Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Where They Went – Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights, Ohio (and the Bobbsey Twins)

 

The Bobbsey Twins

The Bobbsey Twins book cover, circa 1908 (from Wikipedia Commons)

 

Were you once hooked on the Bobbsey Twins? I was. The lives and adventures of Nan and Bert, Freddie and Flossie, and their family fascinated me, perhaps because their lives were so different from mine.

I had not thought about the Bobbsey Twins for years, but they came to mind as I was researching the lives of the three graduates of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 who are the subjects of this post. Not the twins, actually, but their parents: Richard, owner of a lumber yard and Mary, his stay-at-home mom. As I recall, Richard was rarely seen, taking the morning train into the city for his job. Mary stayed home, caring for their lovely suburban home and two sets of twins, with help from the servants, of course. As I imagine it, the lives of the three Norwalk, Ohio natives who settled in Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights must have been very much like theirs [1]

From the time John D. Rockefeller purchased land in what is now Cleveland Heights, the area has been a known for its affluence. Founded as a village in 1903, it had grown to 5,000 residents by 1910, and in 1920 it exceeded 15,000. One of the “streetcar suburbs,” it became home to many managers and other office workers in the city. [2]

stephen-young-commencement-photo-1907Stephen Young and Ruby Hoyt had homes in Cleveland Heights most of their lives. Stephen did not spend much of his life in the town, however. He was overseas during both two world wars, and between those conflicts, and after, he spent much of his time either in Columbus, Ohio, serving in the state legislature, and in Washington D.C. during his career in the House and Senate. He did practice law in Cleveland from time to time, and I imagine him commuting into the city from his home on Edgehill Road in Cleveland Heights. [3]

Ruby Hoyt married Hugh McAllister, a salesman in the publishing industry. Hugh must have been a good salesman, because he and Ruby had a live in maid at their comfortable home on Queenston Road in Cleveland Heights. They had three children, two girls and a boy. [4]

 

 

Ruby Hoyt and Nina Humiston

Nina Humiston also married a successful businessman: Henry Ronk, who worked in finance in the oil industry. At first they lived in Cleveland, but after Henry started a public accounting firm, they moved first to a home in Cleveland Heights, then, as his practice grew, to Shaker Heights, where Nina stayed at home to raise three children, with the help of a couple of servants. [5]

Ruby Hoyt, and Nina Humiston married well and probably lived the dream portrayed in the fictional world of the Bobbsey Twins. Certainly, they had their ups and downs in life: but overall they enjoyed a life of privilege and comfort. To these advantages, Stephen Young added power and prestige through his military and political careers. Any way you look at it, these members of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 took full advantage of their place in society.

Next up, Lakewood, Ohio, where two graduates enjoyed similar lives of prosperity and marriage – and one who had the former, while forgoing the latter.

 

[1] From The Bobbsey Twins article in Wikipedia.

[2] The history of Cleveland Heights in the several decades of the twentieth century are from the Cleveland Heights history webpages in Wikipedia and of the Cleveland Heights Historical Society.

[3] For source material about Stephen Young, see his Wikipedia article, and the Stephen Young person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

[4] For source material about Hugh and Ruby McAllister, see the Ruby Hoyt person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

[5] For source material about Henry and Nina Ronk, see the Nina Humiston person page on the WeRelate Wiki. The history of Shaker Heights can be found on Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.

 

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Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Matrimony

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When I began researching the lives after graduation of the members of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, I expected to find that a higher percentage of the men of the class had married than women. A prejudiced assumption, of course, which almost guarantees it will be wrong. In fact, only sixty percent of men married compared to over seventy percent of women [1]

The grouping of men and women by ages is even more interesting, and unexpected (for me, at least). The six men who married did so between the ages of twenty-one and twenty five, with Stephen Young marrying first, at the age of twenty-one, on January 11, 1911, the same year he graduated from Western Reserve University with a law degree. On the other end of the spectrum, Sheldon Laning and Arthur Young waited until 1915 before they wed, when they were twenty-five and had started their careers.

