Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Camerites

The piquancy of an in-joke fades over time. Unless someone records or otherwise reveals the basis for the smiles it evokes, an in-joke becomes unfunny, unfathomable. We no longer get it.

The Madison High School Camerites apparently shared an in-joke that's no longer accessible. Surely back in 1911, ten years before Gene Rodenberry was born, a group of young men interested in photography could not have known about Camorites, the humanoid residents of Camor V, mentioned in "Bloodlines," a 1994 epidosde of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" written by Nick Sagan. Why then did they convince the editors of the 1912 Tychoberahn to emphasize that the spelling of their organization's name was "C-a-m-e-r-i-t-e-s," not "C-a-m-o-r-i-t-e-s?"

Google "Camorites" and all the references are to "Star Trek." Hmmm. Let's check the OED (Oxford English Dictionary). Perhaps we're dealing with an archaic term.

Here we are: Camomile (a variant of chamomile; drink tea made from it, don't hurl it as an epithet). Next word: Camorra (an extra "r" -- didn't these young men know how to spell?). Let's give them the benefit of the doubt. What's a Camorra?

According to the OED it's either (1) "a kind of smock-frock or blouse" or (2) "a secret society of lawless malcontents in Naples and Neapolitan cities."

So here we are, more than nine decades later, left to wonder if these men, born in the late nineteenth century, wanted future generations to know they weren't a secret society of lawless malcontents whose members wore smock-frocks. Or were they trying to say something else?

The 1912 Tychoberahn has a photograph featuring ten of the twelve members of the Camerites. There is no caption identifying who's who. All we know is the membership included Alex Alexander, Theodore Hoeveler, Robert Johnson, Leslie Ketchum, William Marshall, Edwin Meisekothen, Paul Rose, John Sachs, Edward Schernecker, Theodore Scholz, Arthur Wilcox, and Edward Williamson.

I've reproduced the page from the 1912 Tychoberahn showing the Camerites. If you have additional information about any of these men, please leave a comment or send an email.

Double click on the above image to enlarge it in your browser window

More Centralites from the Fifties and Sixties Photographed at the All Central Reunion at the VFW

Here are a few more photographs of Centralites who graduated in the 1950s and 1960s. The photos were taken on February 12, 200 at the All Central Reunion at the VFW on Lakeside Street.

Mariea Guzzetta Harrington graduated from Madison Central High School in 1957

Norm Moen graduated from Madison Central High School in 1950

Diane Anderson Robinson graduated from Madison Central High School in 1962

Friday, April 21, 2006

Members of the Class of 1917: Part 1 (Surnames A-G)

Listed below are the members of the Madison High School Class of 1917 whose surnames begin with the letters A-G and whose photos are included in the 1917 Tychoberahn. Long-time Madison residents will recognize some of the surnames as those of families and individuals who played prominent roles in shaping Madison, including Bowman and Fauerbach.

The italicized information under many names is the information I have been able to find about that person; or, in some instances, speculation about how that person may be related to other alumni, or what they may have done after graduation. The quotations and information about high school activities are from the 1917 Tychoberahn.If you have any additional information about any of these members of the Class of 1917, please contact me by email or leave a comment.

