This golden-haired girl is diligently applying her addition skills to the Valentine’s Day holiday. Who remembers using slates in school? Who really wants to admit that?
This card to my Aunt Sadie was sent to her in 1941 from her soon-to-be Aunt Kitty. The card has a moving portion that brings the girl out from behind the slate to peek around the side. The movement also changes what appears on the slate. The saying on the card has: Since as my Valentine you’re ‘slated’ come on honey let’s get ‘dated’.
The photo prompt for this Sepia Saturday is a photo of a group of students. I thought I would share some of my family’s school photos that show them along with their fellow classmates and occasionally their teachers.
Beatrice Irene Repsher (my grandmother)
My grandmother Beatrice (Sadie’s mother) attended St. Michael’s Roman Catholic School in Netcong, Morris County, New Jersey, until she graduated from 8th grade. Gram had told me that she was so enamored with the nuns that she begged her father, George Repsher, to let her attend the school. He relented and Beatrice proceeded to convert the whole family to Catholicism.
This is Beatrice’s school photo from 1921. Bea was in 4th grade and, since her sister Helen is also found in it, the photo probably shows everyone in the St. Michael’s school for that year. There are a couple of small x’s that indicate which persons are Bea (more towards center, second row from the bottom) and her sister Helen (the left x, second row from the top).
The two small vignettes shown here are Beatrice and her sister Toots.
There are names listed on the back of the group photo, not necessarily in any order:
Charles Applegate, Ernest Batson, Paul Schmiel, Grant Baldwin, George Salmon, Gustina Rampona, Walter Shay, Peter Gladys, Harry Lewis, Joseph Gladys, Charles Timbrell, Helen Repsher, Mary Venenski, Vivian Fulton, Florence Hunt, Reba Fulton, Anna Rampona, Helen McConnell, Alfreda Masker, Ruth Cleveland, Ethel Best, Dorothy Titbombe, Jennie Fogelson, Emma Batson, Beulah Robbins, Mildred Arndt, Beatrice Repsher, Phoebe Purce, Margery Nifer, Anita Best, Rose Grasso, Ruth Cornish, Mildred Wildrick, Etta Woodlawn, Anabell Woodburn, John Johanski, Charlene Shay, Paul Olivio, Dennis McConnell, Steven Buckta, Leonard Batson, Martin Hargus, Dave Silverman, Lewis Baldwin. Principal McMickle and Teacher Etta Best.
Some of the other faces in the photo are a hoot to look at:
And the expression on the teacher Etta Best’s face is pretty priceless.
Beatrice was also very proud that she had graduated from 8th grade. She made sure to safeguard her diplomas along with the certificate that she received for having good penmanship as learned using the Palmer Method. It was developed in 1888 by Austin Palmer and emphasized rhythmic motions to produce very uniform cursive writing. She was very upset later in her life when her beautiful penmanship became shaky and spidery. She would make it a point to apologize for the quality of her handwriting in her letters to me.
In June of 1991, St. Michael’s school held a social where graduates of the school got together to recall the “good old days.” Beatrice (right), class of 1925 (according to the article), and her brother Art (left), class of 1930, joined the Sumski boys (Stan, Sigmund, and Hugh) to reminisce about their school experiences.
Martha Ethel Westra (my mother)
This is my mom’s class photo from the Newton Grammar School on Halsted Street, which was later demolished in 1962. Mom is in the second row from the bottom, 4th girl from the left, with her face partially hidden behind one of the girls in front.
The back of the photo has some clues to the identity of the girls in the front but nothing about the boys in the photo. Twelve of the fourteen girls are identified but only by their first names and last initial. This prompted a phone call to mom to find out who the girls were and if mom could remember their last names.
Between mom looking at the photo and the names on the back, we came up with the following classmates:
Front row, left to right: Bertha Langeraap, Shirley Goble, Fran Ulrich, Judy Pierce, Margaret Burns, and Gloria Turnball.
