Commencement Speakers – Best Grades in Literary Work

Two women in the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 , Inez Adams and Alice McCammon, were selected for best grades in literary work. Unlike Irene Bragdon, who was honored in the best grades for regular work category, they did not venture into the male domain of oratory, but read essays, apparently the preferred feminine mode of expression.

Inez Adams Commencement Photo 1907

Inez Adams

Inez Adams was one of the older members of the Class of 1907: nineteen at graduation. She came from a working class background; her father Martin was a foreman in a printing plant. So it was fitting, perhaps, that the cautionary title of her essay was “The Tendency of Luxury.”

“Wealth and its co-worker, luxury,” she proclaimed, “have made states, countries, and nations yield to them since the dawn of history.” She went on to condemn those who pursued riches, as an aristocracy contributing to downfall of America. Coming at the end of the “Gilded Age” this sentiment is understandable. She concluded forcefully with this warning, “if we cannot destroy the luxury that is ruining us, America will soon become like Rome was before her downfall.”

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Alice McCammon

Alice McCammon was even older than Inez — she graduated at the age of twenty — and lived on a farm in Greenfield Township, where she had been born. Her essay was “Fashion vrs. Reason,” and like Miss Bragdon’s warnings about the dangers of pursuing wealth and luxury, hers was a cautionary tale about becoming a slave to fashion. She warned about following the crowd, and concluded by declaring that “one thing is always in fashion, good health.”

So what happened to these two young women? Inez Adams, like Irene Bragdon, never married. Soon after graduation, her family moved to Minnesota, where she began a life-long career as a stenographer with an insurance company. In her essay, she disparaged the pursuit of wealth, in her life, she followed her own advice. [3]

Alice McCammon also appears to have followed her own advice. She continued to live in Greenfield Township after graduation, becoming a teacher in a local school. In 1915 married a local farmer, and spent the rest of her life as a farmer’s wife. [4]

 

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.

[3] From the Inez Adams person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

[4] From the Alice McCammon 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 – Who’s Missing – And Why?

In my last two posts about Class Day 1907, Bachelor Hall and The Chorus Girls Who Are They, I identified all members of the cast of the play Bachelor Hall that was performed at the Norwalk High School on June 5 and 6, 1907. The cast, however, did not include the entire Norwalk High School Class of 1907. Six students did not perform those two nights: Myrtle WoodruffAlice McCammon, Gertrude Ryerson, Inez Adams, Earl Sinclair, and Fred Osborne. [1]

 

Clockwise from upper left: Myrtle Woodruff, Alice McCammon, Gertrude Ryerson, Fred Osborne, Earl Sinclair and Inez Adams.

Were these six young people working backstage? According to the Norwalk Daily Reflector, [2] the actors’ “makeups were true to life, [and] the stage settings were in excellent taste.” Someone had to apply the “makeups” and someone was needed to manufacture the stage settings and change them between scenes.

But then again, perhaps these six were not involved at all; age and place of residence may be the reason they did not participate in these follies.

Three of the young women lived outside Norwalk, and were older than their classmates: Myrtle was twenty years old and lived in Fairfield Township, [3] Alice was the same age and lived in Greenfield Township, [4], Gertrude was a year younger and hailed from Bronson Township. [5] Inez and Fred lived in Norwalk, but she was nineteen [6] and he was one month shy of his twenty-first birthday. [7] Earl Sinclair was nineteen and lived on a farm outside of Norwalk. [8]

Bottom line, it seems that older students did not participate in school activities as much as their younger classmates, most of whom were seventeen or eighteen years old. Location also seemed to be a factor. Those who participated in extra curricular activities were more likely to live in Norwalk.

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In high school, I enjoyed performing in theatrical productions. But I and my fellow cast members were not the most popular in our class. In 1907, however, all the younger members of the Norwalk senior class were involved in the class play, and many other activities. Class spirit in my high school in 1972 can only be characterized as dismal. In 1907, however, with the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, it was everything.

 

Footnotes:

[1] The links for each student lead to that person’s WeRelate person page.

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

[3] Fairfield, in Huron County, Ohio. 1900 U.S. Census Population Schedule, Roll: 1288; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0020; FHL microfilm: 1241288.

[4] Greenfield, in Huron County, Ohio. 1900 U.S. Census Population Schedule, Roll: 1288; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 0022; FHL microfilm: 1241288.

[5] Bronson, in Huron County, Ohio. 1900 U.S. Census Population Schedule, ; Roll: 1288; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0018; FHL microfilm: 1241288.

[6] Kenton Ward 2, in Huron County, Ohio. 1900 U.S. Census Population Schedule, Roll: 1288; Page: 13A&B; Enumeration District: 0031; FHL microfilm: 1241288.

[7] Kenton Ward 3, in Huron County, Ohio. 1900 U.S. Census Population Schedule, Roll: 1288; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 0032; FHL microfilm: 1241288.

[8] Norwalk, in Huron County, Ohio. 1900 U.S. Census Population Schedule, Roll: 1288; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 0029; FHL microfilm: 1241288.,

 

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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

harriott-wickham-commencement-photo

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

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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Who Are They?

The Norwalk High School Class of 1907 included my grandmother, Harriott Benedict Wickham, and twenty-five other students. Who were these other pupils? Well, here is a class roster:

Ruth Jenkins, Irene Eline, Irene Bragdon, Myrtle Woodruff, Lillian Smith, Eugene Bloxham, Arthur Young, Carrie Spurrier, Robert Venus, Ruby Hoyt, Sarah Barnett, Fred Osborne, Nina Humiston, Earl Sinclair, Florence Davidson, Inez Adams, Stephen Young, Fred French, Florence Bascom, Homer Beattie, Slice McCammon, Sheldon Laning, Edna West, Harry Holiday, Harriott Wickham, and Cleo Collins.

Just names–for now. Over the next year, I will endeavor to breathe life into them: to discover what kind of people they were, who their families were, and what world they inhabited one-hundred and ten years ago.

I have a small treasure of photos to get me started. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Like this image from a long ago theater production of the Class of 1907, for instance.

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Who were these young people? What theater production were they in? I do not know the answers–yet. Let’s find out together.

 

 

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