52 Documents in 52 Weeks #25 – Mercedes Strait’s Graduation

Mercedes Marie Strait, circa 1955

Person of Interest: Mercedes Marie Strait
Relationship: Paternal aunt


Source Citation: Mercedes Strait, Newton High School commencement program (1955); Newton Public Schools, Newton, New Jersey; privately held by Jodi Lynn Strait, Tucson, Arizona, 2017.


Document Description: This is the commencement program for Newton High School for the class of 1955. It is 8 x 15 inches and tri-folded which means there are 6 “pages” in total. The paper is medium weight and cream colored with black print. There are no embellishments, pictures, or embossing.


Document Scan/Transcription:
Front Page:
Annual Commencement Exercises of Newton High School
Wednesday Evening, June 22, 1955
High School Field
Newton, N. J.

 

 

 

 

Inside Cover:
Processional
Invocation…..Rev. Marple Lewis
Flag Salute…..Led by John Power
The National Anthem
Salutatory…..Shirley Layton
Honorary Essay…..Shirley Layton
Honorary Essay…..Saundra Fenner
Music…..Senior Ninettes & Senior Male Vocal Group
Mantle Oration…..William Decker, Barbara Henderson
Honorary Essay…..Elizabeth Boole
Presentation of Prizes…..Dr. James Johnson, Superintendent of Schools
Honorary Essay…..Jane Spangenberg
Valedictory…..Jane Spangenberg
Presentation of Class…..Frederick L. Weaver, Principal of High School
Presentation of Class Gift…..Richard W. Ayers
Awarding of Diplomas…..David Weidenhafer, President of Board of Education
Awarding of Diplomas…..Dr. J. J. Goldman, Vice President of Board of Education
Alma Mater
Benediction
Recessional

Listing of Class of 1955, page 1:
Class of 1955
Dorothy Carol Ackerson
Jean Louise Andre
Charles Ronald Ansbach
Harriette Penney Ayers
Richard Willis Ayers
* Nancy Roe Bain
Nancy Baltjes
Joseph Anthony Barthel
Martin James Bedell, Jr.
Donald Frederick Begraft
Mabel Elsie Belcher
Robert Leeroy Benson
Roy Rhynier Bischoff
* Sally Bixler
Frank Black
Lester Eugene Blumhagen
* Elizabeth Jane Boole
Ruric William Brandt
Ann Elizabeth Brown
Catharine Howell Buenz
* Carol Halley Christine Byrnes
Estelle Marie Kathryn Campbell
Domenick Carriera
Marion Josophine Cedzidlo
Richard Linus Celli
Edmund Livingston Chammings
Lester Eugene Chammings
Catherine Bernice Chandler
Shirley Ann Chidlress
* Russell Sage Christie, Jr.
* Dolores Frances Clayton
Frederick Dale Current
Beatrice Clare DeAngelis
William Robert Decker
Charles Walter DeGroat
Patricia Joan Delea
Herbert Joseph Demarest
Peter J. Demarest
Robert Lynn Dennis
Ronald James Depuy
Marie Annette DeVincenzi
Joseph Michael DeVita
Betty Jane Donadio
William Robert Doty
Philip Harry Dunlap
James Edward Earnshaw
Robert Leroy Earl
Mary Theresa Eldred
Mildred Beatrice Ellicks
Clarence Theadore Ellingsen, Jr.
Barbara Mildred Felk
* Saundra Ann Fenner
Kenneth Francis Fowler