Second row, left to right: Ruth Ann [?], Rosemary Bouchart, Dorothy Roy, Martha Westra [mom], Mary Ann DeVita, Nancy Danley, unidentified boy, Barbara Wilson.
During the course of our conversation about the picture, I found out something about mom’s school experience. We were discussing the people in her class and how kids moved along from grade to grade as they were promoted. Mom said, “I was held back in 2nd grade.” Wait, what? “It was because I didn’t like to read. To be honest, I don’t know how I even graduated from High School. I especially hated the history books because I can’t retain what I’m reading. I read a paragraph and then forget what I’ve read.” Well, mom’s always said she couldn’t understand why my sister Jill and I liked to read so much, but that explains it. If you can’t remember the story from paragraph to paragraph, then reading has absolutely no appeal!
William Charles Strait, Jr. (my father)
This class photo of my dad was from his kindergarten class during the 1943-44 school year. It was reprinted in The New Jersey Herald on 09 March 2011 on page A-7. The photo was taken at the Newton Presbyterian Chapel where classes were held. His teacher for that year was Miss Edith Roy but she’s not in the photo.
The caption on the photo reads:
“Miss Edith Roy’s afternoon kindergarten class posed for this photo during the 1943-44 school year at the Newton Presbyterian Chapel, where classes were held. In the back are, from left, Tommy Scalzo, Diane Simmons, Helen Worth, Amy Bodel, Fannie Rocco and Billy Strait. Second row: Louis Glass, Betty Jennings, Joan Lee, Nancy Lawson, Irene Walker and Tommy Plevyak. Front row: Alan Mooney, Tommy Rennert, Wayne Babcock, Frances Dufford and Bobby Burtis. (Submitted by Nancy Decker of Newton) “Sussex County: Images of Our Past,” volumes II and III, are now available for purchase from The New Jersey Herald.”
Mercedes Marie Strait
This is my Aunt Sadie’s class photo from 1942 and it was taken outside at the old Newton Grammar School. Unfortunately, there is no caption or writing on the back to tell me who the people in the photo are. I can, however, identify Sadie and her cousin Patty from family photos also taken around 1942.
Ora Simpson Strait (my great-grandfather)
This is the oldest class photo that I have from the family. My great-grandfather, Ora Simpson Strait, taught school in Vernon for a few years before becoming a farmer and then a carpenter. Around 1897, the local newspaper took a picture of the Vernon School students. This photo was reprinted in July of 1956 in one of the Sussex County newspapers. Brothers Ora (18), Asa (12), and Orval (14) Strait were all in the picture.
Even though Ora’s occupation was listed as teacher in the 1900 census and this photo was taken around 1897, I now think Ora wasn’t actually the teacher for this class based on the punctuation in the caption, “… Nettie Rhodes (Mrs. Bert Drew), Ora Strait; Teacher, Uhler H. Creveling, Charles Utter.” The semicolon provides a break between Ora Strait and Teacher. Also, since the photo was loaned to the newspaper by a Mrs. Uhler H. Creveling, I think it was in her husband’s family mementos and that he was the teacher at the time. He appears in the back row and, with his mustache, he also appears to be the oldest person in the photo.
Given the way the students are positioned, it’s tough to be really sure who is who in this picture even with the caption. One also has to trust that the person giving the information relayed the correct names to the reporter. Asa was in the second row, fifth from the left. Orval was also in the second row, eleventh from the left. Brother Ora was in the back row, fifth from the left. However, the rows are far from neat and, even knowing how many are in each row, it’s tough to put a name to a face.