Lorraine Alexander
Possibly Mary Lorraine Alexander who, in 1925 married Charles E. Wheeler, a 1922 graduate of the University of Wisconsin in engineering; she earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Wisconsin in 1922 and died in Chicago in December 1931 after an operation
Ruth Alexander
Frank Alford
Perhaps the Frank Alford who later became a Madison alderman
Louise Allyn
Perhaps a sister of Stanley Allyn, Class of 1909, who became chairman of National Cash Register
Lawrence Anderson
Victor Anderson
Roland Archer - "By Jove, I am not covetous of learning"
Maxine Arnold
Adeline Ashcroft
William "Bill" Bamford
Ellen "Beanie" Beane
Duane Bowman (1897-1984) - Senior Class Secretary
Probably Duane Bowman, Sr., one of the owners of the Madison Blues baseball team, as well as Bowman Dairy
Florence Bradley
Lillian "Lil" Breitenbach
Romelle Brennan (1898-1983)
Attended the University of Wisconsin; in 1931 married Arnold A. Washbush, an accountant with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission
Freda Brewer
Vera Brewer
Alice Bruns
Hazel Bryant (1899-1991)
Possibly the Hazel Bryant of Madison who, in 1926, married Vernon Klontz, at that time principal of the high school in Antigo, Wisconsin
Sada Buckmaster (1899-1989) - Valedictorian
Graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1921; taught at Randall School in Madison; married Attorney John Roberts
Leo Butts
George Walter Cairns - German Club 1,2,3,4
Charlotte Calvert
Graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1921; married Dr. Robert E. Burns; she may also have become a physician
Everett "Ev" Campbell
Graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1922; attended Rush Medical School; was living in New York in 1926
Grace Carroll
Attended the University of Wisconsin; in 1924 married Thomas Hines, Jr. of San Francisco
Ray Chandler
Francis Clarke
Virginia "Jinny" Conklin ( -1948)
Graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1922; married Harold C. Collins; in 1932 they were living in Wausau; died at home in Wausau in July 1948
Carol Conlee
Graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1922; marrried Clarence Hall; living in Milwaukee in 1926
Lucille Conlin
Mary Conlin
Doris Cooper
Graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1921; married Rexford Vernon
Eleanor Cooper
Eleanor Cox
Probably the the Eleanor Cox who graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1921; in 1925 she was head of the science department at Stoughton High School
Robert "Bob" Coxon
Helen Crook
Graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1921
Adolf "Ade" "Swede" Danielson
Philip Dengel
Kendall Dexter
Attended the University of Wisconsin
Catherine Dodge
Bernard "Pat" Donaghey
Harold "Dunny" Donovan
Crystal Doring
Philip Dowling
Attended the University of Wisconsin
Dorothy Dresen
Roy Drives (1897-1959)
Margaret Dyer
Attended the University of Wisconsin; married T.T. Atkins
Milton FaGaines - "'Tis folly to be wise."
Ruth Farley
Faith Farlin
Rose Farmer
Regina Farnum
Karl Fauerbach
Karl Haertel Fauerbach (1897-1967), a third generation member of the Fauerbach Brewery family; attended the University of Wisconsin
Mabel Fehlandt
Georgia Fess ( -1926)
Attended the University of Wisconsin; married Warren Carter
Mervin Flom
Graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1921
Stanley Ford
Arthur Frederick
Fyfe Frederickson
John Frisch
Fidelia Fritz
Graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1922; married George Tiernan
Elmer Gallagher
Roy Gannon
Helen Gill
Graduated from the Univesity of Wisconsin in 1921; married Jan Viljoen
Robert Gilmore
Grace Gleerup
Graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1921; married Dr. John Monteith
Merrill "Prof." Goddard
Attended the University of Wisconsin
Gladys Greene (1898- 1982)
Graduated from the University of Wisconsin; married Trayser
Mabel "Hiram" Gregg
Graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1921
Ben F. Gurney (1898-1964) - Salutatorian
Graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1921; died in Madison in 1964

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

We need your help to save some important documents about the history of Madison Central High School

If you've attended a high school class reunion, you may have a document similar to the one pictured here. It's probably full of names and addresses, as well as updates submitted by classmates, and lists of the missing and the deceased.

You may call these documents yearbooks or memory books. Another name for them is paper ephemera, but I'm not certain that's an entirely accurate description. Ephemera are items of short-lived interest or usefulness, things you probably throw away when an updated version arrives (telephone books) or your circumstanes change (cute little Valentine's Day cards from first grade classmates whose names you no longer remember and all those extra wedding invitations).

But even when paper ephemera no longer seems meaningful to you, it may be well be a valuable resource for historians and have meaning for future generations.

Yesterday, while I was researching Central's history at the Wisconsin Historical Society library, I discovered that among its holdings are four yearbooks from Madison Central High School reunions:

Class of 1939 - 50th reunion
Class of 1943 - 45th reunion
Class of 1943 - 50th reunion
Class of 1948 - 45th reunion
While I didn't have time yesterday to look at these reunion yearbooks, you can be certain I'll do so the next time I visit the WHS library. However, I'd like to be able to see more yearbooks from more classes -- and I'm certain I'm not the only researcher who believes these are important historical documents.