The old Newton High School on Halsted Street, 1940 postcard

Marlin Henry Fulkrod
Richard Lawrence Fuller
Harold Elsworth Gibbs
* Lora Grabow
Carol Lee Graham
George Robert Gray
June Edwinna Grimm
Frank George Gromlich
* Hubert William Hagadorn
Patricia Mary Hamilton
Robert Boyden Hamm
William Flomerfelt Hamm
Geraldine Marie Hatley
Diane Lee Helmacy
Alice Jane Henderson
Raymond Charles Henderson, Jr.
Roger Lee Henderson
Gordon James Hennion
Edith May Hooey
Barbara Joyce Hopper
Carol Diane Huff
Carole Kathryn Agnes Hughes
Rosemary Kathryn Hughes
Shirley Ann Huizenga
Brian Dotey Hunt
Joyce Hussey
John Lewis Iliff
Cora Enda Jager
Niela Norene Jager
Charlotte Emma Johnson
Marie Elizabeth Johnson
Harvey William Jorgenson, Jr.
Helen Evelyn Kampka
Linford Nelson Kinney
Manfred William Klein
Listing of Class of 1955, page 2:
Ronald John Klepacky
Jean Elizabeth Kosteini
Jeanette Bertha Kosteini
Phyllis Gloria Kucinski
Maxine Helen Kuhn
Shirley Ruth Landgraff
* Shirley Evelyn Layton
Elaine Helen Lee
William Felix Lehman, Jr.
Frank Henry Lockburner
Marilyn Agnes Lundstrom
Jack Whitten McCall
George Melvin McCoy
Marilyn Jayne McKeeby
Nancy Lee Mack
Rosamond Barbara Martin
Cynthia Patricia Massucci
Virginia Lou Mertens
Anna Marie Margaret Meyer
Thomas Stone Middleton
Melvyn Miller
Andrea Mitchell
Marjorie Ann Monsanto
Hugh Theodore Mooney
Carol Mary Mosner
Theodore W. Moss
* Edwin Alfred Nelson, Jr.
Howard Edward Norback
Carolyn Adelaide Nugent
Janice Marie Paugh
Gustave Edwin Paul
Birgit Alma Pearson
Wilfred Edwin Pierce, Jr.
Duane Robert Pierson
Patricia Ann Plotts
Robert Lee Poe
* John Michael Power
Evelyn Roberta Powers
Kenneth Ralph Powers
Rayna Mabel Price
Elizabeth Frances Ramsey
Regine Marie Reuther
Rochelle Roche
William Henry Ruschmeier
Gail Patricia Ryan
Lewis Branton Savacool
* Helen Emily Schaffer
Gayle Marie Scott
Lydia Semenuk
Frederick Lloyd Seplow
Norman Card Shawger
Donald Edward Singleton
Margaret Agnes Sisco
Marilyn Marjorie Sisco
* Shirley Ann Skuba
Ronald Swayze Smith
Barbara Ann Spangenberg
* Jane Edith Spangenberg
Kathleen Marie Spaulding
Barbara Specht
Virginia Specht
Kurt David Steckley
James Grant Stevens
Janet Doris Stewart
Janet Lynn Stiansen
Mercedes Marie Strait

Mercedes Marie Strait

William Michael Strong
Betty Louise Struble
Patricia Jean Sullivan
* Carol Lee Talley
Lois Mae Titman
Elizabeth Ann Traynor
Wellington Ollie Treible
* Maud Violet Utter
Ralph Marshall VanAuken
Donald Theodore VanDeMoere
Barbara Jane VanOrden
Shirley Martha Vealey
Grant Van Vorhies
Richard John Washer
Elsie Mary Watson
Carol Margaret Elizabeth Weiss
Donald Robert Weiss
Verne E. Whitlock, Jr.
Ralph Dwight Wiley
Dennis Grifford Williams
Luise Rae Williams
Martin Morris Winfield
* Joyce Nettie Young

* National Honor Society

Alma Mater Foldover Page:
ALMA MATER
Oh! we’re from dear old Newton
The School to us most dear;
It’s the place we love the best
Finest school in East or West
So we will hail the name we all revere:
We love our Alma Mater
Of her glories we will tell.
In everything we take the lead
In sport and though and noble deed.
And so for Newton we will give our yell, Rah! Rah!

Her students all are loyal,
We’ll laud her to the sky
We’ll ever strive with all our might
To keep her honor clear and bright,
The kind of scholars we’re at Newton High.
We hear the should of victory
The thunder of her fame
In every land the world around
There are her sons and daughters found,
And so for them we’ll give a hearty cheer, Rah! Rah!

Chorus
So here’s to old Newton
Loud we will sing
We’ll tell her praises true to you
In every land they’ll ring.
Then here’s to old Newton
The School we love the best,
Till every purpose be fulfilled in N. H. S.

Board of Education and listing of teachers page:
President…..Mr. David Weidenhafer
Vice-President…..Dr. J. J. Goldman
Secretary to Board…..Mr. Sydenham Palmer
Mr. Robert J. Ford
Dr. Martin Snook
Mr. John Cronin
Mrs. D. L. Spurgeon
Mrs. Charles Thompson
Mrs. Clifford Schmidt
Mr. C. Burnett Freas

