Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Longevity

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Norwalk High School

 

In my last post, we looked at the breakdown of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 by gender and age at the time of their graduation. In this post, we’ll check out how long they lived, and how their average lifespans compared to life expectancy of the general population in 1907 and today. Here’s a chart that lays it all out.

Life Expectancy

The Norwalk High School Class of 1907 lived almost ten years longer than the general population. What does this tell us about them, and about public education 1907? It shows, in my opinion, that high school back then, at least in cities the size of Norwalk, was mostly for the upper middle class. The children of workers in the factories of the city, and those of most farmers, could not afford the luxury of attending school into their late teens. They needed to work to support their families. Although I don’t have statistics on this, I would imagine most young people did not make it into high school at all. And education is a major factor in predicting future wealth, and the ability to live a healthy lifestyle. What to you think?

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Ruth Jenkins was the longest lived of the class of 1907. Born July 11, 1889, she lived until October 12, 1987, when she died at the ripe old age of ninety eight years. The first loss among all the graduates was Edna West, who passed away in 1936 just short of turning fifty.

 

Ruth Jenkins (1899-1987) and Edna West (1897-1936)

Ruth and two other women in the class lived into their nineties, five made it past eighty, and three lived to be over seventy. One each passed away in their sixties, fifties, and, as we saw with Edna, forties.

Only one of the men lived to be over ninety: U.S. Senator Stephen Young, who lived to be ninety five years old. Two of the men lived into their eighties and another two into their seventies. Three died in their sixties and two in their fifties. The first of the men to pass away was Arthur Young, the leader of the class academically, and president of the class.

 

Stephen Young (1899-1984) and Arthur Young (1899-1943)

That’s it for longevity. Next up, education, where we’ll see who besides Arthur Young among the graduates received a scholarship.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Because I have not been able to determine when Florence Davidson and Cleo Collins died, they were not considered in calculating the life expectancy for the females of the class.

[2] “Life Expectancy by Age, 1850–2011.” Infoplease. © 2000-2017 Sandbox Networks, Inc., publishing as Infoplease. 17 Jul. 2017. <https://www.infoplease.com/us/mortality/life-expectancy-age-1850-2011/&gt;.

[3] “U.S. Life Expectancy: White American,” World Life Expectancy. 17 Jul. 2017. <http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/usa/life-expectancy-white&gt;.

 

 

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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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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 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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Oratorical Contest for a Future U.S. Senator

Many Go to Bowling Green

At three p.m. on Friday, May 10, 1907, 110 years ago today, a crowd of fifteen Norwalk High School students clamored aboard a special rail car bound for an oratorical contest at Bowling Green, Ohio. Among them was one of their own, Stephen Young, Junior, Norwalk High School Class of 1907, who would compete against fourteen students from other Ohio High Schools.

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Stephen Young, Jr.

Stephen was scheduled last in the program. His subject was “The Darker Side.” He came in fourth, missing out on the princely  sum of ten dollars for first prize (and eight and seven dollars for second and third place). According to an article in the Norwalk Evening Herald the following day, “those from [Norwalk] who heard the orations speak of his efforts in high terms.”

The students arrived back in Norwalk in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Were they really impressed with their classmates performance? Was Stephen upset that he did not win the contest? Did it drive him to improve, and compete again?

Stephen Young, Junior, Norwalk High School Class of 1907, in his career, would not succeed in all his endeavors. In fact, in politics, he failed more often than he succeeded. But he did rise to heights not achieved by his classmates. As a soldier, he would serve his country against Pancho Villa in Mexico and in two world wars. As a statesman, he would be elected to the Ohio Legislature, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. We’ll learn more about his career in future posts.

 

Sources:

“Oratorical Contest,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, March 10, 1907, page 1, column 2.

“Many Go to Bowling Green,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, May 10, 1907, page 4, column 3.

“Contest Goes to Hicksville,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, May 11, 1907, page 1, column 4.

“Oratorical Contest,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, March 11, 1907, page 3, column 6.

Stephen Young person page in the WeRelate Wiki.

Stephen M. Young article in Wikipedia.

 

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Young Folks to Dance

January 18, 1907 fell on a Friday in 1907. That day, the Norwalk Evening Herald had a short article for the next day, announcing a dance would be held Saturday evening for certain young people of the town, sponsored by the Omicon Pi Club of Sandusky.

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Here’s a mystery! Who were the Omicron Pi Club. A Google search turned up no club of that name in Sandusky. I found several fraternities and sororities with those two Greek characters in their names, but nothing that matched.

Several members of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 were invited to this dance: Florence Bascom, Ruby Hoyt, and Steve Young.

florence-bascom-commencement-photo-1907Florence Bascom lived at 90 Linwood Avenue, southwest of downtown, with her father William, a blacksmith, her mother, and her brother Harry, two years her elder, already a high school graduate and probably employed as a clerk at the coal office of the Cleveland Railroad. Not a wealthy family, but their life must have been comfortable at that time.

ruby-hoyt-commencement-photo-1907The Hoyt family lived at 55 Linwood, only a few houses north of the Bascoms. Ruby Hoyt’s father had died in 1901, so in 1907, she was living with her mother Emma and her elder brother Leon and sister Charlotte. Her siblings both worked: Charlotte was a teacher, and Leon a Marine Officer (which makes me think he did not live at home).

stephen-young-commencement-photo-1907Stephen Young came from a different class than his two classmates invited to this dance. His father was a lawyer with his own private practice. The Young family lived at 64 West Main Street, not far from downtown. His father was well respected and a leading member of the community. What is the connection with the other two members of the class.

So why were these three young people invited to this dance and why were other members of the Class of 1907 not invited? I do not know.

 

 

 

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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