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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Final Defeat – Norwalk HS Basketball 1907

Saturday afternoon, March 23, 1907, a day after the Junior boys’ basketball team’s intramural victory over the sophomores, the Norwalk High School regular boy’s basketball team was defeated badly in an away game by a Sandusky squad, 52 to 12. Leonard Delamater did not make the trip, and The Norwalk Evening Herald attributed this embarrassing loss to his absence, even though him missing the intramural game the night before did not keep the junior class from winning the championship.

The Norwalk Daily Reflector did not cover the Saturday afternoon match at all. So much for supporting the home team through thick or thin.

After a couple premature reports of the end of the 1906-1907 Norwalk High School basketball season, I can now report with confidence that March 23, 1907 was indeed the last game.

As we wrap up the season, let’s look at who in the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 went out for basketball their senior year.

Clockwise from top left they are Harry Holiday, Robert Venus, Arthur Young, Homer Beattie, and Sheldon Laning. (click on the links for posts about each boy).

These boys were not as successful in basketball their senior year as they would have liked, I am sure. Who was successful at basketball that season? The girls of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, that’s who. We’ll see how successful, and launch a series of articles about the “Athletic Girl” movement, in my next post.

Sources:

“Senior Girls and Junior Boys are Champions,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, March 23, 1907, page 1, column 3.

“Decides Basketball Superiority,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, March 23, 1907, page 4, column 3.

“Sandusky Defeats High School Team,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, March 25, 1907, page 4, column 3.

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Basketball – And Something Dark

One day you’re a hero, the next you’re a bum.

I’m sure that’s not how Norwalk, Ohio felt about their High School Basketball team, but one might be excused for thinking so from the way the newspapers covered their games.

On Friday, January 11, 1907, the boy’s team beat the Berlin Heights team decisively, for the second time. The Daily Reflector and the Evening Herald both reported both victories exuberantly and extensively.

But 110 years ago today, which was a Saturday, it was the Norwalk teams turn to face defeat. They traveled to Cleveland and went down big: 26 to 7 to the University School, a private high school.

The Evening Herald did not bother to cover the defeat, and the Daily Reflector did insert an article on the front page of the following Monday issue, but it was short and below the fold.

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While looking for mention of this game, I stumbled across an article about an organization I’d never heard of: White Cappers:

white-cappers

Whitecapping was a vigilante movement at the end of the 19th Century and the first decade of the 20th Century. Secret societies of white males enforced moral codes on the community. Targets were, as in this case, men who abused their wives, but also included men who would not support their families and women with illegitimate children. In the south, this movement also targeted African-Americans.

Like the Klu Klux Klan, Whitecappers dressed in white sheets and visited their victim’s homes at night in gangs of fifteen or twenty, dragging them out for punishment which included whippings, drownings, shootings and hangings. Local authorities turned a blind eye to these groups, and often were members themselves.

Cards were left on the doors of potential victims warning them to change their ways or suffer the consequences, but in this case, the whitecappers were so bold they took out an ad in the local newspaper. And that newspaper thought it appropriate to publish the warning!

 

Norwalk High School Basketball – A January 11, 1907 Rematch with Berlin Heights.

Today is the 110th anniversary of a rematch between the Norwalk High School boy’s team and Berlin Heights. In the first game on December 18, 1906, the Norwalk squad traveled to Berlin Heights, and won 19 to 11. This time, on Friday, January 11, 1907, Berlin Heights made the trip to Norwalk, but suffered an even greater loss than in the first match: 39 to 16.

boys-basketballBoth The Daily Reflector and The Evening Herald had extensive coverage of the game in their Saturday editions. The Norwalk team started strong, scoring eight unanswered point in the first few minutes. The Reflector’s article cited the Norwalk team’s “fast play and brilliant basket-shooting” as the reason for their win.

Here’s the roster for Norwalk, with the number of points for each. Those who were in the Class of 1907 are identified with links to their WeRelate pages.

