Sunday, May 15, 2011

Women Grads, Elkhorn High School, 1947

Patricia Smith, Carol Tess, Patricia Enright, 1947

I recently into the basement to look for a three-ring binder to house some magazine articles I wanted to save, and found one more of my mother's scrapbooks.  The entire collection was dedicated to her high school graduation in 1947.  There were formal photographs like the ones here, candid shots of her and her friends, the program for graduation, newspaper clippings of the event, and even a program from their senior class play. I love these photos, so carefully preserved, the subjects all  young and healthy. I occurs to me that graduation was very formal.  You can see all the girls with their hair fixed, makeup, rather serious expressions on their faces.  In this picture Mom is in the center, and her two best friends are on either side.  Patricia Smith went on to earn a doctorate in psychology and to teach and write textbooks in California and Oregon.  Patty Enright married and raised a family in Menasha, and was good about keeping in touch right up until Mom's death a few years ago. 

When I taught high school here in Janesville the classes averaged around four hundred students, a number that always seemed large to me, since my graduating class had 128 students.  This photo from 1947 shows all the women graduates in my mother's Elkhorn High School class.  These women remain friends to this day, though many of them have passed away.  They continue to have reunions every few years, and to keep in touch with one another through telephone calls and letters.  It seems almost quaint.  I read last night somewhere online that people keeping in touch through social media is taking a toll on class reunions.  Why bother to get together with high school buddies when you already have seen each other's photos and know what is happening in each others lives online?  I'm not sure why one would replace the other, unless people are getting too busy to make the effort, or just are losing the taste for face to face friendships.

Here they are again in their caps and gowns, all dressed in high heels.  I imagine they wore dresses beneath those gowns, and felt very grown up.  No decorating of the mortarboards in 1947, no Silly String, or anything that didn't suggest the seriousness of purpose that the occasion signified.  Which isn't to say these women didn't know how to have fun - but that is another post.

Reading about local collage and university graduations in the newspaper got me thinking about how traditions change, which is probably fine.  A nicely printed program is a good thing, though this mimeographed program from my parents' graduation, they were in the same high school class, has its charm.  Girls dressed formally suggests dignity that perhaps they didn't all feel on that June day in 1947, but girls graduating today with shorts and flip flops beneath their caps and gowns have big challenges facing them and are just as excited to get on with their lives as Mother and her friends were.  Formal or not, this is a time of year that marks milestones, and I enjoyed sharing Mom's via her scrapbook.  I hope other young people take the time to preserve the day for their children, though perhaps that is gong out of style as well.

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