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.

carrie-spurrier-commencement-1907

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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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 – Bachelor Hall

In my last post, Class Day 1907 – A Witty Speech by a Future U.S. Senator, we saw that Wednesday, June 5, 1907 was Class Day for the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. The evening began with a farewell speech to the Class of 1908 by future U.S. Senator, Stephen M. Young, Jr. [1] Following that “witty, well-worded, and well-delivered” address, the Class of 1907 presented Bachelor Hall, a comedy in three acts. [2] According to newspaper accounts of the evening, the performance was well received by a large audience, [3] An even larger crowd attended a repeat performance the following night, June 6. [4]

 

Bachelor Hall

Bachelor Hall is a parlor-play, designed to be performed by amateurs. Written and published by Rachel Baker Gale and her father George Melville Baker in 1898, it was performed frequently by schools and in homes over the next decade.

Reviews in both the Norwalk Daily Reflector and the Norwalk Evening Herald gushed their praise. To do otherwise, of course, would have invited the wrath of angry parents, but from the accounts, it seems the class did put on a solid performance. Both newspapers, in addition to praise, diligently recorded the names of the cast members and descriptions of the parts they played. So, here, in one of the longest posts I have ever published, is the cast of the Norwalk High School’s performance of Bachelor Hall over a century ago.

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The romantic leads in this farce were Robert Venus, as Ensign Jack Meredith, acting under sealed orders, and Florence Bascom, as Betty Vance, the ward of the Honorable Geoffrey Myrtleton, “congressman from the Ninth District,” and played by Arthur Young.

 

The Norwalk Evening Herald reviewer of the play was generous in his praise of the leads. “For legitimate work the honors belong to Robert Venus and Florence Bascom,” he wrote. “The naturalness with which they played the sentimental scenes could not have been improved on.” His assessment of Arthur Young’s performance as the Honorable Geoffrey Myrtleton was favorable, also, although he was bold enough to criticize the young man’s choice of costume as not being appropriate for a congressman. Everyone’s a critic, it seems.

Harry Holiday and Stephen Young, Jr. played Silas Jervis and Elisha Bassett, Deacons who are Congressman Myrtleton’s constituents from Rambleton.

 

The plot of Bachelor Hall, such as it is, involves the presentation in the home of Congressman Myrtleton of The Fatal Shot, a play written by amateur actor Vera Lee, played by Fred French. In addition to Mr. Lee, the cast of The Fatal Shot include Lotta Sand, leading soubrette of The Fatal Shot, played by Ruby Hoyt, and an amateur actress named Polly Reynolds, played by Sara Joslin (Sarah Barnett). Irene Eline played Mrs. Van Styne, who has dramatic aspirations and Nina Humiston is Claire, Mrs. Van Styne’s daughter, who does not.

 

Clockwise from top left: Fred French, Ruby Hoyt, Sarah Barnett (Sara Joslin), Irene Eline, and Nina Humiston.

In what would be awkward to modern sensibilities, Sheldon Laning played Jasper, an African-American butler at “Bachelor Hall”and Edna West his wife and fellow servant. Both, I assume, performed in black-face.

Rounding out the cast were O’Rourke, a policeman, played by Eugene Bloxham, and Pinkerton Case, an amateur detective, played by Homer Beattie.

 

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What is the plot of this comedy? I’ve tried to read the script, but did not get very far. Here’s what the Norwalk Daily Reflector had to say about it:

Act I: An evening in the living room of Congressman Myrtleton at “Bachelor Hall,” in Washington D.C. Myrtleton has opened his home for the production of The Fatal Shot. The untimely arrival of his constituents, the Deacons, who are deeply set against theatricals, and the disappearance at the same time of one hundred thousand dollars in bonds entrusted to him by them, puts Myrtleton in a bad position.

Act II: Myrtleton seeks to keep from the deacons the fact that a theatrical performance is in progress, and his prevarications are amusing and cause many peculiar situations.