The complete caption on the photo reads:
“This is a picture of the Vernon School group, taken about 1897, in front of the old building which formerly stood next to the Methodist Church. It was loaned by Mrs. Uhler H. Creveling, of Rudeville, and identifications were made by Miss Jessie Burrows and Alvin E. Mott, of Vernon. Married name of each girl is given in parenthesis following her maiden name. Rear row, left to right: May Hooker (Mrs. Middleton), Dena Harrison (Mrs. Jim Ryerson), Edna Hooker (Mrs. Day), Nettie Rhodes (Mrs. Bert Drew), Ora Strait; Teacher, Uhler H. Creveling, Charles Utter. Third row, left to right: George Hooker, Maggie Cooper, Edith Drew (Mrs. John Rhinesmith), Maud Harrison (Mrs. John Carpenter), Alice Cooper (Mrs. Alvin Mott), Harry Webb, Edward Conklin, Alvin E. Mott. Second row, left to right: Vernon Mullery, Harry Carmen, Charles Henderson, Frank Anderson, Asa Strait, Marvin Cooper, David Hooker, Lewis Crawford, Wilber Drew, Cyrus Williston, Orville Strait, unknown. Front row, left to right: Edith Denton (Mrs. E. P. Uptegrove), Amelia Degraw (Mrs. D. Day), Rena Lawrence (Mrs. Theodore Drew), Mary Babcock, Maud Degraw (Mrs. Utter), Ann Lehaugh, Elsie Cooper (Mrs. George Lewis), Clarence Hooker, James Utter, Edward Carman, unknown, Orville Webb, Charlie Mullery, Willie Webb, Nettie Babcock, James Maguire. The old school building was erected in 1865 and discontinued in 1902. Part of the old structure was moved and is now a part of the present post office building. (Data assembled by Harold N. Coriell).”
Jodi Lynn Strait (me)
This is the most recent class photo that I have from the family. While I graduated from high school in 1984, my college education had some fits and starts. For undergraduate work, I attended Montclair State University in New Jersey, Mansfield State in Pennsylvania, and Elmira College in New York, sometimes full-time, sometimes part-time. By the time I was ready to get a graduate degree, I was living in Knoxville, Tennessee. I received my MBA from the University of Tennessee Knoxville in 2000.
Back row, from left: Scott Detiveaux, Nathan Cumbie, Traci Williams, Dirk Boehmer, Heidi White, Sheila Wilfer, Todd Wilson, Chris Holloway, Mark Goodner, Don Samora, David Henderson, Kurt Aissen. Middle row, from left: Daryl Arendale, Neil Williamson, Tracy Edmundson, Jodi Strait, Allen McDaniel, Brian Nitchen, Michael Hoag, Ernest Clauss. Front row, from left: Charlene Whelan, Roger Rains, Ray Easley, Shyam Nair, Brad Croisdale, Angela Caldwell, Gary Grecsek, Chris Carter, James Reese.
So there you have it. From 1897 to 1921 to 1942 to 2000, these are some of the class photos from my family files.
 1900 U. S. census, Sussex County, New Jersey, population schedule, Lafayette Township, ED 169, p. 1B (penned), dwelling 23, family 25, Ira W. Strait; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 01 October 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 995.
This was a card given to my Aunt Sadie from her Uncle Adam, Aunt Kitty and her cousin Jeffrey for her 7th birthday. It’s a punch out card meaning that Sadie could’ve removed and folded the barn to stand up on a table or play area. Also, a cow, a spotted pig, a hen with her chicks, and a horse could be punched out and placed around the barn. The cute little saying inside says, “Press out the barn and figures, and fold them up with care, then stand them up — and — presto — you’ll have a barnyard there!” Sadie never did play with them, though, as the card was intact in her Shirley Temple Scrapbook.
The farmyard scene reminded me of my 2nd great-grandfather, William Henry Hunt‘s homestead in Lafayette Township, Sussex County, New Jersey, near a place called Warbasse Junction.
“Warbasse Junction [Lafayette Township] – was situated in the southern end of the township, and was the point of crossing of the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad. The Junction was located just east of Branchville Junction, and was named for Joseph Warbasse, who established Edan Farm here around 1800. His family sold off sixty acres to the Sussex Railroad when the line was extended from Newton in 1869.”