If you're downsizing, cleaning out your desk, or just doing some spring cleaning and you find your copy of one of these reunion books, please contact me and I'll make certain it finds a good home. And don't think you don't need to either hang onto your copy or help it find a good home because someone else in your class has already done so. Maybe they haven't -- and besides there are other organizations that would also like to have copies of these yearbooks, including the Dane County Historical Society.

You're invited to the party

No, it's not a class reunion: it's a birthday party. Today is Beverly Cleary's 90th birthday -- and even if she isn't a Madison Central High School alumnus, she's touched many of our lives with her wonderful books, including "Henry Huggins" and "Fifteen." There's a little celebration of some of her books on the Class of 1965 blog. Click HERE to drop by for a visit.

More ink for Central alumnus Don Trachte

Kudos to Doug Moe, who wrote a column for Monday's edition of The Capital Times that followed up on last week's front page New York Times story about Don Trachte and Norman Rockwell. It's a good story with a touching ending -- and Moe remembered to mention that Trachte was a member of the Madison Central High School Class of 1933.

The print version of Moe's column had a recent photo of Trachte that doesn't appear in the online edition, but the online version has a color reproduction of "Breaking Home Ties," the Rockwell painting that's the center of the recent hullabaloo.

I posted something about the New York Times Trachte story last week. You'll find it if you scroll down this page a bit, or you can just click HERE.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What Central students were reading in 1963

My copy is old and ratty -- the cover is loose, the pages are water-stained, and there are lots of comments written in the margin -- but I still revisit "Catcher in the Rye" every so often.

In 1963, when Madison Central High School senior high students voted on what book they would recommend to other students, "Catcher in the Rye" won. Here's a transcription of an article from the February 22, 1963 issue of The Madison Mirror describing our librarian's poll:

"Catcher in Rye" Tops Book Poll

A recent poll taken among senior high students at Central had The Catcher in the Rye receiving the most votes. Gone with the Wind was second.

Miss Bowden, who conducted the poll for the Central library, requested each student to record on a ballot his choice of one book he would recommend to other students.

The voting was spread out over many dozens of books. Those receiving four votes or more are the following: The Catcher in the Rye, 26 votes; Gone With the Wind, 15; 1984, 10; To Kill A Mockingbird, 9; On the Beach, 7: The Good Earth, 6; Of Mice and Men, 5, Call of the Wild, 5; Jane Eyre, Hawaii, Kon-Tiki, and Seventeenth Summer, 4 votes each.

Traditionalist, revisionist, or sentimentalist, or some other kind of ist -- whatever you call yourself (or people call you), you're likely to find revisiting any or all of the books named in the article a worthwhile adventure. I've read them all and I remember them all -- except the last one. If you adored "Seventeenth Summer" and its characters and plot are still with you today, give the rest of us a some clues -- or better yet, write a book report.

If you write a book report, please remember some things have changed in the past 40 years or so. Pronoun choice no longers "defers to the masculine" and good writers avoid using the passive voice (as should bureaucrats and politicians).

Sunday, April 09, 2006

"She became my hero and an inspiration to succeed"

Most of us can name a favorite teacher or teachers. Some of us can name a teacher whose influence on our life was profound or far-reaching. Few of us have an opportunity to honor such teachers in a very public manner.

Harold Haak, was valedictorian for the Class of 1953. But before Haak graduated from Madison Central High School, he struggled with grammar and proper speech. He credited his English teacher, Miss Elizabeth Ritzmann, for his success. "She became my hero and my inspiration to succeed," he told an interviewer in 2002. "She was the one teacher in particular who was caring, yet demanding and showed a special interest in me."

After graduating from Central, Haak earned a bachelor's degree and master's degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He then went on to earn a Ph.D. at Princeton. From 1980-1991, Haak served as president of California State University, Fresno.

After his retirement from Fresno State, university officials presented Haak with an honorary brick to be mounted on the "Friends of Education Honor Wall" in front of the Kremen School of Education and Human Development at the entrance to the university. Haak chose to honor Miss Ritzmann by having her name inscribed on the brick.

When Haak died, in 2003, Fresno State President John. D. Welty praised Haak, calling him "an outstanding scholar who served Fresno state extremely well," and ordered the university's flags lowered to half-mast to honor Haak.