Act III: The following morning — The newspapers make a sensation of The Fatal Shot, thereby causing Congressman Myrtleton to lose a wager with Rear Admiral March that the affair would be kept from the papers. The mystery of the bonds is cleared up satisfactorily.

Not very illuminating, is it? What about the romance between Ensign Meredith and Betty Vance? And who is Admiral March? The author of this article was not a trained critic, apparently. However, seeing that most readers were probably at the performance, this synopsis was probably not necessary to begin with.

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After the final curtain, the Class of 1907 sang their class song, written by Harriott Wickham to the tune of “Down the Field.”

 

We are the seniors of Old Norwalk High

And out into the world we go,

Prepared to win or die;

Conquering now, and still to conquer then

When ‘neath the Black and Gold we march

On to the glorious end.

Our banner fair we bravely bear

All hail the Black and Gold.

The evening concluded with ice cream and cake served in the Philomathean Hall.

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That’s it for two evenings of entertainment over one-hundred years ago. Except for one thing: the Chorus Girls of Bachelor Hall. More about them in my next post.

 

Footnotes:

[1] The links for each cast member of Bachelor Hall lead to that person’s WeRelate person page.

[2] Bachelor Hall is a play published in  by . The script can be read online on Google Books. A warning: what was hilarious in 1907 may not appear as witty to modern readers.

[3] “Brilliant Success,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 6, 1907 – page 1, column 3, and “Bachelor Hall a Big Hit,” Norwalk Evening Herald, 6/6/1907, page 1, column 6.

[4] “Another Crowd Sees Bachelor Hall,” Norwalk Evening Herald, 6/7/1907, page 4, column 3.

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Class Day 1907 – A Witty Speech by a Future U.S. Senator

At 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5, 1907 — one-hundred and ten years ago today — school hall on the third floor of Norwalk High School was crowded with students, parents, and friends. The occasion? Class Day of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907.

 

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Norwalk High School

 

The evening began with a “witty, well-worded, and well-delivered farewell speech to the Juniors” by future United States Senator Stephen M. Young, Jr.

The Junior Class responded with their class yell. What was the class yell? Unfortunately, the article in the Norwalk Daily Reflector did not say. [1]

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stephen-young-commencement-photo-1907

Stephen M. Young

As we saw a few weeks ago in the post Oratorical Contest for a Future U.S. Senator, Stephen M. Young’s public speaking skills had earned him fourth place at an oratorical contest in Bowling Green, Ohio the previous month. Now it had given him the honor of keynote speaker at Class Day. That talent for public speaking would lead to a life as a lawyer, soldier, and politician, a career more illustrious than any of his classmates.

Stephen also knew where he would be going after graduation: he was headed to Case University in Cleveland. These days, it is not unusual for high schools of the caliber of Norwalk High School in 1907 to see the majority of their students pursue higher education. But only four of Stephen Young’s classmates were heading to university that fall. [2]

Harriott Wickham Commencement Photo

Harriott Wickham

Some students would continue studying at Norwalk High School: Harriott Wickham (my grandmother) for instance. In diary of 1908-09, she wrote: Graduated in 1907, but took 2 courses with class of 1908 — History & chemistry — botany 1/2 year. Harriott also prepared to take an examination to become a teacher, which led to her teaching in a one-room school house 1908-1909. Then she got her big break: her great uncle Louis Severance sent her to Wooster College, where she graduated in 1914. She was the only girl in her class afforded that opportunity; in those days young women rarely were allowed to pursue higher education. [3]

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Enough of that. Back to Class Day at Norwalk High School! The Class of 1907 had a treat for their audience: A play. We’ll see how well they pulled that off in my next post: Bachelor Hall.

 

Footnotes:

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

[2] Stephen Young’s classmates that attended college that fall were Arthur Young, Harry Holiday, Homer Beattie and Robert Venus.

[3] Oil Magnate Louis Severance married Fanny Benedict, sister of Harriott’s grandfather David Benedict. After Doctor Benedict’s death, Louis established a trust fund for his nieces and paid for the college educations of many of their children.

