Last Day of School

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

Monday, May 6, 1912: It is hard to realize that today was the last day. We had our annual banquet, and I guess we all enjoyed it. At least I did. Mr. Dunkle, our teacher, acted the part of toastmaster. We drank water flavored with lemon to each other’s health, but that was soon over and we vacated our places at the table.

I recited my oration without omitting a single word, but I believe that it wasn’t said none too well. Swiftly today drew to a close. Nor can I say that as school is done, I am glad. My heart is filled with sadness. What I will do next year, when school closes I do not know. As I graduate I will not be able to look forward to the next year. For awhile I bid adieu to my school days.

The banquet probably took place at the McEwensville Community Hall and Picnic Shelter. It has been there for more than a hundred years and hasn’t changed much over the years. It has a long history of being used for community events. There is an auditorium with a stage inside.

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

The last day of the school year—with the excitement of the banquet  tinged with the realization that school was over for the summer–sounds like it was bittersweet for Grandma. Probably parents and other family members attended the program.

The “trial” that Grandma worried about in yesterday’s diary entry apparently was her oration. She wrote the speech on April 16, 17 and 18; and finalized and memorized it on April 22 and 23. I suppose that she practiced it in class a few times after those entries  in  preparation for the banquet, but never mentioned it again in the diary until this entry.

I don’t think that it’s very clear from the diary entry, but Grandma had one more year of school to complete before she graduated. She attended an old-fashioned three-year high school, and in 1912 she completed the second year.  She was just worrying about her future after graduation, which won’t occur for another year. She always seemed to need to worry about something . . . sigh. . .  but I guess that’s just human nature.

17 thoughts on “Last Day of School

  1. Yes, she does worry a lot. I’m glad the banquet went well. And the speech is over. Too bad she didn’t tuck a copy in the diary!

  2. I wonder too what her apprehensions were with regard to school being over (i.e. graduation, the following year). What did the future hold for young women in 1913? How could it accommodate their hopes and dreams?

    1. I wonder what Grandma’s hopes and dreams about the future were. The options for women were so much more limited back then .

  3. The school year ended better than she thought. Apparently, she passed the dreaded algebra. Whew, congratulations…What were her options after graduation?

    1. Thank goodness she passed! I know that some female high school graduates became teachers. Her sister Ruth graduated from high school the previous year (1911) and immediately became a teacher in a rural one-room school house. I think that many women married shortly after they graduated.

  4. When I grew up kids couldn’t wait for summer vacation, but she is not looking forward to it at all. I wonder if she just really loved school, or if she had a summer of dreary farm work to took forward to, along with not being able to see her friends each day. Or it could be one step closer to adulthood, which is a big unknown for her.

  5. Perhaps it goes without saying that college was out-of-reach for the majority of students in those days, girls especially, and, therefore, not dreamed of. Did Grandma dream of furthering her education? She seems to revel in the classroom.

    1. She didn’t go to college. She got married when she was 25, and was a homemaker for much of her life. Her younger brother Jimmie did go to college–and he eventually became a veterinarian. I sometimes wonder if she had dreams of college (in more urban areas the suffragettes were active during this time period)–or if she just accepted that woman had fewer options.

  6. Enjoyed reading this very much. I guess you’re right–our human minds often still find many things to worry about. As an employee in one of the few remaining two room schools in the country, I could very well imagine your Grandma’s life. Our kids graduated from this same school and have now flown to opposite ends of the country and live in cities… Thank you for this beautiful blog.

    1. Thanks for the nice comments. It sounds challenging, though fun, to teach in a two-room school. I think that small schools can provide some real benefits for students.

  7. Sometimes transitions are bittersweet and it gets tricky navigating our feelings. Also, when something dreaded (like the recited oration) has finally passed, all that nervous energy can back up and have nowhere to go, leaving us feeling out of sorts. Looking forward to reading your grandmother’s summer entries!

  8. Seems she was still in “oration” mode. Makes me think of my grandmother and her beloved elocution book. Also, wonder if she ever looked back at this entry, and smiled for that girl. My grandmother took it all so seriously, elocution that is, rather like a lost love.

    1. I’ve wondered whether Grandma ever looked at the diary when she was a mother or grandmother–or if the diary was stored away forgotten. I hope that she looked back and smiled.

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