Sepia Saturday #342: Bea’s School Portrait

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This young girl is sitting pretty with a frame around her face. It is one of Aunt Sadie’s Valentine’s Day cards found in her Shirley Temple Scrapbook. A little, piebald dog is waiting patiently by her right leg. The tilt of her head reminded me of the Sepia prompt photo and both reminded me of a picture of Sadie’s mother (my grandmother) Beatrice Irene (Repsher) Strait.

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This school photo of Beatrice is from Stanhope Public School in Stanhope, Sussex County, New Jersey, taken around 1920. (The squareness of the smock she’s wearing is also reminiscent of what the woman is wearing in the prompt photo.) Beatrice would be around eight years old at the time. Her soft, light hair was pulled back away from her forehead and the rest fell around her shoulders. She was wearing a bulky, knit sweater rolled up around her wrists.

I am fortunate to have three of Beatrice’s report cards from Stanhope Public Schools from grades 1 to 3.

Grade 1
Her grade 1 report card shows that she was enrolled for the 1918-1919 school year. Mr. Joseph McMickle was the superintendent/principle of the school. The teacher was L.W. Davison although there’s no indication if the teacher was male or female. Beatrice was eligible to be promoted to 2nd grade at the end of the school year. The signature of the parent is George Repsher, her father. It gives a very nice sample of his handwriting and a signature to use if I ever need to compare it to another document.Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 4.02.40 PM

The back of the report card shows that Beatrice got Fs (for fair, grade 75 -85) and Es (for excellent, grade 85-95) on most of her lessons. She took the basic 3Rs (Reading, Writing, & Arithmetic) along with Grammar/Language and Physical Training. She got Es for her deportment scores. It was noted on the report card that any grade less than F (Fair) would not be honored for promotion.

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She was tardy seven times during the school year and absent from class quite a few days, 50.5, possibly more given that February is smudged and illegible. In the section labeled “ATTITUDE TOWARD SCHOOL WORK,” she was marked in December, May and June as “Wastes Time” and marked in May and June as “Copies; Gets Too Much Help.” But to counter that, she was marked in January, March and April as “Shows Improvement” and marked in September and November as “Very Commendable.” In the section labeled “RECITATIONS,” she was marked in November, December, May and June as “Capable of Doing Much Better” and marked in December as “Work Shows a Falling Off.” However, she did get marked in September, January, March, April, and June as “Showing Improvement.” In the section labeled “CONDUCT,” she was marked in June as being “Restless; Inattentive” and marked in December, May and June as “Whispers Too Much.” Her conduct was marked as “Shows Improvement” in September, November, January, March and April.

Reviewing some of the other categories that Beatrice was not marked as deficient in shows categories such as Indolent, Work is Carelessly Done, Gives Up Too Easy, Inclined to Mischief, Rude; Discourteous at Times, Annoys Others, Seldom Done Well (relating to recitations), and Appearing Not to Try.

The Method of Grading (for all 3 grades in this school) was:

  • A – Admirable, Grade from 95 to 100.
  • E – Excellent, Grade from 85 to 95.
  • F – Fair, Grade from 75 to 85.
  • P – Poor, Grade from 60 to 75.
  • M – Very Poor, Grade below 60.

Quite a bit different from our modern grading of A (top scores) through F (failing). I can imagine some students going home and hang-doggedly standing in front of their parents, having to admit to getting mostly Ms and being Inclined to Mischief!

Grade 2
Her grade 2 report card shows that she was enrolled for the 1919-1920 school year. Mr. Joseph McMickle was still the superintendent/principle of the school. The teacher was again L.W. Davison. Beatrice was eligible to be promoted to 3rd grade at the end of the school year. The signature of the parent is George Repsher, her father. His signature is done in a beautiful blue ink from September to March, black in April and May, and absent from the report card in June. It was noted that Beatrice was “Especially Good in Writing.”Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 4.03.02 PM

The back of the report card shows a marked improvement from the prior year. Beatrice again got Fs (for fair, grade 75 -85) and Es (for excellent, grade 85-95) on most of her lessons. In addition to Reading, Writing, & Arithmetic, Grammar/Language, and Physical Training, Beatrice was now working on her Spelling, getting all Es in that category. Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 5.44.35 PM

She was only absent 22 days in this school year and tardy only three times. In the section labeled “ATTITUDE TOWARD SCHOOL WORK,” she was marked only once in November as “Wastes Time.” She was marked as “Very Commendable” in September and knocked it out of the park with “Shows Improvement” in all months except September and May. The teacher still felt that Beatrice was “Capable of Doing Much Better” and marked her as such in November, January and April in the section labeled “RECITATIONS.” Beatrice must have liked to talk because she got dinged in the “CONDUCT” section as “Whispers Too Much” for September, November, February, March and June. However, her conduct “Shows Improvement” from October-December, March, April and June.