 

 

Stephen Young, Sheldon Laning, and Arthur Young

 

Twelve women of the class married, with a much wider spread in years and ages than the men: from age nineteen to thirty-four and as early 1907 and as late as 1924.

Gertrude Ryerson married first, in 1907, the same year she graduated. I haven’t been able to learn the exact date she wed, so it’s possible she married prior to graduation. That may be why she does not appear in the graduation photo. Gertrude was twenty-one when she wed, so she was not the youngest of the class to marry. That was Nina Humiston, who married at the age of nineteen, almost exactly one year after graduating from Norwalk High School.

The woman who married last, and at the oldest age, was Harriott Wickham, who waited until 1924 to marry at the age of thirty-four. This was after graduating from Wooster College (the only woman in the class of 1907 to graduate from college), teaching high school in the west for over a decade, and homesteading in Wyoming.

 

Gertrude Ryerson, Nina Humiston, and Harriott Wickham

 

Many women worked before marrying, mainly as teachers in one-room schools around Norwalk. But, unlike their male classmates, none had a career after they wed. The remainder of their lives were dedicated to their husbands and families.

 

Footnotes:

[1] The percentage of women married may be higher than 70%. As I reported in a previous post, Florence Davidson disappears from the records after the 1910 Census. She was still single then, but may have married afterwards.

 

 

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Commencement Speakers – Chosen by the Class

Unlike the speakers described in my previous two posts, who were chosen for best grades in regular work and best grades in literary work, the other four speakers at Norwalk High School’s Class of 1907 Commencement were not selected for academic performance. Today, we look at Sheldon Laning and Nina Humiston, who were chosen by the class – a popularity contest, it seems.

sheldon-laning

Sheldon Laning

As the son of a U.S. Congressman, Sheldon Laning would be expected to talk about politics, and he did not disappoint. His oration was titled “Our National Peril and How to Avoid It.” The national peril, in his view, was the system of political bosses, who selected candidates for office in “smoke-filled rooms.” His solution to this problem, was to adopt primaries, and allow voters to decide who would represent their parties in general elections. These days, of course, primaries are used by parties to select candidates in most states, so Mr. Laning was prescient in that regard. That his father was selected in by the party is ironic.

Nina Humiston Commencement Photo 1907

Nina Humiston

Like Irene Bragdon, Nina Humiston broke the norm for female students, although, unlike Irene, she did not risk tackling an oration. She instead opted for a recitation of the poem Bud’s Fairy Tale. According to newspaper accounts, “Miss Humiston’s imitation of a small child telling a highly imaginary stories was almost perfect, and was greeted by the audience with laughter and applause.” [1] Although she did not sing at the commencement ceremony, Nina was quite the musical performer as well. Like Ora Tuttle, subject of the Serendipity post on this site, Nina was active in the Methodist Church and performed at services and at church and social events. [2]

So how did these two young people fare in life? Sheldon Laning did not venture into politics, like his father. He did follow in his dad’s footsteps when it came to  business, though. After obtaining a law degree, he moved to Chicago where he worked in the automotive industry. In 1915, he married fellow Norwalk High School graduate Mildred Monnett (Class of 1908), then returned to Norwalk and took over the family publishing business, where he spent the remainder of his working life. [3]

Like many of the other young women in her class, Nina Humiston married soon after graduation. In 1908, she wed Henry Ronk, a fellow Norwalk graduate who had also been active in the Methodist Church. Henry was seven years her senior and had already graduated from college. They set up house in Shaker Heights where Henry established a successful accounting practice. [4]

That’s it for the two speakers who were selected for this honor by their classmates. Next up: the two speakers chosen by the faculty.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Descriptions of Sheldon and Nina’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] “Good Meeting,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, March 30, 1903, page 4, column 4.

[3] From the Stephen Laning person page in the WeRelate Wiki.

[4] From the Nina Humiston person page in 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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Norwalk, Ohio High School Class of 1907

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.

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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