Sepia Saturday #345: Getting Schooled



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).



Beatrice Irene Guirreri, 1921, St. Michael’s School, Netcong, NJ


Helen “Toots” Hildegard Repsher, 1921, St. Michael’s School, Netcong, NJ

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:



Etta Best, 1921, teacher at St. Michael’s School, Netcong, NJ

And the expression on the teacher Etta Best’s face is pretty priceless.


Bea’s St. Michael’s diploma


Bea’s NJ public education diploma


Bea’s recognition of excellent penmanship

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

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. Martha Westra class photo group front

Martha Westra class photo back

Back of Martha’s class photo

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.


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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.”

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Dad sent me this postcard with the message: The Methodist Church kindergarten building is on the right side

Mercedes Marie Strait


Mercedes Marie Strait


Mercedes’ cousin Patty Strait (Carl Strait’s daughter)


Patricia Strait and cousin Sadie 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[1] 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.

Ora Simpson STRAIT class photo

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.

UT Graduation

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.

The concept behind these weekly Saturday posts can be found at Sepia Saturday Intro.
Theme taken from Sepia Saturday photo: class photos

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[1] 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, ( : accessed 01 October 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 995.


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