The parents were warned that:

“Special attention is called to the serious consequences of Irregular Attendance. It is important to remember that the loss of even a portion of a school session often proves to be a serious interruption to progress, and tends to produce a lack of interest in the school work. Excuses showing good cause for the absence or tardiness should always be sent promptly to the teacher on the return of a child to school. Neglect of this may cause the child to be sent home after the excuse.”

Parents were also encouraged to “show their interest in the child and school by occasional visits” and these visits would “prove a great source of inspiration and help to both the pupil and teacher.”

Grade 3
Beatrice’s grade 3 report card shows that she was enrolled for the 1920-1921 school year. Mr. Joseph McMickle was still the superintendent/principle of the school. The teacher for this year was one G.D. Best, who had impeccably neat cursive handwriting. Beatrice was eligible to be promoted to 4th grade at the end of the school year. The signature of the parent is George Repsher, her father, and all the signatures are present except for June.

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The back of the report card shows that Beatrice’s curriculum was starting to fill out. She was studying Reading, Spelling, Writing, Arithmetic, Geography, Grammar/Language, Physiology, and Physical Training. She was also now required to take exams at the end of each half and those grades were recorded at December and June. Again, she was receiving nothing less than Fair (Fs) and Excellent (Es) scores but this school year she received solid As in Writing except for February and March when she got Es. Her best score was a 97 on her December Physiology exam.

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She was absent 42 days in this school year but tardy only three times. Beatrice was the oldest of eight children. All seven of her siblings had been born by 1920 and it is probable that her absences from school had everything to do with her being expected to help out with the raising of her siblings. If any one of her younger siblings was sick, she would have stayed home to care for them.

The teacher was very sparing in her marks in all of the various categories. Beatrice got a “Shows Improvement” in May and June and a “Very Commendable” in September and March within the “ATTITUDE TOWARD SCHOOL WORK” section.  She was marked as “Capable of Doing Much Better” only once in March, marked as “Showing Improvement” in November, May and June and marked as “Very Satisfactory” in September and October in the “RECITATIONS” section. In the “CONDUCT” section, she received only one “Restless; Inattentive” mark in January. She must have been able to contain her urge to whisper and this teacher made no comment about that particular trait in this school year. She received a “Very Good” in October, November, and April-June.

Further Schooling
I believe Beatrice then transferred over to St. Michael’s Roman Catholic School in Netcong, Morris County, New Jersey, after 3rd grade. It would seem the family made a move during that time but Netcong (in Morris County) and Stanhope (in Sussex County) are practically the same city, just with a county line running right through the town.

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The absence of a report card for her 4th grade year points to this and her 8th grade diploma is from St. Michael’s.

I have noted an incongruity in the timing of her schooling. The chronology of her promotions would have run as such using the Grade 1 through 3 report cards as a basis:

1918-1919 – Grade 1
1919-1920 – Grade 2
1920-1921 – Grade 3
1921-1922 – Grade 4
1922-1923 – Grade 5
1923-1924 – Grade 6
1924-1925 – Grade 7

But her diploma shows that she graduated from 8th grade on 21 June 1925. Perhaps she skipped over a grade when she made the shift from Stanhope Public Schools to St. Michael’s School in Netcong.

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Beatrice completed the 8th grade and was the first person in her family to graduate from grammar school. She also picked up a love of vocabulary from her schooling and was quite good at the Reader’s Digest WORD POWER® vocabulary quiz that ran regularly in that magazine.

The concept behind these weekly Saturday posts can be found at Sepia Saturday Intro.
Theme taken from Sepia Saturday photo: Posing for a portrait

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10 thoughts on “Sepia Saturday #342: Bea’s School Portrait

  1. My grade school report cards, in one way or another, always mentioned my whispering in class. Ah well. I did, so it was a fair evaluation. 🙂

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  2. I like the fact you have chosen the original prompt for this week and written such an original and interesting post. It throws such a light on schooling in those days.

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  3. Missing so much school and whispering did not seem to bring her grades down much. These days they would want to hold her back for missing so many days, in spite of her being able to do her work. Once she stopped whispering and missing so much school she probably learned so fast they double promoted her.

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