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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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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Shutout – Norwalk HS Girls’ Championship Game 1907

The Norwalk High School Class of 1907 boys’ basketball team did not play in the 1906-1907 intramural championship game. They were eliminated months earlier in the season by the juniors, who went on to win the boys’ championship game the evening of Friday, March 22, 1907. But the senior girls’ team did play–and won, shutting out the freshmen girls six to zip. [1]

I don’t have a championship photo of the senior girls’ team, as I do for the Junior boys’ team. But I can match faces to names with individual portraits of the team members that I clipped from their commencement class photograph.

Clockwise from top left, they are, Lillian Smith, Florence Davidson, Ruth Jenkins, Ruby Hoyt, Harriott Wickham, Florence Bascom, and Sarah Barnett aka, Sara Joslin.

Prim and proper here in their commencement dresses, these girls would have appeared differently on the basketball court in “long, dark woolen bloomers, long sleeved blouse to match the bloomers, dark stockings, and flat-heeled soft shoes.” [2] See the picture of the girls’ gym class at Norwalk High School in 1906 for an idea of what they wore in that class.

We may not think of girls in 1907 engaging in sports, but the “Athletic Girl” was all the rage at high schools and colleges during the first decade of the 19th century. It was an offshoot of the “New Woman” movement of the last half of the previous century. [3]

There was an active girls sports program at Norwalk High School in 1907, and basketball was an integral part of it. The gym teacher and girls’ basketball coach at the school was English teacher Miss Minnie Cleghorn, whom I briefly introduced in this blog on February 11th.

What inspired Miss Cleghorn to introduce basketball and physical education to Norwalk High School. We’ll look at that, and learn more about the “Athletic Girl” of the early 1900s, in a series beginning with my next post: Athletic Girl 1907.

Sources:

[1] “Senior Girls and Junior Boys are Champions,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, March 23, 1907, page 1, column 3. and “Decides Basketball Superiority,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, March 23, 1907, page 4, column 3.

[2] Betty Spears, “Senda Berenson Abbott: New Woman: New Sport;” A Century of Women’s Basketball: From Frailty to Final Four, edited by Joan S. Hult and Marianna Trekel; National Association for Girls and Women in Sport, 1907, Reston, VA; 21.

[3] Robert Pruter, “Chapter 8: The New Athletic Girl and Interscholastic Sports”, The Rise of American High School Sports and the Search for Control: 1880-1930, Syracuse University, 2013; 145-148.

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Basketball: Two Games at Norwalk High School

Friday evening, February 8, 1907, a night of basketball at the School Hall of the Norwalk High School began with a game between girls’ freshman and sophomore teams. According to the Norwalk Daily Reflector, the six to one score in favor of the freshmen team, did not reflect the excellent play on both sides. The newspaper opined that the high level of play bode well for the future of the junior/senior girls’ team in the coming years.

One exciting game was followed by another. A boys’ team from Elyria High School had come to School Hall to play the Norwalk Squad. The game began in a rush and the high pace was sustained throughout the contest. At the half, Norwalk led 9 to 5, and they continued to lead the rest of the game, winning at the final whistle 14 to 11.

The Norwalk squad was represented by two seniors and three juniors: Captain Arthur Young, and Clifford Williams as forwards, Leonard Delameter at center, and guards Ross Culp and Sheldon Laning. (The seniors of the Class of 1907 are indicated by links to their WeRelate pages).

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Arthur Young

sheldon-laning

Sheldon Laning

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leonard-delamater

Lucy Rule, Harriott Wickham, Sarah Barnett, Sophie Harkness, Walter Evans, Leonard Delamater

The Norwalk High School girl’s team did not play in Norwalk that evening. They had traveled to Clyde, for a game against the “Clyde Maidens.” More about that in my next post.

 

Sources:

“Basket Ball School Hall,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, 2/9/1907, page 1, column 7.

“Boys Won But Girls Lost,” Norwalk Evening Herald, February 9, 2017, page 1, column 6.

A Norwalk Weekend: Rough Basketball Play and a House Party

After his success serving as toastmaster for the Republican McKinley Banquet, Congressman-elect Jay Laning did not rest on his laurels, but headed out of town on a business trip. He left town shivering from near zero temperatures, but returned on Friday to more balmy weather, and a town ready to enjoy the weekend.

jolly-fiveBasketball was on the agenda. The weekend had started early for sports, when a newly formed group of young men who called themselves the Jolly Five lost to the Fremont Halycon in a game so rough that the Norwalk forward dislocated his shoulder.

The Norwalk boys team also had a close, physical game at the High Schools hall Friday night, losing to Sandusky 14 to 13. A sophomore-freshman championship followed that game, and the sophomores embarrassed their juniors, 59 to 2. At what point did the spectators melt away, I wonder.

Three students of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 did not stick around for these games, however. Sarah Barnett, Cleo Collins, and Alice McCammon, accompanied by Norwalk High School alumnus Sophia Harkness left on the four p.m. train to Steuben for a house party hosted by Miss McCammon.

sarah-bennett-commencement-photo-1907

Sarah Barnett

cleo-collins-commencement-photo

Cleo Collins

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Alice McCammon

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Sophia Harkness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

“Play Good Game,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, February 1, 1907, page 4, column 3.

