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?

 

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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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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Minnie Cleghorn: Athletic Girl Legacy

This will be the last of the Athletic Girl series of posts. Before we leave this subject, let’s take a look at Minnie Cleghorn’s legacy at Norwalk High School. How did promoting the ideal of the “Athletic Girl” influence the girls she taught over their lives? I can only speak knowledgeably about one, my grandmother, Harriott Wickham, who left diaries and other writings recording her life in 1907, and after.

harriott-wickham-1915-20-2

Harriott Wickham

A year after graduation, Harriott taught in a one-room schoolhouse in Peru Township, then attended Wooster College, graduating in 1914. She was a Suffragette, and during the “Great War,” she went door-to-door in Columbus and Cleveland doing surveys for the Labor Department.

After the war, she went west, teaching in high schools in the Dakotas and then Wheatland, Wyoming, where, like her former teacher Minnie Cleghorn, she taught English and Physical Education, and coached the girls’ basketball team.

Harriott and another teacher at her school took up a local rancher on an offer to homestead land so he could control the water rights. According to her account, this rancher figured two schoolmarm’s from Ohio would soon give up and go home, but they persevered: teaching school in the winter, and proving up their claims in the summer. Here is Harriott’s deed to the homestead, signed by President Calvin Coolidge in 1925, after she married.

 

Homestead Deed

Did Minnie Cleghorn’s work with her “Athletic Girls” leave a legacy of strong and confident women?”

If my grandmother history is any indication, I believe it did.

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Previous Athletic Girl Posts

Minnie Cleghorn – Norwalk High School Girls’ Basketball Coach

Shutout – Norwalk HS Girls’ Championship Game 1907

The Athletic Girl in 1907

Minnie Cleghorn: Oberlin College

Suzan Rose Benedict and a Dark Path to Smith College

Minnie Cleghorn: Life in the Fortress – 1907

 

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Norwalk High School and the Great War

U.S. Declares War

One hundred years ago today, April 6, 1917, the United States Congress declared war on Germany, upending the lives of all Americans living at the time. [1] Where were the alumni of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 that momentous day? How were their lives affected by this world-altering event?

robert-venus-commencement-photo-1907On the front page of The Norwalk Reflector Herald that day, just below the article announcing the war, was a small item notifying readers that one alumnus of the Class of 1907, Robert Venus, had spent two years at the Case School of Applied Science and now held “a responsible position with the East Ohio Gas Co.” [2]

Did his country’s entry into war change Robert’s life. Indeed, it did. He enlisted as an officer candidate in the Army and by July was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. He would spend the next two years on active duty. I do not have any evidence that he served overseas, but no matter–he did serve. [3]

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The “War to End All Wars” disrupted lives all around the world, and ended the lives of millions. Robert Venus was not the only graduate of Norwalk High School whose life was turned upside down. As I often do when writing these posts, I turn to the diaries of Harriott Wickham, my grandmother, to see what she had to say. Here is what she wrote on April 22, 1974.

This evening have been watching a movie about W.W.I. How very long ago that seems now—like a different lifetime! It is really very clear in my memory though. Most of the boys I had known off in France! Bill [4] among them. Making bandages in the courthouse in Buffalo, Wyo. with other women. Getting a letter from my “then fiancé” [5] in France. Eleanor, [6] and I working in Columbus & Cleveland for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And especially remembering the long, long, two deep rows of rough boxes that stretched along the station platform at Columbus. Coffins filled with the bodies of boys who never even got to the front, but died of the flu epidemic at a training camp! One of the saddest sights of my life, I think! – Then, finally a night when we were awakened by the noise of sirens & shouting and chanting, — the “false armistice”! [7] But the real one a few days later, when there would not be any more “casualty lists” in the paper and the boys would be coming home alive!

It was another year before Bill would be home – but we didn’t know that then. And I think he really enjoyed that year – after the fighting had ended. He was quartered in a French home. When he had been crossing the ocean to France, a torpedo from a German submarine had grazed their ship—he heard the scrape of it! then it hit & sank another ship.

A number of our friends were killed in the war—one of them a fraternity brother of Bill’s at Ann Arbor—Lois Brush. I had been his guest at a Beta House party two years earlier. – He had no girl to ask & I was visiting Aunt Sue, [8] who was taking her doctor’s degree at Ann Arbor. A number we knew from Wooster & Norwalk were killed, though most of them came home safe. Damn Wars!! So stupid & unnecessary!