Click HERE for more photos of Haak during his career at Fresno State.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Out of the funny papers and onto the front page of The New York Times

Madison blogger Ann Althouse reads The New York Times in the morning and starts blogging. I'm far more dilatory about catching up with "All the News That's Fit to Print." Sometimes I don't even have time to look at The New York Times until the next day. I'm not certain when Madison Guy read Thursday's edition of The New York Times, but I do know it was long before I did, because he managed to scoop me on the Don Trachte story and post a report on his blog, "Letter from Here," before the 6 o'clock evening news. So congratulations, Madison Guy!

Because I've been doing lots of research about Madison Central High School, I can add some more information about this illustrious member Central alumnus whose artistic ruse earned him post-mortem headlines. Donald Trachte graduated in 1933, a year after Martin Wolman, who served as business manager and editor of The Madison Mirror, which published both the school newspaper and the yearbook during the 1930s. Trachte left his artistic tracks in the yearbook for several years, contributing stories and drawings, but you'd never know it from the yearbook entry accompanying his senior photo (shown on the left). The only activities he lists are "Track 9, 10, 11, 12."

Wolman went on to become the publisher of the Wisconsin State Journal. While still in high school, Trachte met comic creator Carl Anderson, who was working as a carpenter in Madison and teaching night school. Trachte became his assistant on the "Henry" series, thus beginning a long career as an illustrator. When Anderson died in 1948, Trachte took over the Sunday page of the series.

In the 1950s, Trachte moved to Vermont, where he lived until his death in 2005. While working (and raising a family) in Vermont, Trachte sometimes posed for his friend and fellow artist, Norman Rockwell. Trachte is featured in one of Rockwell's most famous paintings, "Outside the Principal's Office."

If you haven't already done so, click over to "Letter from Here" and read what Madison guy has to say about The New York Times story about Don Trachte. I'm usually writing about history and biography. Madison Guy is writing about art, but that's probably because he is an artist. While you're visiting his blog, have a look at the original drawings and photographs that often accompany his posts. He also has a link to information about Don Trachte's father's business. And, oh yeah, Madison Guy has even blogged about Althouse.

Note: Even if you have a copy of Thursday's New York Times, it's worth your time to check out the online version because the some of the photos that appear in black and white when the story jumps from page one to page 15 in the newspaper are shown online in color and can be enlarged in your browser window. This is particularly valuable if you want to see the detail in Trachte's self-portrait. And if you've never visited the online version of The New York Times, you may have to register. It's worth it.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The 1925 Tychoberahn's editors included a future anthropologist and United States Secretary of the Interior

The image below is from page ninety-one of the 1925 Tychoberahn, which had 208 pages, a very large yearbook indeed. The caption under the photo explains that members of the Tychoberahn board are "looking over the first of 23,000 sheets which make the 187,200 pages of the 1925 Ty."

The editor of the 1925 Tychoberahn, Lauriston Sharp, became a prominant anthropologist. Julius Krug, chairman of the yearbook's athletic committee, served as Secretary of the Interior (1946-1949) during the administration of President Harry S. Truman.

If you know anything about the other people whose names are listed on page ninety-one of the 1925 Tychoberahn, please leave a comment or send me an email.

Madison Guy Blogs

Guy Madison used to set my pre-teen heart aflutter, but Wild Bill Hickok didn't attend Central.

Madison Guy, however, is a Central alumnus and he blogs. Madison Guy is also among the many bloggers who prefer to remain anonymous until they retire (or receive an enormously lucrative book deal). While Madison Guy hasn't written about Central yet, he tells me he'll probably touch on the subject eventually.

Madison Guy sometimes writes about politics, but he also writes about balancing eggs on Equinox Day and "Keeping quotation marks in their place." The latter post has a link to a blog grammar and punctuation mavens will enjoy: the "Blog" of "Unncessary" Quotation Marks.

Madison Guy's blog is "Letter from Here." I've added a new category for links to alumni blogs to the sidebar. Madison Guy is the first entry.

