Commencement Speakers – Chosen by Faculty

In my last post, we saw that Nina Humiston and Sheldon Laning were popular with their fellow students in the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. The last two of the eight speakers at Commencement on June 14, 1907, Homer Beattie and Carrie Spurrier, were probably popular with their classmates as well, but what got them speakers slots was the esteem of the faculty. So, were they were the teachers’ pets of the class?

homer-beattie-commencement-photo

Homer Beattie

Homer Beattie’s oration was about the “Call of the Wild,” by which he meant the pioneer spirit that had led to the rapid settlement of the country. “With the coming of the springtime,” he proclaimed, “also comes the wild, restless longing to leave civilization behind and to plunge into the woods or to fish or hunt.” But, he continued, this draw to wide open places led to “war upon the wilderness.” I must say, his views do not sound like those of an environmentalist to me. They seem to be of those who love the outdoors, but also want to exploit it.

carrie-spurrier-commencement-1907

Carrie Spurrier

“Veneering” was the subject of Carrie Spurrier’s essay, which according to the newspapers’ reports, she read in a fine manner. “The object of veneering,” she said, “is to make things seem better than it seems.” Like other speakers before her, she blamed the pursuit of wealth as the problem. People who spend their lives accumulating wealth seek to “buy their way into society.” That, she stated firmly, is not a good thing. [1]

So how did these two young people’s lives turn out? Homer Beattie went on to college, then answered the “Call of the Wild,” by becoming a forester for Huron County. He never married, and lived and died in his family home in Norwalk. [2] After graduating, Carrie Spurrier went to work in her father’s crockery and home furnishing store on Main Street. But she did not remain independent, like Irene Bragdon, who had a career as a stenographer. She followed Nina Humiston’s path. In 1915, she married a banker, and lived a comfortable, may we say wealthy, life in Lakewood as the wife of a successful man. [3]

Next up: Musical Interludes.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Descriptions of Homer and Carrie’s presentations are from “Forty Seventh Annual,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 13, 1907, page 1, column 3; “School Life is Ended,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 15, 1907, page 1-2, column 6; and “Get Their Diplomas,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, pages 1,4.

[2] From the Carrie Spurrier person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

[3] From the Homer Beattie person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

 

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Commencement Speakers – Chosen by the Class

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

sheldon-laning

Sheldon Laning

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

Nina Humiston Commencement Photo 1907

Nina Humiston

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

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

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

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

 

Footnotes:

[1] Descriptions of Sheldon and Nina’s presentations are from “Forty Seventh Annual,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 13, 1907, page 1, column 3; “School Life is Ended,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 15, 1907, page 1-2, column 6; and “Get Their Diplomas,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, pages 1,4.

[2] “Good Meeting,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, March 30, 1903, page 4, column 4.

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

[4] From the Nina Humiston person page in the WeRelate Wiki.

 

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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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Commencement Speakers – Best Grades in Regular Work

In my post, Norwalk High School Commencement, 1907, we learned that instead of remarks by a respected member of the community and a Valedictorian and Salutatorian, eight members of the Class of 1907 were selected as class speakers. Two of those eight were Arthur Young and Irene Bragdon, chosen for best grades in regular subjects.

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Arthur Young

Arthur Young, president of the class, delivered a “splendid oration” on “The Masterful Man.” According to the Norwalk Evening Herald, Mr. Young was a natural orator, with a with a fine speaking voice.

“The man is a thousand times more important the man’s work,” he proclaimed, and then went on to add that more important than what a man accomplishes is what obstacles he overcomes. One of these obstacles, according to Arthur, was the pursuit of wealth.

Interesting, isn’t it, that Mr. Young’s address is about the masterful man? In that age, women were not expected to strive. I wonder what his teacher Minnie Cleghorn thought about that. As we saw in my Athletic Girl series of posts, she had encouraged her female students become strong and confident women.

irene-bragdon-commencement-photo-1907

Irene Bragdon

The other class speaker selected for best grades in regular subjects, Irene Bragdon, seemed to have taken Miss Cleghorn’s guidance to heart. The other female students who spoke that night read essays, but Miss Bragdon broke with that tradition and followed the lead of her male counterparts with an oration. Her subject was “The Power of Prejudice.

“It is our boast as American people that we are free minded,” she said.” But is this so? In church and in state we are prejudiced, and this prejudice is growing.” She went on to blame the growth of prejudice on newspapers, and leaders of religious and government leaders in terms and words that I think would resonate with modern readers. Words of a confident young woman? I think so. [1]

So how did they turn out, these two high achievers in their high school class? Arthur was one of the few who went on to college. He married and went into banking, rising to become a Vice President at National City Bank in Cleveland, apparently, finding that wealth was not such an obstacle after all. [2] Irene Bragdon became a teacher, like Minnie Cleghorn, who had been her inspiration. Unlike most of her fellow students, she never married, spending the rest of her life in Norwalk, living in the same home as when she graduated.

That’s it for these two speakers. In my next post, we’ll check out the two students selected for best grades in literary subjects.

 

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.

[2] From the Arthur Young person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

[3] From the Irene Bragdon person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

 

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