Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Age and Gender

It’s been a couple weeks since my last post about the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 – Out Into the World. I return today with a series of posts about demographics of the class in 1907 and during their lives after graduation. I know demographics may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think they are fascinating. They provide the only way to truly understand what’s going on in a population – or in this case what went on over one hundred years ago.

I start with a breakdown of the class by gender and age. The graduates of the Class of 1907 were almost twice as likely to be female: seventeen women to ten men. Why was that? I would imagine that more young men of that era had to start work early to help support their families. In that more agrarian age, boys often were needed in the fields.

There was also a striking difference by gender in the ages of the class. The women were on average older at graduation than the men. Fred Osborne was the only boy twenty years old at graduation, but five girls had reached that age: Alice McCammon, Edna West, Carrie Spurrier, Gertrude Ryerson, and Myrtle Woodruff. Interestingly, these young women all were born in the townships around Norwalk.

 

Norwalk High School Class of 1907 graduates who were twenty years old at commencement (clockwise from top left): Fred Osborne, Alice McCammon, Edna West, Carrie Spurrier, Myrtle Woodruff, and Gertrude Ryerson.

 

Fred Osborne was not only the oldest male graduate, but was the oldest in the class overall. He and Myrtle Woodruff were the only graduates born in 1886. If you’ve been following this blog, you may remember Myrtle from the series, It Was Buried on the Banks of Mud Run. If you don’t remember, it’s worth checking it out.

Harriott Wickham Commencement PhotoThe baby of the class was Harriott Wickham (my grandma), who was the only graduate born in 1890. On the first page of her 1909-1910 diary, she wrote that she had started school early, two months before her fifth birthday. I remember her mentioning that to me because I also began school when I was four, although I only had to wait two weeks before my birthday. That wait did not mean much to me back when I was very young. Where my early start really made an impact on me was when I went to college. I was one of the few in my dorm who could not legally drink — at that time in Ohio, you could purchase 3.2% beer at eighteen.

Finally, two graduates of the class had the same birthday: Sheldon Laning and Eugene Bloxham were both born on November 9, 1889. Was that considered remarkable by them and their classmates?

Sheldon Laning and Eugene Bloxham shared the same birthday.

 

That’s all I have for now on this subject. Starting with my next post, we’ll look past graduation, and see how the Class of 1907 fared in life.

 

 

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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?

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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.

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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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Class Dance

June 19 fell on a Wednesday in 1907. That evening, the recent graduates of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 hosted a dance at Link Hall, which they had decorated with a Native American theme, with skins on the walls and wigwams set up in the corners of the banquet room.

1907 Dancing

A formal dance – June 1, 1907 [1]

In the reception line greeting the crowd of a hundred and fifty graduates and guests were the class officers: President Arthur Young, Vice President Harriot Wickham, Secretary Carrie Spurrier, and Treasurer Robert Venus.

 

Officers of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 [2]

Dancing began around 8:30 p.m., with Arthur Young and out of town guest Harriet Nufer leading the Grand March. The festivities continued until midnight, but no worries – the class did not need to rise early for school the next morning.

The dance concluded a month of ceremony and festival that marked the Class of 1907’s transition from school to adult life. And what would that life hold for these graduates?

It would be a different life – to be sure. The world they had grown up in was about to be upended by war. The peaceful small town America that had been their life was about to be shattered. A few of these graduates would stay in Norwalk, but most of them would not. They would move to larger cities, Cleveland and Detroit mainly. The men would go into careers in business. Most of the women would marry men who did the same, although a few would pursue careers in nursing or teaching and never marry, or would wed late in life. In subsequent posts, we’ll see how they all fared.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Photo of Lawn Tennis Club ball at Charters Towers, 1907 Elegantly gowned women and formally dressed gentlemen are crowded on the dance floor of the hall. From Wikipedia Commons.

[2] Individual photos clipped from Class of 1907 Commencement Photo.

[3] Descriptions of the class dance are from accounts in “Seniors Have a Gay Time,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, June 20, 1907, page 4, column 3, and “Senior Class Dance,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 20, 1907, page 1, column 7

 

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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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Bachelor Hall – The Chorus Girls – Who Are They?

In my last post, I presented the cast of a performance of Bachelor Hall, a play presented on June 5 and 6, 1907 by the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 — with a notable exception: the chorus girls.

According to the Norwalk Daily Reflector, these young women provided the highlight of the show. Accompanied by the Spencer Orchestra, they sang and danced three songs: “When Love is Young,” “Oh, Be Careful of the Alligator,” and “Be My Little Teddy Bear.” So who were these “chorus girls?” [1]

Once again, my grandmother, Harriott Wickham (who was one of their number), comes through again with a photo I found in her papers. Here are the chorus girls from the play Bachelor Hall, apparently performing “Be My Little Teddy Bear.” Unfortunately, she did not include the names. [2]

 

Chorus Girls

There are eight women in the photo, but the newspapers only reported seven: Lillian Smith, Carrie Spurrier, Ruth Jenkins, Florence Davidson, Cleo Collins, Harriott Wickham, and Irene Bragdon. [3]

Who is who? And which girl is in the photo, but not listed in the cast of characters. Here are individual photos of the seven in clockwise order from upper left as listed in the previous paragraph. See if you can figure out who is in the group photo.

 

I must admit that I am not doing well figuring out who is who. Perhaps it is because in the group photo the girls are smiling. After examining the photo closely, I can be sure of only two: Carrie Spurrier, fifth from left (because of the spectacles); and Irene Bragdon, sixth from left.

What do you think?

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Descriptions of the play and cast are from these newspaper articles: “Bachelor Hall,” Norwalk Reflector, 6/1/1907, page 4, column 5; “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.

[2] The chorus girl photo is from the unpublished collection of Harriott Wickham’s papers in my possession. I clipped the individual photos from the Commencement photo of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, also in Harriott Wickham’s papers.

[3] The links for each cast member of Bachelor Hall lead to that person’s WeRelate person page.

 

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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

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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

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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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