1913 Sunbury Teachers’ Meeting

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, May 2, 1913:  Dear old Ruthie went to Sunbury this morning and isn’t coming home until tomorrow night. Rather miss the kid, too. I’m afraid I’ll soon have to begin to watch cows for that time is now at hand.

Source: The History of McEwensville Schools by Thomas Kramm (Used with permission)

Row 1: Rachel Oakes (middle), Blanche Bryson (right). Row 2: Ruth Muffly (left) Source: The History of McEwensville Schools by Thomas Kramm (Used with permission)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I can’t believe it, but I may know why Grandma’s sister Ruth went to Sunbury. I think it was to attend a teachers’ meeting.

Sometimes I’m amazed how the pieces fit together. There is a photo in The History of the McEwensville Schools 1800-1958 of 12 women who attended a teachers meeting in Sunbury in 1913. One of them is Ruth Muffly—so I’m speculating that the reason she went to Sunbury on this date was to attend that meeting.

Ruth was a teacher at a nearby one-room school-house. The other two women who were identified in the photo were Rachel Oakes and Blanche Bryson. Both are mentioned in the diary. They were friends of Grandma and Ruth—as well as teachers.

Sunbury is about 15 miles from McEwensville, and it is the county seat of Northumberland county. The meeting probably was held to provide information and professional development for the teachers at many small schools scattered across the county.

Ruth wasn’t exactly a kid–she was 21 and three years older than Grandma.

Grandma often got annoyed with Ruth—but almost immediately missed her when she was gone. Was it because she had to do more work—or was it because she missed the companionship?

Maybe Grandma wished that Ruth was at home to help watch the cows. During previous summers Grandma often mentioned needing to watch the cows so that they didn’t escape from the pasture and get into the crops.

Graduation Picture Taken

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, April 30, 1913:

Where the trees put on their green,

When the flowers unfold in beauty

When all nature seems to sing,

Then we know that May is on duty.

Mother and I went to Milton this morning. Shouldn’t everybody notice but what she gets tired of carting me along and buying me things.

I had my pictures taken in the same outfit I wore at commencement, so now I will sure know what I looked like when I graduated.

helen_muffly2a 

 Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:  

Grandma—Thank you for getting the picture taken.  Now not only you—but also all of us—are able to see how lovely you looked in your graduation dress.

What did you “need” when you were shopping that your mother found annoying?

Monthly Poem

Another month has passed—and, as usual, Grandma began the month with a poem. This poem particularly resonates with me.

Nature is beginning to sing outside my window, and the flowers are beginning to unfold their beauty.

An Evening with Friends

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, April 29, 1913:  Ruth and I went up to Oakes this evening. Made a trip up to McEwensville this afternoon.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma and her sister Ruth probably had a fun evening with friends. The Oakes family lived on a nearby farm and had several children close in age to Grandma and her sister Ruth.  Rachel Oakes is often mentioned in the diary. Rachel had a least two brothers—James and Alvin.

To visit the Oakes, Grandma and her sister would have taken the road that went past their home–and gone up the hill in the opposite direction from the way they’d go if heading into McEwensville.

To visit the Oakes, Grandma and her sister would have taken the road that went past their home–and gone up the hill in the opposite direction from the way they’d go if heading into McEwensville.

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They would have continued down the road past this farm.

Recent view of the farm where the Oakes lived.

And, then they would have turned down a lane to this farm where Rachel Oakes and her siblings lived.

Looked Pretty Seedy

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, April 25, 1913:  Had company a little while this afternoon. I am sure I looked pretty seedy.

Source: Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine (November, 1913)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Hmmm. . . Was Grandma wearing ragged, patched clothes? Was her hair a mess? Did she look any different from how she looked on other days? Why was she so self-conscience about her looks?

Graduation Day

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, April 23, 1913:  The work of twelve long years is over. I have long looked forward to this. My last day at high school. It has come and with it a mixture of sadness and pleasure.

Two of my cousins came on the train to attend commencement. I had quite a time getting dressed, for buttons were bound to come off and strings to break.

At last I arrived at the church. We marched in and so on up to the front of the church, where we took seats in uncomfortable chairs and managed to sit out the evening. I recited my essay without a mental breakdown and then at last all was over, after which came congratulations and well wishes.

I am quite pleased with my presents. I received four today.

Graduating didn’t go very hard for me. I was sorry when all was over.

Succeeded in going to school every day for the last four years.

helen_muffly2a

Helena Muffly (I think this is her graduation photo.)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Congratulations Grandma!

Recent photo of the railroad tracks that cross the Muffly farm.

Recent photo of the railroad tracks that cross the Muffly farm.

A hundred years ago Truckemiller’s Mill bordered the Muffly farm, and Grandma’s cousins probably got off the train at the mill. There was a whistle stop for the Susquehanna Bloomsburg and Berwick (S. B. and B.) Railroad at  the mill. The mill is long gone—and the road and railroad tracks have changed a little—but her cousins probably stepped off the train near this spot.

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This used to be the Lutheran Church in McEwensville.

This used to be the Lutheran Church in McEwensville.

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United Church of Christ (Reformed Church)

Grandma probably triumphantly marched with her classmates down the center aisle of one of these churches to the music of the orchestra.  I wonder why the ceremony was held at a church instead of the community hall. . . perhaps the church was larger and would better hold all of the graduates’ friends and family members.

commencement.program.1

The Bone Wars and The Lost World

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, April 22, 1913:  Just one more day and then my school days will be ended. I believe I’ll feel rather sorry when they are all past. I hope it will be nice tomorrow and everything goes off all right in the evening.

Cope's Dinosaur that March claimed had the head on the wrong end. (Source: Wikipedia)

Cope’s dinosaur which March claimed had the head on the wrong end. (Source: Wikipedia)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

One more day until graduation! The exhilaration Grandma felt the previous week about the end of school now seems tempered with the realization that those days were behind her and that there were things about school that she’d miss.

Grandma sounded a bit nervous about the graduation ceremony. She probably hoped that her speech on The Relics of the Earth’s Past would go well.

Yesterday’s post explored her speech topic. Vanbraman wrote a comment, and suggested that it might have been about the Bone Wars or been inspired by a book published in 1912 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle called The Lost World.

I had never heard of either the Bone Wars or the book, so I did a little research.

A hundred years ago there was an incredible amount of  interest in dinosaurs and dinosaur bones.

The Bone Wars refer to a period in the late 1800s when there were several major expeditions that searched for dinosaur bones. There was a rivalry between two paleontologists, Orthniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, to discover additional bones. They both were very secretive, and accused the other of stealing bones and exploration sites. Each claimed that the other was not a credible scientist. For example, Marsh claimed that Cope put the head on the wrong end of a dinosaur.  However,  the field as a whole benefited from their many discoveries and the feud increased the interest of the public in dinosaurs.

According to Wikipedia, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a superb piece of science fiction about an expedition to the rain forests of Brazil in search of living dinosaurs.  The book was republished in 2012 in honor of the hundredth anniversary of its original publication.

As happens so often, I’m ending up with more questions than answers. Was Grandma’s graduation speech about evolution (pro? . . or .  . con?) like I thought yesterday. . . or was it about paleontology and dinosaurs? . . .. or something else?

Are Movies Good or Bad?: 1913 Opinions

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, April 20, 1913:  Went to Sunday School this afternoon.

Classmate and Future Husband: Raymond Swartz

Raymond Swartz 

 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.

commencement.program.1

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.

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