“Sandusky Won,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, February 2, 1907, page 1, column 1.

“House Party at Steuben,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, February 2, 1907, page 1, column 2.

 

Temporary Derangement – Literary Nonfiction?

For Christmas last month, my daughter gave me a copy of Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. As most biographers do these days, Ms Goodwin writes in a genre called creative nonfiction, also known as literary or narrative nonfiction. [1] This genre describes real events in an entertaining way, using the craft of writers of fiction, especially the technique of point of view.

For instance, this is how Ms Goodwin begins the first chapter of Team of Rivals:

On May 18, 1860, the day when the Republican Party would nominate its candidate for president, Abraham Lincoln was up early. As he climbed the stairs to his plainly furnished law office on the south side of the public square in Springfield, Illinois, breakfast was being served at the 130-room Chenery House of Fourth Street. [2]

Ms Goodwin continues to describe Lincoln’s morning as she imagines he would have experienced it.

So, how did Ms Goodwin know what Lincoln saw and did that spring morning in 1860? From a variety of sources: newspapers, diaries and journals, letters, other document and accounts; and by personal observation, going to the square herself to get a sense of what it looked like that day.

I have used this genre (although not as skillfully as Doris Kearns Goodwin, of course) in the “Sufferers’ Land” story on this website, and more recently in last week’s post “Temporary Derangement.”

What did I use for sources for the latter story about the suicide of Calista Harris? Let’s take a look:

  • The title “Temporary Derangement” came from an obituary in the temporary-derangementNorwalk Daily Reflector article for April 24, 1906, the day after Mrs. Harris committed suicide.

  • The weather? I learned that from the Daily Reflector‘s April 23rd issue.

  • How about the address? Obituaries and other articles reported that Laura Joslin lived on Main Street, but I surmised the house number by consulting 1900 and 1910 Census records. Both had the Joslin’s living at 117 Main Street. I got an idea of what the house probably looked like in 1906 by looking at Google Maps. [3]

  • I learned what people in Norwalk were saying about the San Francisco earthquake from the Norwalk Daily Reflector and the Norwalk Evening Herald, and used the obituaries in those newspapers and the Sandusky Daily Register to piece together and account of how Laura Joslin found her mother’s body and her reaction (she fainted).

Is it a good idea to write nonfiction with the craft of fiction writers? It can get one in trouble if one plays too fast with the truth (David McCullough, for instance, has come under criticism for certain passages in his biographies: Truman and John Adams. And who can forget James Frey?).

What do you think of the literary nonfiction genre? Let me know in the comments below.

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The “Temporary Derangement” post generated the most traffic to my blog since the “Sufferers’ Land” days. In future posts, I’ll do what my best to make this site as entertaining–and as accurate–as possible. If you think I’m going to far, call me out for it in the comments.

Thanks for visiting. I am thrilled when people actually read what I write.

This is the last of the Sarah Barnett posts. Here are the previous posts about her and her Tuttle, Joslin, Barnett and Harris heritage:

Next up: The story of how Myrtle Woodruff‘s pioneer family were among the first settlers of the Firelands.

Notes:

[1] I prefer narrative or literary fiction. Creative nonfiction recalls to my mind that unfortunate term: creative accounting!

[2] Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2006, page 5.

[3] The house now standing on that lot is not the one the Joslins owned, it is too modern. But I can get an idea of the style by looking at the houses on neighboring lots from that era. When in doubt about the age of homes, I consult the tax records.

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Temporary Derangement

Laura Joslin went up the walk to her home at 117 Main Street, Norwalk, Ohio, after running errands uptown on a chilly Monday afternoon, April 23, 1906. Everyone uptown, it seemed, was still talking about the earthquake that had struck San Francisco last week. Fires still burned in that city, and the toll of death and injured continued to mount. Survivors, including some citizens of Norwalk, had been evacuated to Colorado Springs and Denver, Colorado.

It is likely that Laura’s thoughts were not on that tragedy as she mounted the porch steps, but were on her mother Calista Harris. Ever since her mother had arrived from Clyde last year, Laura had not thought of much else. Although Calista was only sixty-eight years old, she had had a rough life, growing up on a farm, raising two children, and then losing her first husband. All that had taken a toll on her health, and she now suffered from various aliments, including blinding headaches. Last year she had come to Norwalk so Laura, her eldest daughter, could nurse her.

Laura’s life had not been a bed of roses, either. She had suffered the loss of her first husband at an even a younger age than her mother. Faced with raising two young girls on her own after his death, she had married Augustus Joslin, a well-off widower over thirty years her senior. Although that marriage had given her the financial security she needed, it also saddled her with the responsibility of nursing him as his health became progressively worse. Augustus had died last year, relieving Laura of that responsibility. But soon after he passed, her mother came to live with her–and forced her once again into the role of a nurse.

She crossed the porch and went in the front door. Quiet met her. Where was her mother? Laura passed through the front room to the kitchen  and stopped short. A knife and a length of clothesline lay on the table.

The image of the outhouse came into her mind.  She darted out the back door and ran across the yard to the little building, jerked open the door–and screamed. Her mother dangled from the rafter, a noose tight around her neck.

Laura grew faint, and, as the ground seemed to rise to greet her, the whole world went dark.

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Is this little story an accurate account of what happened that April afternoon in 1906? I believe 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, Ohio.

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