 

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Final Defeat – Norwalk HS Basketball 1907

Saturday afternoon, March 23, 1907, a day after the Junior boys’ basketball team’s intramural victory over the sophomores, the Norwalk High School regular boy’s basketball team was defeated badly in an away game by a Sandusky squad, 52 to 12. Leonard Delamater did not make the trip, and The Norwalk Evening Herald attributed this embarrassing loss to his absence, even though him missing the intramural game the night before did not keep the junior class from winning the championship.

The Norwalk Daily Reflector did not cover the Saturday afternoon match at all. So much for supporting the home team through thick or thin.

After a couple premature reports of the end of the 1906-1907 Norwalk High School basketball season, I can now report with confidence that March 23, 1907 was indeed the last game.

As we wrap up the season, let’s look at who in the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 went out for basketball their senior year.

Clockwise from top left they are Harry Holiday, Robert Venus, Arthur Young, Homer Beattie, and Sheldon Laning. (click on the links for posts about each boy).

These boys were not as successful in basketball their senior year as they would have liked, I am sure. Who was successful at basketball that season? The girls of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, that’s who. We’ll see how successful, and launch a series of articles about the “Athletic Girl” movement, in my next post.

Sources:

“Senior Girls and Junior Boys are Champions,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, March 23, 1907, page 1, column 3.

“Decides Basketball Superiority,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, March 23, 1907, page 4, column 3.

“Sandusky Defeats High School Team,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, March 25, 1907, page 4, column 3.

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Basketball – And Something Dark

One day you’re a hero, the next you’re a bum.

I’m sure that’s not how Norwalk, Ohio felt about their High School Basketball team, but one might be excused for thinking so from the way the newspapers covered their games.

On Friday, January 11, 1907, the boy’s team beat the Berlin Heights team decisively, for the second time. The Daily Reflector and the Evening Herald both reported both victories exuberantly and extensively.

But 110 years ago today, which was a Saturday, it was the Norwalk teams turn to face defeat. They traveled to Cleveland and went down big: 26 to 7 to the University School, a private high school.

The Evening Herald did not bother to cover the defeat, and the Daily Reflector did insert an article on the front page of the following Monday issue, but it was short and below the fold.

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While looking for mention of this game, I stumbled across an article about an organization I’d never heard of: White Cappers:

white-cappers

Whitecapping was a vigilante movement at the end of the 19th Century and the first decade of the 20th Century. Secret societies of white males enforced moral codes on the community. Targets were, as in this case, men who abused their wives, but also included men who would not support their families and women with illegitimate children. In the south, this movement also targeted African-Americans.

Like the Klu Klux Klan, Whitecappers dressed in white sheets and visited their victim’s homes at night in gangs of fifteen or twenty, dragging them out for punishment which included whippings, drownings, shootings and hangings. Local authorities turned a blind eye to these groups, and often were members themselves.

Cards were left on the doors of potential victims warning them to change their ways or suffer the consequences, but in this case, the whitecappers were so bold they took out an ad in the local newspaper. And that newspaper thought it appropriate to publish the warning!

 

Norwalk High School Basketball – A January 11, 1907 Rematch with Berlin Heights.

Today is the 110th anniversary of a rematch between the Norwalk High School boy’s team and Berlin Heights. In the first game on December 18, 1906, the Norwalk squad traveled to Berlin Heights, and won 19 to 11. This time, on Friday, January 11, 1907, Berlin Heights made the trip to Norwalk, but suffered an even greater loss than in the first match: 39 to 16.

boys-basketballBoth The Daily Reflector and The Evening Herald had extensive coverage of the game in their Saturday editions. The Norwalk team started strong, scoring eight unanswered point in the first few minutes. The Reflector’s article cited the Norwalk team’s “fast play and brilliant basket-shooting” as the reason for their win.

Here’s the roster for Norwalk, with the number of points for each. Those who were in the Class of 1907 are identified with links to their WeRelate pages.

 

 

The girl’s apparently did not play that weekend; there is no mention of the in either paper. That would change soon enough. The post that will cover that game will be the first of series of the “New Athletic Woman” movement of 110 years ago.

 

 

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