18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Sunday, April 20, 1913: Went to Sunday School this afternoon.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
Three more days until graduation! Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, I’m going to continue to dive deeper into the information provided by her commencement ceremony program.
Six students, including my grandparents—Helena Muffly and Raymond Swartz— graduated from McEwensville High School in 1913. Both spoke at the commencement.
The title of Grandpa’s speech was Motion Pictures as an Educational Factor.
This was the era of silent films and lots of melodrama. When I researched this topic, I was surprised to learn that in 1913 many people thought that movies were a bad influence on young people.
According to Laura Wittern-Keller in her dissertation:
Movies with themes that challenged traditional values, shown in the dark to a mixed audience with larger-than-life figures, spawned a “moral panic.”
Hmm–Grandpa spoke on a controversial topic. He apparently took the side that his high school class mates would have approved of—but that their parents might have objected to.
How did Grandpa build his argument that movies were educational? . . . Maybe he argued that they enabled people in rural Pennsylvania to see “see the world” . . . or that some of the movies were about historic events. . . or that they were works of art. . .or . . . .
In my imagination, I picture his classmates giving him a standing ovation, while their elders tried to frown but their lips turned up in slight smiles of approval.