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.

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. 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.


This used to be the Lutheran Church in McEwensville.
This used to be the Lutheran Church in McEwensville.
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.


60 thoughts on “Graduation Day

  1. How wonderful that you have the program! Such a small class — and co-ed to boot. She had amazing attendance, didn’t she? Now that I know how young she was, I’m impressed at her writing skill. You don’t suppose anyone walzed to the walzes?

    1. It is amazing that she didn’t miss any school days during her high school years.

      Since the ceremony was held in a church, I’d guess that no one waltzed the waltzes . . .but you never can tell. 🙂

  2. Wow, she wrote a lot that night. I am sure it was a wonderful day for her and one that she often remembered throughout her life.

    Preston A Delong was the pastor of Trinity U.C.C. from 1907 to 1942, so it was probably at the United Church of Christ.

    1. Thanks for the information, and for figuring out where the graduation was probably held. It’s wonderful to know who was the pastor of the United Church of Christ.

  3. Sounds as though she delivered her speech from memory; that would certainly have given me a breakdown. Quite an achievement to receive 12 years of education in that era I would imagine. Was school compulsory?

    1. I also think that it sounds like she memorized her speech–it sounds much more difficult than using note cards that list the main points–but she probably felt more comfortable memorizing it (and maybe that is just how speeches were done back then).

      High school was not compulsory back then. Somewhere I saw that only about 20% of students attended high school a hundred years ago and that fewer than 10% graduated.

  4. This is wonderful: the day “we’ve” all been waiting for! Again, it’s so nice that you have her graduation photo and the program from that special night.

    1. Some things never change. One thing that really struck me was her description of sitting in an uncomfortable chair. It’s funny, but one of my stronger memories of my own high school graduation was also of sitting in an uncomfortable chair. 🙂

  5. Though I am a bit saddened to see her school days come to an end, I am excited and happy for your Grandma. Did I read today’s post correctly in that Grandma had perfect school attendance for the past four years? That alone is an achievement.

  6. Interesting that her topic was of “Relics of Earths Past” – not Earth’s. Was it about other planets or an error? We can ponder. Exciting day for Helena! She wrote more than the past. It does sound like she had a perfect attendance. Is that true? Smaller class makes one attend no matter what, I would think.

    1. It’s amazing how many different possible meanings we can get out of a simple four word title.

      Based on the diary I do think that she had perfect attendance. I can remember several days when we wasn’t feeling very well–but went to school. And, there were a couple days when she was worried that her parents would make her stay home–for example, to help cook and serve food to the threshing crew. But in the end I think that she always was able to go to school.

  7. It really nice that you have your grandma’s photo’s and the program and a diary entry too. That would look so pretty in a triple frame. Neat to be able to see the town too.

    1. That’s a good suggestion. I’ll have to think about how I might do it. I also have the name card that I think is from her graduation invitation that would be nice to include in the same grouping.

      1. That would all look so pretty in a shadow box, maybe with three compartments. It’d be a pricey frame job but so so worth it. You could admire it all the time and enjoy it.

  8. Congratulations my Miss Muffly… am guessing that life will brighten up for you now 🙂 xxx
    Sheryl, I have to say that I’m constantly in wonder that your grand-mother stayed at school for all this time… I say this because it was very different for both my grandmother and mother. Mum, despite passing the QC (Qualifying Certificate to attend High School here in South Australia) was always saddened at having give up her dreams in order to provide some income for the family.
    Simply a different time and a different place which continues to fascinate me. Thanks for the sharing.

    1. There seems to be a huge amount of variation in how long children stayed in school in this era in the US. Someone recently asked me about a great aunt on the other side of my family. I dug through my records and found that the great aunt was a few years younger than Grandma, but that she’d quit school after the elementary grades.

  9. Congratulations Helena! She wrote quite a bit in her diary 100 years ago today (not surprisingly!) and I’m so pleased to hear that she didn’t suffer a mental breakdown during her speech too. 🙂

  10. What a proud day for your grandma – it must have meant a lot for her to have written such a long (for her) account of it. How wonderful that you have the program and the picture!

  11. What a grand day for your grandma, and here it is preserved to be enjoyed by many more! She wrote more in her diary than I have seen, so her excitement is truly catchy.

  12. Yay Grandma! I’m only a year younger than she was at the time this was written, so I can easily imagine all her emotions! I’m looking forward to (and dreading) my graduation. So glad for her–and she even had perfect attendance!

Leave a Reply to Gallivanta Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s