I have a photo of the homestead among the Strait family photos that I was told was the front of the house as it faced the Warbasse Junction Road. The date on the photo reads “April 10th 1910.” There is a tree standing on the left side and a chimney is located on the far right of the house. There are three upstairs windows tucked under the eave of the pitched roof. A front porch covers most of the front and the tops of the porch supports have some distinctive styling. A white, picket fence separates the house from the road.
William Henry Hunt’s house: 1910
I visited New Jersey for a family reunion trip in 2006. One of the things that my dad and I did while I was there was to take a picture of the Hunt homestead. It was still standing, well-maintained, and painted a nice greenish color.
William Henry Hunt’s House 2006:
There is however a mystery with this. While getting ready to put this post together, I was practicing some of the skills I learned during the Boston University Genealogy Research course I took earlier this year. While examining photos, it’s a good habit to begin by listing all the characteristics of the subjects: What are the people wearing, how old are they, what type of architecture is apparent, etc.?
That listing of characteristics made me look closely at both pictures and that made me go, “hmmm….” While the styling at the top of the porch posts is exactly the same in both pictures, there are some questions that arise:
- The chimney in the 1910 photo is on the right side of the house and since there are no leaves on the tree, there doesn’t seem to be another hiding on the left side. The 2006 photo shows a chimney but more towards the left of the house.
- The house in the 2006 photo has much less frontage than the 1910 house which runs longer along the road.
- The porch on the 1910 photo runs from the far right to somewhat short of the left side of the house. The 2006 porch runs from the far left of the house all the way to the right and around.
- The 1910 photo has three upstairs windows. The style and location of the windows matches the 2006 photo. However, the house in the 2006 photo only has 2 windows. It’s common for a house to get an addition. But it’s most unusual for a house to get an addition-ectomy.
- However, building on point #4, there looks to be a distinct difference in roofing materials in the 1910 photo (suggesting an addition) which would be about where the 2006 house ends. Perhaps this previously added piece of the house was removed. Maybe that chimney on the right experienced a fire? Or was it removed for some other reason?
All this leaves me wondering… Is the 1910 house truly the old Hunt homestead? I would suspect yes since it’s a picture in the family collection. But if it is, did I get the right house for my 2006 photo? Again, I suspect yes but some further digging into building permits and deeds seems to be in order.
Dang! More stuff for the genealogical to-do list.
 Wayne T. McCabe, Sussex County… A Gazetteer (Newton, NJ: Minisink Press, 2009), 160.
This puppy is bringing a barrel of birthday wishes to my Aunt Sadie. His (or maybe her) barrel is very decorative with pink flowers all around to match the puppy’s pink tongue and big pink bow.
Genealogy concentrates on accurately reconstructing families and placing them within a certain timeframe and at certain places. As genealogists, we strive to describe their lives and activities. To share what we’ve learned, we write research reports and biographies. Many times they are written about folks who’ve long since passed. But in constructing those lives, I have often wished I had an ancestor’s diary or travel journal or knew what it was like to grow up when and where they did. What did they do to learn, play, grow? I thought I’d share some of my childhood toys with you and possible family historians years from now wanting to know what my sisters and I played with when we were growing up in Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey. I shared the story of Dad’s rubber rabbit earlier in the year.
From the barrel in the photo prompt, the very first thing that came to my mind was a Barrel of Monkeys first released by Lakeside Toys in 1965. The monkeys originally came in a blue, red, or yellow barrel. These little plastic monkeys had arms that would link and the game rules were pretty simple:
- Dump monkeys on a table.
- Pick up one monkey by an arm.
- Hook the other arm by a second monkey’s arm.
- Continue making a chain.
- Your turn is over when a monkey is dropped.
For the single player, the goal was to get 12 monkeys on the chain in the quickest time.
