Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Military Service

old-norwalk-high-school0001

According to the 1940 U.S. Census, the same percentage of men in the Class of 1907 served in the military as went to college, Arthur Young and Fred French being the only two who never served. A quick look at both men’s World War I draft registration cards tell us why.

Arthur Young claimed an exemption because he had two dependents: a wife and an eighteen month old child. Fred French, as we saw in my last post, was caring for a “crippled” wife.

I was surprised to find that so many men of the class of 1907 served in the armed forces. Were all eight called up for World War I? When the U.S. entered that war in 1917, the majority of them were twenty-nine years old, and a few were in their thirties. Most had already started families and were well on in their careers. When I look at all the draft registration cards, I find that, like Arthur and Fred, most had claimed an exemption. To further confuse the issue, I only found evidence for three of those eight actually serving in that war: Robert Venus, Homer Beattie, and Stephen Young. Of those three, only one, Stephen Young, was married at the time.

Robert Venus, Homer Beattie, Stephen Young

 

If the majority of the class did not serve during World War I, why did the 1940 Census records say that eighty percent served in the military. Perhaps they served in the National Guard when they were younger, right out of college. I do not know the answer to this mystery. I’ll ponder and investigate further, and try to provide answers when I post each graduates’ biography.

 

 

 

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Oratorical Contest for a Future U.S. Senator

Many Go to Bowling Green

At three p.m. on Friday, May 10, 1907, 110 years ago today, a crowd of fifteen Norwalk High School students clamored aboard a special rail car bound for an oratorical contest at Bowling Green, Ohio. Among them was one of their own, Stephen Young, Junior, Norwalk High School Class of 1907, who would compete against fourteen students from other Ohio High Schools.

stephen-young-commencement-photo-1907

Stephen Young, Jr.

Stephen was scheduled last in the program. His subject was “The Darker Side.” He came in fourth, missing out on the princely  sum of ten dollars for first prize (and eight and seven dollars for second and third place). According to an article in the Norwalk Evening Herald the following day, “those from [Norwalk] who heard the orations speak of his efforts in high terms.”

The students arrived back in Norwalk in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Were they really impressed with their classmates performance? Was Stephen upset that he did not win the contest? Did it drive him to improve, and compete again?

Stephen Young, Junior, Norwalk High School Class of 1907, in his career, would not succeed in all his endeavors. In fact, in politics, he failed more often than he succeeded. But he did rise to heights not achieved by his classmates. As a soldier, he would serve his country against Pancho Villa in Mexico and in two world wars. As a statesman, he would be elected to the Ohio Legislature, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. We’ll learn more about his career in future posts.

 

Sources:

“Oratorical Contest,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, March 10, 1907, page 1, column 2.

“Many Go to Bowling Green,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, May 10, 1907, page 4, column 3.

“Contest Goes to Hicksville,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, May 11, 1907, page 1, column 4.

“Oratorical Contest,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, March 11, 1907, page 3, column 6.

Stephen Young person page in the WeRelate Wiki.

Stephen M. Young article in Wikipedia.

 

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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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