 

 

The girl’s apparently did not play that weekend; there is no mention of the in either paper. That would change soon enough. The post that will cover that game will be the first of series of the “New Athletic Woman” movement of 110 years ago.

 

 

Basketball Again! Victory in Berlin Heights

In the last post, we saw how on December 8, 1906, the senior boys of the Norwalk High School basketball team defeated the juniors. On Friday the following week (one hundred and ten years ago today), a combined Norwalk boys team traveled to Berlin Heights to play that schools team in their first extramural game of the season.

berlin-heights-high-school

Berlin Heights High School

Back in Norwalk, preparations for Christmas were in full swing. Newspapers had grown from four to six pages most days to accommodate advertisements for discounts and appearances by Santa in stores and shops around the city. And in the following days edition of the Daily Reflector, came more cheer: the Norwalk squad had defeated their Berlin Heights opponents, 19-11.

This was the first year Berlin Heights had fielded a basketball team, so the result was expected, according to the Daily Reflector. But the paper also reported that this year’s Norwalk team was the fastest ever, and had exceptionally strong shooting, with many long baskets from the floor.

Who was on the team? Well, here’s the lineup. The Seniors of the Class of 1907 are identified by links to their WeRelate pages.

Forwards: Arthur Young, captain, and Clifford Williams.

Center: Pitt Curtiss, Jr.

Guards: Leonard Delamater and Sheldon Laning.

Substitutes: Homer Beattie and Harry Holiday.

Arthur Young was captain for a good reason: he led the squad in baskets from the field with five. Clifford Williams, a junior or underclassman, also had five baskets, but two of them were foul shots.

The team would have the holidays to savor their victory: their next game would not be until January 11, when they would face Lorain High School.

Tomorrow we’ll see how the girls team fared the following day, Saturday, December 15, at Elyria High School.

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1906 Basketball Season! Intramural Play

1906 Basketball!

I am not a big basketball fan. Football, yes–baseball, sometimes (especially when the Indians go to the Series–and then disappoint)–but basketball, meh!

Until this year, that is, when hometown hero Lebron James took the Cavs to the first Cleveland major league sports championship in over 60 years. The final game was the first one I watched in its entirety in decades.

All of this brings us to the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. On this day in 1906, Norwalk High School kicked off its basketball season with two intramural games between senior and junior teams, one match between boys’ teams and the other between the girls.

Basketball today is a national pastime and a multi-billion-dollar industry. The NBA playoffs and “March Madness” are eagerly followed by millions. In 1906, the sport was in its infancy. It had been invented fifteen years before by Dr. James Naismith at the YMCA Training School in Springfield Massachusetts (now Springfield College). That first game was a sedate affair compared from today’s fast paced play. Only one point was scored. A soccer ball with laces was used, which made dribbling impossible, and bounce passes erratic. The object of the game was to get the ball into a peach basket fastened nailed to a vertical track.

The sport spread quickly, and by 1906 college, high school, and community teams had been established around the nation. In that year, the peach basked was finally replaced with a metal ring, much like what is used today.

In 1906, Norwalk had at least three teams that had been around for several years: one made up of members of Company G of the Ohio National Guard, and at the high school a boys and girls team. The first Norwalk High School basketball games I can find a record of were on December 1903 for boys’ and girls’ teams.

The Boy’s Game – Exciting!

These first games of the season were well reported in both The Daily Reflector and The Evening Herald. The boys’ game provided plenty of thrills. The Daily Reflector called the match “the most exciting ever played in School Hall.” The juniors were favored, but the seniors proved to be their match. At the end of regulation play, the score was tied 9 to 9 and went into overtime. Finally, the seniors pulled off an upset, winning 11-9.

From the Class of 1907 on the boys’ seniors team were Arthur Young at forward, Homer Beattie at center, and Robert Venus and Harry Holiday as guards. The junior squad only had one center, Homer played alone at center, but John Wickham, a sophomore, was brought in to play alongside Arthur Young at forward.