Stupid and Unnecessary! That sums about sums it up, doesn’t it?

 

Footnotes

[1] “U.S. Declares War Against the Kaiser,” Norwalk Reflector Herald, April 6, 1917, page 1, column 5. The Norwalk Reflector Herald was a successor to both the Daily Reflector and the Evening Herald which had merged in 1913.

[2] “Where They Are,” Norwalk Reflector Herald, April 6, 1917, page 1, column 5.

[3] In the U.S., Adjutant General Military Records, 1631-1976 Ohio Soldiers in WWI, 1917-1918, 1st Lieutenant Robert Edward Venus of 45 Seminary Street in Norwalk, Ohio biography reads: 2 Lieutenant Quartermaster Corps 15 Aug 1917 from CL. 1 Lieutenant 28 July 1918. Fort Benj Harrison Ind 15 May 1917 to 14 Aug 1917. Quartermaster Corps to Discharge Cp Sherman O; Cp Johnson Fla; Baltimore Medical Department Honorable discharge 24 March 1919. Citation: The Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the World War, 1917-18. Columbus, OH, USA: The F.J. Heer Printing Co., 1926.

[4] Harriott’s younger brother, my great uncle Bill Wickham.

 

William Wickham - WWI

William (Bill) Wickham in World War I

 

[5] Joe Gill. When my grandmother lived at our home near the end of her life, she told my mother that she received a “Dear Jane” letter from this man while he was in France. She said that it came as a big shock and she had a hard time getting over the rejection. I don’t know much more about him.

 

Joe Gill

Joe Gill – 1907

 

[6] Harriott’s sister Eleanor Wickham, my great aunt and godmother.

[7] On November 7, 1918, three days before the actual event, UP mistakenly reported that the German’s had signed an armistice. This sparked wide-spread, if short-lived, celebrations. How wrenching it must have been to learn that it was not true. For a detailed account of this little-known event, visit the New York Sun Blog.

[8] Suzan Rose Benedict. In 1914, she became the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Michigan.

 

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Suzan Rose Benedict at Smith College

In my last post, we followed the dark–and tragic–path of Suzan Rose Benedict in her journey from Norwalk, Ohio to Smith College. In this post, we’ll see how she fared at Smith, and how her experiences with women’s athletics might have influenced Millie Cleghorn when she introduced girls’ physical education at Norwalk High School.

In the fall of 1891, at the age of eighteen, Suzan joined the Class of 1895 at Smith College. [1] The school already had a long tradition of  promoting women’s athletics, but physical education for women there was about to make a dramatic change. The year she arrived, the college had just opened the Alumnae Gymnasium, with Swedish gymnastic equipment and a swimming pool, and outside the gym, a tennis court. [2] Physical education was mandatory, so I expect that Suzan took part, despite her heavy course load in science, mathematics and foreign language (German).

But did she participate in organized sports? I have found no record in the college archives that she did, but do know that she played sports in Norwalk. In the photo below, clipped from the image in the header of this website of her home in 1881, she and her friends are playing croquet beside the house. From later diary entries of her niece Harriott Wickham, I believe Suzan also enjoyed tennis.

Suzan Benedict and Friends Playing Tennis

Suzan Benedict playing croquet with friends in 1881

Halfway through Suzan’s first year at Smith, the gymnastics teacher fell ill and had to leave. In her place, in January 1892 the college hired Senda Bernenson, a recent graduate of the Boston Normal School of Gymnastics. Senda was energetic and immediately became popular with students and fellow faculty at Smith. Her goal was to develop the best physical education program possible.

At that time, in addition to gymnastics, for many years students and faculty had enjoyed horseback riding, hiking, boating, swimming, bowling, fencing, roller skating, golf and other more individual pursuits. Tennis and baseball were also played, but the rules for those games did not allow for much competition. True competitive team sports were not considered proper for women at the school.

The same month Senda arrived at Smith, James Naismith, an instructor at the YMCA Training School at Springfield, Massachusetts, published an article describing the rules of a new game he had invented the previous year: basketball. According to her later account, after reading this article, Senda revised the rules Naismith described in his article to avoid physical roughness, and introduced the game to her students that spring.