For two or more players, each monkey left on the chain was worth one point and the first player to get to 12 points won.
Another game that we spent hours playing was a very noisy one. It was called Don’t Break the Ice. Mom’s eyes would roll when this game came out because she knew tap, tap, tapping was inevitable. The “game” board was plastic “ice” blocks squeezed into a raised frame. A plastic man was placed on top of one of the blocks. Each player was given a little hammer to start tapping away at the ice. The first player to cause the ice to completely fall out of the frame and make the man fall off the ice lost. Not only was the tapping annoying but the blocks falling apart at the end of the game was very noisy.
We also played the game of Sorry! This board game required each player to get the four pawns of their chosen color to “home base.” You would draw a card from the pile and follow its instructions. For some reason, there were no 6s or 9s in the card deck. The tricky part was to land on your color’s slide spaces which allowed you to get around the board faster and knock anyone on those spots back to their start space. Thus, the name. When you knocked someone back to the start, you were supposed to say, “SORRY!”
Another game that we spent a lot of time with was Connect Four. It is similar to tic-tac-toe but instead of x’s and o’s there are black and red checkers. To win Connect Four you had to be the first player to get four of your colored checkers in a row either horizontally, vertically or diagonally. The checkers were dropped into the top of the game “grid” until it was either filled up or someone won. There was a release lever that you pushed to dump the checkers out of the bottom when the game was done. It must still be a fun game since there is a bar in downtown Tucson that currently has a super-sized version of this on their outdoor patio for their patrons’ entertainment.
And who wouldn’t want a childhood without at least one dangerous play toy? Clackers fulfilled that for us. They came out in the late 1960s and early 1970s and seemed like they should be fun… The toy consisted of two very hard acrylic balls attached to each end of a heavy cord. You held the cord in the middle. I remember that our sets had a plastic tab you held onto but many just had a metal ring. If you moved your hand vigorously up and down at just the right pace, the two balls would strike each other; once at the top and once at the bottom, repeatedly. They made a loud clacking noise each time they struck. The dangerous part was two-fold. If you didn’t have your hand movement right, the balls (did I already mention that they were very hard?) would miss each other and strike your hands, wrists or upper arms. Even wrapping your sweaters around your arm for padding didn’t help eliminate the bruises. We walked around for weeks with bruised arms trying to get the knack of those clackers. The other danger was that after repeated “clacking” the balls had the potential to shatter into pieces that would fly everywhere. It wasn’t long before Clackers were pulled from the market.
Simon was a memory game that started to bring us into the world of hand-held games but it wasn’t any where near as sophisticated as our modern Nintendo DS or Xbox consoles. The object of Simon was to match the random sequence that the computer-generated game put out for you. The sequences started out as just one light (red, yellow, blue, or green). The people playing would press that color. The machine would then add a color to the sequence (even it it was a repeat) and the players would have to copy it. Not only did the sequence get longer and longer but the speed at which the sequence was given to you increased. You would feel your heart rate increase as green, blue, blue, red, yellow, green, red, red, red, yellow started coming at you faster and faster. We’d look up at each other when it got intense and we weren’t sure which button to press next. “NO! Red, push, RED next!” could be heard throughout the house.
For board games, we played Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, Life, Checkers, Monopoly, and Parchessi. Our dolls included Dressy Bessy and Dapper Dan who taught us how to tie, snap, zipper, and button; Raggedy Ann and Andy who kept us company during the dark nights; Barbie, Skipper, and Ken who taught us to accessorize with fast cars, fancy clothes, handsome horses, and Dream Houses.
Our outside games included catching fireflies at dusk, Simon Says, Tag, Hide-and-Seek, Red Rover, and some version of some completely made up game with ever changing rules that involved running as fast as we could to the big oak tree at least once.
I just know that, whatever (or whoever) my sisters and I played with, it was fun. A barrel of laughs that started with a simple Barrel of Monkeys!