a good time. There were more boys than girls, so there weren’t a whole lot of wallflowers. We took in about thirty-two dollars, and probably made about ten dollars for charity. I met John Yerpe. I have been waiting for some time. He is an awfully nice boy, and very good looking. If he were only something else than a Swedish mechanics son, from north of town, he would make a hit I’m sure. I don’t care, I like him anyway, he’s decent, and that’s more than can be said of lots of the fellows who are considered quite the thing here.

Those diary entries give us a glimpse of how the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 closed out 1906. They were about to enter the last six months of their high school career before heading out into the “real” world. In next year’s posts, we’ll see how they fared.

Happy New Year, everyone!







One Response

  1. […] it is close to the mark, and will tell you why I think that in a post next week. But next up–New Year’s Eve, 1906 in Norwalk, […]


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