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Arthur Young, forward for the game, was 17 years old and lived with his parents, Ed and Carrie Young at 55 South Linwood Avenue, near downtown. Both parents were in their forties, so Arthur was either an only child (unlikely) or his siblings had already left home.

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Homer Beattie, also 17 years old, played at center. He lived at 137 Benedict homer-beattie-commencement-photoAvenue, south of Main Street, in the better part of town, with his father, Albert, a successful lawyer, his mother Dora, two brothers, two sisters, and perhaps his maternal grandfather.

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robert-venus-commencement-photo-1907In 1906, Robert Venus, a guard on the boys’ basketball team, was recovering from a series of recent tragedies. He lived at 45 Seminary Street with his father, Carl,and his sister Louise. According to the 1900 Census, in addition to these three, Robert’s mother Wilhelmina, elder brothers Frederick and Carl and and another sister, Blanche also lived in the house. But Wihelmina died in 1904 and Frederick and Blanche passed away the following year. The Norwalk City Directory dated 1909 does not have Robert’s brother Carl living in the house, so I assume he moved out. In the midst of all this tragedy, there was good news: Robert’s father Carl was elected Mayor of Norwalk.

Harry Holiday lived on his family’s farm on Woodlawn Avenue. Today this harry-holiday-commencement-photo-1907area is a mix of residential and light industry, but at that time was all farmland. His father, William Holiday, age 61, had just retired, or was about to retire, from farming. His mother, Alzina, was 59 years old and kept house for her husband, four children, two males and two females, and her widowed mother, Altha Spurrier.  Harry’s brother and sisters were all working folk. His elder brother Frank was a mechanic at Wheeling in Huron. One sister, Myrtle, was a school teacher and the other, Blanche, was deputy recorder at the county courthouse.

The Girl’s Game – Not so Exciting

The girls team had six members,Harriott Wickham and Florence Bascom were forwards, Ruth Jenkins and Ruby Hoyt were guards, and Florence Davidson and Sara Joslin played center

harriott-wickham-commencement-photo

Harriott Wickham will be familiar to readers of the Firelands History Website: she was my grandmother and a descendant of Platt and Sarah Benedict, and of another pioneer couple, Frederick and Lucy Wickham. These two couples played major roles in the settlement of Norwalk as described in the “Sufferers’ Land” series of posts on this website.Platt and Sarah founded Norwalk in 1817. Lucy Preston came to Norwalk with her father, Samuel Preston, who started the Norwalk Reflector. Her husband, Frederick Wickham, left a career as a schooner Captain on the Great Lakes for one in publishing at the Reflector.

Harriott’s father, Frank Wickham, who was editor of the Reflector in 1906, was the youngest of thirteen children (twelve who survived to adulthood). Her mother, Agnes Wickham, nee Benedict, was the second daughter of David and Harriott Benedict. David was grandson of Platt and Sarah Benedict and was a Union Surgeon in the Civil War. His story told in the “Doctor on a Little Black Horse” on this website.

The other forward was Florence N Bascom, who lived at 90 Linwood florence-bascom-commencement-photo-1907Avenue, south of town, with her father William, a blacksmith, her mother Mana and her elder brother Harry, who had already graduated from high school.

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One of the  guards, Ruth Jenkins was, like Harriott Wickham, a member of the X, Y, Z Club, and helped with the Progressive Dinner on Halloween. She lived at 10 Norwood Avenue with her father Frank, proprietor of a grain elevator, her mother Ida Jenkins, brothers Clayton and Clifford, and her sister Dorothy.

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The two centers on the girls’ team were Sara Joslin and Florence Davidson.

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Florence Davidson

I don’t know much about Florence, but at least I know she was in the class. But what about Sara Joslin? Who was that? She is not in the Commencement photo, nor is she listed in any newspaper announcements for the class. So who is she? That problem took some time to work out. I’ll explain in a later post: “Who Was Sara Joslin?”

Please like this post and let me know what you think in the comments. Thank you.

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