Grandma’s Grades

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

Monday, September 1, 1913:

Another month to greet us comes.

September with her golden scenes.

Is here once more to tell us that

Tis not for long e’er autumn intervenes.

Again and yet again comes the opening of school. Again chimes the dear old bell in the belfry of the ne’er to be forgotten M.H.S. No more can I respond to its summons. No more can I hasten back to my beloved studies and bury myself in their wisdom. No more can I taste of the sweetness of school days. There are indeed past, but their memory lingers still.

A recebt photo of the building that once housed McEwensville High School.
A recent photo of the building that once housed McEwensville High School.

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

Grandma, I can feel your pain. Last spring you were thrilled when you graduated from McEwensville High School (M.H.S.). It must feel really strange for school to start and no longer be part of it.

When the school bell rings, I bet it really hurts that you didn’t get a teaching job. But, I don’t know that for a fact since you’ve never mentioned it in the diary.

I’ve speculated that you tried, but failed, to get a teaching job at a nearby one room school house since both of your older sisters became teachers after they graduated from high school.

During your school years, you worried so much about your grades. Weren’t they good enough for you to get a teaching position?

Well, I checked the school’s grade book, and discovered that your grades weren’t fantastic, but they were darn good.  (See note below about how I found the grade book).

grade book

Most of your grades were in the upper 80s and you had some in the low 90s. Arithmetic was your best subject–across the year for Arithmetic you averaged 91 3/7. I love how your teacher calculated the average using a fraction.   I don’t understand why you didn’t get a job.

Does life seem to be passing you by? . . .No job.  . . .and, no boyfriend.  A hundred years ago women often got married in their late teens and early twenties. Some of your friends probably have serious boyfriends and are looking forward to marrying soon, but you don’t have a boyfriend or prospects for an early marriage. . .

Hang in there . . . my crystal ball tells me that you’ll get married when you are 26.  🙂


Sometimes I’m amazed to discover information and artifacts that I’d assumed were gone forever.

The readers of this blog are wonderful . Janet Shuman put me in touch with her mother-in-law Jane Shuman who had the old grade book from McEwensville High School. I almost shook with excitement as I flipped through the pages—and found my grandmother’s grades. Thank you, Janet and Jane!

26 thoughts on “Grandma’s Grades

    1. I am so very grateful that they saved the grade book. I was amazed to discover that the grade book was a hard cover book, and included grades for many years.

  1. This one gave me chills! I can’t imagine finding my grandma’s report card. And you weave the story so well, wondering why she didn’t have work and how lonely she must have felt when school started again. Stepping back into your grandma’s young life is truly time travel – only so very personal.

  2. What a great post. The grade book is a wonderful surprise. I am sure that grandma was wondering what the future would bring.

  3. That is the coolest thing ever!!! I am so pleased you found that grade book and shared with us. I wish her all the best and I am so glad we have a crystal ball or the anxiety would kill me!

  4. How exciting to find the grade book! Sometimes it helps to complete the story, or at least help it to make sense. In this case, I guess it doesn’t explain why Grandma didn’t get a teaching job.

  5. Her view is such a contrast in comparison to most high-schoolers’ talk today about back-to-school. 100 years ago, education was very much a privilege, and a high school diploma had high value because not everyone got one. When theres so much more of something in the market place (whether dollars, daisies or diplomas) inflation decreases its value.

    1. The number of years of schooling that the average person has completed has really increased over the past hundred years. A hundred years ago, as you said, a high school diploma was special. Back then most people only went to school through 8th grade. When my father was young, most people got high school diplomas; and by the time I was in school many people had college degrees. And, now it seems like masters degrees are sometimes required for entry level jobs.

  6. My parents’ 50th anniversary celebration was today. One of my mom’s cousins was there and she had a gift for him. She had two of his dad’s grade cards. It was interesting to look at them. Especially the different categories for deportment 🙂 I am now kicking myself for not taking pictures.

  7. I thought to myself on Saturday that there would be another poem! Isn’t it a strange feeling when the pupils go back to school for the first time and your not a part of it?

  8. I just wanted to say, I look forward every month to reading your grandmother’s poems. I had forgotten that I had already read it this month, and came back here on 9/15 to read it–again as it turns out.

  9. Awesome about the grade-book! I noticed that Rothermel girl’s in there…her name in this is Marie instead of Mary, so maybe the newspaper was talking about someone else? Or maybe the teacher just spelled “Mary” differently.

    1. Even a year later, I’m still in awe that the grade book still exists–and that someone contacted me about it. It’s amazing how the blogging community enables connections like this to be made.

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