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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Bachelor Hall – The Chorus Girls – Who Are They?

In my last post, I presented the cast of a performance of Bachelor Hall, a play presented on June 5 and 6, 1907 by the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 — with a notable exception: the chorus girls.

According to the Norwalk Daily Reflector, these young women provided the highlight of the show. Accompanied by the Spencer Orchestra, they sang and danced three songs: “When Love is Young,” “Oh, Be Careful of the Alligator,” and “Be My Little Teddy Bear.” So who were these “chorus girls?” [1]

Once again, my grandmother, Harriott Wickham (who was one of their number), comes through again with a photo I found in her papers. Here are the chorus girls from the play Bachelor Hall, apparently performing “Be My Little Teddy Bear.” Unfortunately, she did not include the names. [2]

 

Chorus Girls

There are eight women in the photo, but the newspapers only reported seven: Lillian Smith, Carrie Spurrier, Ruth Jenkins, Florence Davidson, Cleo Collins, Harriott Wickham, and Irene Bragdon. [3]

Who is who? And which girl is in the photo, but not listed in the cast of characters. Here are individual photos of the seven in clockwise order from upper left as listed in the previous paragraph. See if you can figure out who is in the group photo.

 

I must admit that I am not doing well figuring out who is who. Perhaps it is because in the group photo the girls are smiling. After examining the photo closely, I can be sure of only two: Carrie Spurrier, fifth from left (because of the spectacles); and Irene Bragdon, sixth from left.

What do you think?

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Descriptions of the play and cast are from these newspaper articles: “Bachelor Hall,” Norwalk Reflector, 6/1/1907, page 4, column 5; “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.

[2] The chorus girl photo is from the unpublished collection of Harriott Wickham’s papers in my possession. I clipped the individual photos from the Commencement photo of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, also in Harriott Wickham’s papers.

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

 

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Halloween 1906 – A Progressive Dinner”

halloween-1906Today is Halloween, a holiday that was celebrated in 1906–but with a different twist than today. According to a recent article in The New York Times, and a post from a blog of the Smithsonian Museum, Halloween at the beginning of the 20th Century was as much about romantic love as it was about ghosts and goblins. Although boys and young men were involved in playing tricks or pranks on their neighbors, the practice of trick or treat would not become popular until the late 1920s.

Instead, most young men and women, at least those in small towns like Norwalk, would attend parties hosted by the young women in their homes. The women would treat their guests to a meal and the young people would entertain themselves with dancing and games. As with most social events of the day, activities at Halloween parties were a way for young men and women to flirt and gauge the suitability of potential romantic partners while under the watchful gaze of their parents.

The games especially were a great way to get acquainted. Some are snap-applefamiliar today, like bobbing for apples. A variation of that game popular at the time was called “Snap Apple,” where boys and girls would attempt to bite an apple suspended from the ceiling by a string. The first to succeed would be the first to marry. Another game involved the host hiding a dime, a ring and thimble in mashed potatoes or a similar food. The guest who found the ring in his portion would be destined to marry soon, the one with the thimble would spend his or her or life alone, and the lucky one to get the dime would have good fortune. Of course, one would imagine that an unwary or impatient guest could end up needing dental work.

On Halloween night in 1906, Norwalk was busy with these parties. The next day, the Norwalk Reflector reported on eleven such gatherings. One of these was a “progressive party” held by the X, Y, Z, Club, a social organization of eight or nine young women, five who were members of the Class of 1907: Carrie Spurrier, Irene Bragdon, Harriott Wickham, Inez Adams, and Ruth Jenkins. These social clubs were common in the day. Young women would plan parties at members homes and invite young men to attend. The Norwalk Reflector reported that Harriott Wickham hosted a “Cobweb Party” at her home for the “X, Y, Z Club” on Friday, September 21.

According to the Destination: Austin Family blog, in a “Cobweb Party” strings were routed from room to room throughout the house, crossing often to create a tangle, or web. Participants would each be given one end of a string and would follow it throughout the house, meeting other party goers where the strings crossed. At the other end of the string would be a small gift, or the name of the partner who would escort he or she to dinner.

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Carrie Spurrier

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Irene Bragdon

To begin the “Progressive Party,” on Halloween in 1906, the “X, Y, Z Club” members and their guests, a total of eighteen young men and women, met home of Carrie Spurrier on Walnut Street. Where on Walnut I don’t know. According to my research, in 1909, Carrie lived on Elm Street, but apparently had moved there from Walnut Street sometime between 1906 and then. Irene Bradgon, another senior student, helped her entertain the guests. Here the party enjoyed the first “course” of the evening’s meal followed by dancing and games.

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Sophia Harkness

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Harriott Wickham

After a suitable time had passed, the young people left the Spurrier house and walked down Norwood Avenue to the corner of Benedict and Summit, and then on Sophia Harkness’s home at 31 Hickory Street. Sophia was not in the Class of 1907; at age 18, she must have graduated the year before. Harriott Wickham, who lived catty corner behind her at 32 Summit Street, assisted.

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Inez Adams

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Ruth Jenkins

The next stop was the home of Inez Adams at 31 Oak Street, an eight minute walk of a half-mile. Inez lived with her step-father Martin Callum and her mother Estelle. She was assisted by Ruth Jenkins, who lived only three minutes away, about three blocks.

 The journey to the final two stops of the “Progressive Dinner” was a bit of a hike—a mile and a half to be exact. According to the Norwalk Reflector, the party arrived “in due time” at the home of Bessie Fox at 219 West Main Street.  The last course was at the home of Sarah Joslin at 117 West Main Street, about ten minutes back down Main Street toward downtown. (Sarah and Bessie were not members of the Class of 1907 and I assume that, like Sophia Harkness, they were Norwalk High School Alumni.) After a final course of their holiday meal, one would assume desert, the party broke up and made their way home.

Can you imagine how this evening played out? I see a large group of young men and women strolling the streets of town from home to home, chatting, teasing, laughing–perhaps quarreling at times. Then I imagine them in parlors, drawing rooms, eating, dancing and playing games, while amused parents and other family members listened from the kitchen. Can you see it, too?

 

Sources

In addition to the links to online sources, I consulted the November 1, 1906 edition of the Norwalk Reflector for accounts of the previous evening. The links to WeRelate Wiki person pages for the five members of the Class of 1907: Carrie Spurrier, Irene Bragdon, Harriott Wickham, Inez Adams, and Ruth Jenkins contain sources about them and their families.

 

 

 

 

 

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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