James Johnson, Ed. D. ….. Superintendent
Frederick L. Weaver, Ed. M. ….. High School Principal
Paul S. Darling, Ed. M. …..High School Vice President
Helen E. Kinney …… Secretary to the Superintendent
Margaret E. Kittle ….. Secretary to High School Principal
Lena W. Howell ….. Secretary to Attendance
Gladys S. Anderson, B. C. S. ….. Commercial
Lydia Beatty ….. Modern Living
Kathryn Bedell, B. S. ….. English
Richard Bobertz ….. Manual Training
Ralph Bond, B. S. ….. Commercial
Henry Boresch, Ed. M. ….. Physical Education
Howard Bruce, B. S. ….. Commercial
A. Neill Clark, B. S. ….. Physics
Claire Club, B. S. ….. Modern Living
Elizabeth Cole, B. C. S. ….. Commercial
Margaret Connell, M. A. ….. Latin
Warren Cummings, Ed. M. ….. English
Van Davies, B. S. ….. Mathematics
Arthur Disque, M. A. ….. Physical Education
Joseph Esposito, A. B. ….. English
Wilfred Falling, B. Mus. ….. Music
Kathleen Fleck, A. B. ….. English
Frances Francisco, A. B. ….. Mathematics, Science
Gottfred Gebhardt, B. S. ….. Science
Elizabeth Goble, R. N. ….. Nurse
Louis J. Gombosi, Ed. M. ….. Agriculture
Hazel I. Gordon ….. Physical Education
Mildred Graebner, A. B. ….. French, Spanish
Mildred Griggs ….. Commercial
Roberts I. Hardin, M. A. ….. Modern Living
Alice Henry, M. A. ….. Physical Education
Marion Howe, M. A. ….. Mathematics
Barbara Jones, A. B. ….. Art
Francis Lambert, A. B. ….. History
Margaret Mary Linnen, A. B. ….. English
Margaret McCutcheon, Ed. M. ….. Library
George Marshall, A. B. ….. English, History
Frank Matteson ….. Manual Training
Carroll Mynard, B. S. ….. Band, Orchestra
Jean Pascoe, M. A. ….. Guidance
Emily Robbins, Ed. M. ….. Mathematics
Marion Quinn, M. A. ….. History
Eleanor Slack, B. C. S. ….. English
Geraldine Smith, M. A. ….. Speech, Dramatics
John Stump, M. S. ….. Agriculture
Mabel von Loon, B. S. ….. History
Robert Warden, B. S. ….. Mechanical Drawing
Michael Waskowich, B. S. ….. Science
Paul Weaver, Ed. M. ….. Chemistry
Robert Williams, M. A. ….. Mathematics


Analysis:  Mercedes Marie Strait was one of 177 students that graduated on 22 June 1955 from Newton High School, Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey. It is unclear if Mercedes graduated in the brand spanking new High School on Ryerson Avenue which was built in 1954 at a cost of $1.25M.[1] The former High School was located on Halsted Street (subsequently converted to a grammar school) and this was where Mercedes spent most of her high school years. I haven’t been able to determine exactly when the new High School opened so Mercedes may have never even had a class in the new building and was at Halsted Street from her freshman to senior years.

The new Newton High School, built in 1954

I’m glad I took the time to transcribe all the names on the program. One name in particular popped out at me: Donald Fredrick Begraft. Why? Well, because he’s a brother to Douglas Begraft who married Lena Westra who was a sister to Martha Westra who married Mercedes’ brother William Strait. This highlights the benefits of using the F.A.N. (Friends, Associates, and Neighbors) method of researching. From this program, I found his high school graduation date, placed him in Newton (or close vicinity) in 1955, and learned his middle name.

Life is circular. Some of the same teachers that Mercedes and her brother William may have had were also my teachers! English teacher Mrs. Bedell, math teacher Mrs. Robbins, agriculture teacher Mr. Gombosi, and math teacher Van Davies were all still in education when I came through from 1980-1984. I know for sure my dad had Mrs. Robbins as a teacher. I quite liked her but Dad had other opinions since her preference for girls over the boys in the classroom was a bit noticeable.

I also noticed that home economics had been rebranded as “modern living” by 1955. I’m not quite sure what “commercial” was related to since “manual training” is also included in areas of study. Agriculture is not a surprise as Sussex County was still very rural in 1955.

In a nice bit of symmetry, I also had 177 students in my graduating class. However, I did attend high school at the building on Ryerson Avenue and many years after both High Point Regional High School, which opened in 1964, and Kittatinny Regional High School, which opened in 1975, had syphoned students from the Newton School District.[2]

This is an original document passed down to me from Aunt Sadie. It’s primary information in that it’s a listing of all the graduates, teachers, and Board of Education members in 1955 prepared by the school itself that would know specifically who was graduating and who taught the graduates. It is direct evidence (explicit) for the question, “When and where did Mercedes Marie Strait, of Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey, graduate high school?” It tells us definitively that she graduated on Wednesday evening of 22 June 1955. It is indirect evidence on the relationships between Mercedes, her classmates, and her teachers. From this, we can’t tell who shared classroom time with her, who her circle of friends were, or what teachers taught her.

CONCLUSION

Why bother with a lowly high school commencement program? We’re looking for hard core vital records as genealogists, right? Well, a high school commencement program helps put your ancestor in a particular place at a particular time along with giving you some of their classmates and associates. The program gave me a middle name and graduation date for someone in the family tree I was expecting to see. Analyzing this program also piqued my curiosity enough to search out some of the school history of the Newton Public Schools. No document is too lowly to examine while doing your reasonably exhaustive search!


[1] http://www.newtonnj.net/Pages/newtonschools.htm
[2] Ibid.

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