Basketball was a big hit, and the freshman-sophomore match quickly became one of the most popular events of the year. A fellow student of Suzan Benedict’s in the Class of 1895 described one of these matches in her journal.

“The balconies were filled with spectators and the cheering and shouting was something tremendous. The Freshman held one side, decorated with lavender in every shade and shape, while the opposite side was radiant in the brilliant green of ’95 . . .  when Miss Martin [student captain] received the golden S the girls raised her on their shoulders and marched with her about the hall.” [2]

Suzan Rose Benedict

Suzan Benedict around 1890

I have found no record of who played for the class of 1895, so I do not know if Suzan Benedict was on the field. But I have no doubt that she was in the gymnasium the night of the game described above. After graduating in the spring of 1895 with a Bachelors in Chemistry, she returned to Norwalk and began teaching mathematics in the high school that fall. [3] Although she did not, to my knowledge, teach physical education, she must have remembered fondly those exciting basketball games at Smith, and shared those memories with her colleagues.

So, when Minnie Cleghorn arrived at Norwalk High School two years later, she had a source of inspiration to guide her as she introduced physical education there. We’ll see how that turned out in my next post: Minnie Cleghorn: Life in the Fortress – 1907.

 

Sources:

[1] “Suzan Rose Benedict,” Wikipedia

[2] Betty Spears, “Senda Berenson Abbott: New Woman: New Sport;” A Century of Women’s Basketball: From Frailty to Final Four, edited by Joan S. Hult and Marianna Trekel; National Association for Girls and Women in Sport, 1907, Reston, VA; 21, 27.

[3] Judy Green and Jeanne LaDuke, “Supplementary Material for Pioneering Women in American Mathematics: The Pre-1940 PhD’s,” 74:  http://www.ams.org/publications/authors/books/postpub/hmath-34-PioneeringWomen.pdf

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Shutout – Norwalk HS Girls’ Championship Game 1907

The Norwalk High School Class of 1907 boys’ basketball team did not play in the 1906-1907 intramural championship game. They were eliminated months earlier in the season by the juniors, who went on to win the boys’ championship game the evening of Friday, March 22, 1907. But the senior girls’ team did play–and won, shutting out the freshmen girls six to zip. [1]

I don’t have a championship photo of the senior girls’ team, as I do for the Junior boys’ team. But I can match faces to names with individual portraits of the team members that I clipped from their commencement class photograph.

Clockwise from top left, they are, Lillian Smith, Florence Davidson, Ruth Jenkins, Ruby Hoyt, Harriott Wickham, Florence Bascom, and Sarah Barnett aka, Sara Joslin.

Prim and proper here in their commencement dresses, these girls would have appeared differently on the basketball court in “long, dark woolen bloomers, long sleeved blouse to match the bloomers, dark stockings, and flat-heeled soft shoes.” [2] See the picture of the girls’ gym class at Norwalk High School in 1906 for an idea of what they wore in that class.

We may not think of girls in 1907 engaging in sports, but the “Athletic Girl” was all the rage at high schools and colleges during the first decade of the 19th century. It was an offshoot of the “New Woman” movement of the last half of the previous century. [3]

There was an active girls sports program at Norwalk High School in 1907, and basketball was an integral part of it. The gym teacher and girls’ basketball coach at the school was English teacher Miss Minnie Cleghorn, whom I briefly introduced in this blog on February 11th.

What inspired Miss Cleghorn to introduce basketball and physical education to Norwalk High School. We’ll look at that, and learn more about the “Athletic Girl” of the early 1900s, in a series beginning with my next post: Athletic Girl 1907.

Sources:

[1] “Senior Girls and Junior Boys are Champions,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, March 23, 1907, page 1, column 3. and “Decides Basketball Superiority,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, March 23, 1907, page 4, column 3.

[2] Betty Spears, “Senda Berenson Abbott: New Woman: New Sport;” A Century of Women’s Basketball: From Frailty to Final Four, edited by Joan S. Hult and Marianna Trekel; National Association for Girls and Women in Sport, 1907, Reston, VA; 21.

[3] Robert Pruter, “Chapter 8: The New Athletic Girl and Interscholastic Sports”, The Rise of American High School Sports and the Search for Control: 1880-1930, Syracuse University, 2013; 145-148.

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