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?

 

norwalk-high-school-commencement-1907

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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Class Day 1907 – Who’s Missing – And Why?

In my last two posts about Class Day 1907, Bachelor Hall and The Chorus Girls Who Are They, I identified all members of the cast of the play Bachelor Hall that was performed at the Norwalk High School on June 5 and 6, 1907. The cast, however, did not include the entire Norwalk High School Class of 1907. Six students did not perform those two nights: Myrtle WoodruffAlice McCammon, Gertrude Ryerson, Inez Adams, Earl Sinclair, and Fred Osborne. [1]

 

Clockwise from upper left: Myrtle Woodruff, Alice McCammon, Gertrude Ryerson, Fred Osborne, Earl Sinclair and Inez Adams.

Were these six young people working backstage? According to the Norwalk Daily Reflector, [2] the actors’ “makeups were true to life, [and] the stage settings were in excellent taste.” Someone had to apply the “makeups” and someone was needed to manufacture the stage settings and change them between scenes.

But then again, perhaps these six were not involved at all; age and place of residence may be the reason they did not participate in these follies.

Three of the young women lived outside Norwalk, and were older than their classmates: Myrtle was twenty years old and lived in Fairfield Township, [3] Alice was the same age and lived in Greenfield Township, [4], Gertrude was a year younger and hailed from Bronson Township. [5] Inez and Fred lived in Norwalk, but she was nineteen [6] and he was one month shy of his twenty-first birthday. [7] Earl Sinclair was nineteen and lived on a farm outside of Norwalk. [8]

Bottom line, it seems that older students did not participate in school activities as much as their younger classmates, most of whom were seventeen or eighteen years old. Location also seemed to be a factor. Those who participated in extra curricular activities were more likely to live in Norwalk.

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In high school, I enjoyed performing in theatrical productions. But I and my fellow cast members were not the most popular in our class. In 1907, however, all the younger members of the Norwalk senior class were involved in the class play, and many other activities. Class spirit in my high school in 1972 can only be characterized as dismal. In 1907, however, with the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, it was everything.

 

Footnotes:

[1] The links for each student lead to that person’s WeRelate person page.

[2] “Brilliant Success,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 6, 1907 – page 1, column 3.

[3] Fairfield, in Huron County, Ohio. 1900 U.S. Census Population Schedule, Roll: 1288; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0020; FHL microfilm: 1241288.

[4] Greenfield, in Huron County, Ohio. 1900 U.S. Census Population Schedule, Roll: 1288; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 0022; FHL microfilm: 1241288.

[5] Bronson, in Huron County, Ohio. 1900 U.S. Census Population Schedule, ; Roll: 1288; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0018; FHL microfilm: 1241288.

[6] Kenton Ward 2, in Huron County, Ohio. 1900 U.S. Census Population Schedule, Roll: 1288; Page: 13A&B; Enumeration District: 0031; FHL microfilm: 1241288.

[7] Kenton Ward 3, in Huron County, Ohio. 1900 U.S. Census Population Schedule, Roll: 1288; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 0032; FHL microfilm: 1241288.

[8] Norwalk, in Huron County, Ohio. 1900 U.S. Census Population Schedule, Roll: 1288; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 0029; FHL microfilm: 1241288.,

 

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Mystery Girl

In my last post, A Play – A Dance – A Test, we saw that according to newspaper accounts, there was a member of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 not pictured in the class commencement photo. Who was this mystery student?

Her name was Gertrude Ryerson.

Gertrude, or Gertie, as she was known, was older than most of her classmates; born in 1886 in Richmond Township, she was twenty years old at the time of graduation. [1] Gertie was a country girl; at the time of graduation, she lived in Bronson Township. [2] The Ryersons were a pioneer family, having arrived in the Firelands from New Jersey around 1842. [3]

Gertrude Ryerson 1Although she does not appear in the commencement photo, I was able to find her photo in the 1906 Senior Junior study hall photo, so she was attending school her junior year. But what about her senior year.

She was not listed as a cast member in the upcoming play, Bachelor House. Nor would she have a part during commencement exercises. So, did she even show for the ceremony? I searched the Norwalk newspapers for an explanation, but found not a clue.

It’s a mystery.

Do you have the answer?

 

Footnotes:

[1] “Ohio Births and Christenings, 1821-1962.”, in Ohio. Ohio, Births and Christenings Index, 1774-1973. (ancestry.com), FHL Film Number: 410277.

[2] 1900 U.S. Census, Bronson, Huron, Ohio; Roll 1288; page 6A; Enumeration District 0018; FHL microfilm 1241288.

[3] “Obituary of Mrs. Elizabeth Galley, nee Ryerson,” The Firelands Pioneer, Volume XXII, April, 1825, page 485.

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