"We From Central" - An Essay By Lynn Jeffcott (Class of 1968)

Lynn Jeffcott graduated from Madison Central High School in 1968. Since then, she's had two careers focused on writing: one in business and marketing and another in education. After she retired from her job at a small Iowa college in 2001, she wrote "an inspirational book dedicated to those who face illness, tragedy, or hard times." Published by Word Wrangler Publishing, it is available through her website, which features an excerpt from the book, as well as a photo and some biographic notes about the author. I've added a link to her website to the "alumni websites" category in the sidebar.

Lynn also sent a copy of an essay about Central she wrote shortly after her book was published. That essay is reproduced below. Please note that Lynn retains the copyright to her essay. You may not reproduce it without her permission.

We From Central

By Lynn Jeffcott Kreul, 1968 graduate and Madison Central High School Alumna

(This is a short but heartfelt essay dedicated to the many graduates of Central High School who, despite humble beginnings, have given to the world quietly but positively and meaningfully.)

Most students of Madison Central High School came from neighborhoods where people from other schools did not venture after dark, where the nearest thing to a country club was the gathering spot under the streetlight. And many of us started down the path with more than a little stacked against us.

Today, we understand and celebrate connections from our past. Why? A look back is a reminder that we got where we got by our wits and brains, not by privilege or legacy. Our individualism and pride originated from sheer grit, faith and a lot of up hilling, not from our ancestors’ ranks on the social register.

Our motto was NOT “yes I can, “ it was “yes, I better, because no one else will do it for me.” We came up on the bumpy road just on the other side of the tracks. The clothes we wore to high school, even what others considered paltry necessities—soap, shampoo, shoe polish—came from the jobs we went to every night of the week and on weekends. The world did not realize that it wasn’t just a matter of studying and achieving, nor did it understand that it was no easy thing to strive for excellence when our energies were tied to survival.

Sadly, there were those who had the notion that few of us were capable of distinction. It did not occur to them that we had to overcome before succeeding. And we had to succeed without a mentor or a support system. What we did, we did alone and without accolade.

Perhaps the bulk of us didn’t gain mention in “Who’s Who Among High School Students.” Yet, despite our lack of resources and our undistinguished backgrounds, many of us became distinguished people, who no matter what our jobs or titles, made contributions to our families, our communities and our world. Which is worthier in terms of character? Success gained through insurmountable odds or that which is earned with little impediment? In the cosmic sense, hard-earned achievement must gather its own merit.

We were products created, not from the bolts of abundance, but from one thread at a time. It was the best gift The Heavenly Weaver ever gave us. Having to gather fiber by fiber, we learned to appreciate what it takes to make a life and get through it with dignity and purpose. We from Central High School. We came from the workingman’s millhouse that produced material dependable, durable and able to withstand a storm. And no one is exempt from storms in life. No one.

Our heritage fortified our lives, and it did the same for our souls. It expanded our awareness and stretched our innerness. It reserved a spot in our hearts for anyone having a rough time in life and gave us the courage and willingness to lend support to those who struggle. It taught us to recognize that the value of a human comes from the fabric of his being, not from where he grew up. And it instilled in us the wisdom to pity those who believed otherwise.

As it turns out, this was not an essay about who we were or where we resided when we attended Madison Central High School. If we live long enough, we can experience great joy, but none of us escapes illness, tragedy and loss. That’s what knits us together. In the end, we are all cut from the same cloth.

Here’s a toast to Central High School. Here’s a toast to all of us connected not just through mutual experience, but also through human experience. We graduated from Central High School, and it taught us when we graduate from life, the only thing that matters is the spiritual condition of the heart.

© 2006 Lynn Jeffcott Kreul

Sunday, April 02, 2006

A new episode in which a hero emerges to rescue me from drudgery -- and I thank him profusely

"Wildflower" is a very familiar figure to me. The bronze statue of a child about to plunge into the water at its feet now resides on the second floor of the Central Branch of the Madison Public Library. Donated to the library in 1916 by Professor and Mrs.Moses S. Slaughter, the statue formerly resided in the garden along the Dayton Street side of the old public library building on Carroll Street (behind Madison Central High School).

The second floor of the library is where the microfilm readers are located, so I've been spending a great many hours up there, reading old microfilms and dropping dimes into a slot every time I want to make a copy.

Many of the things I've been copying from microfilms are obituaries for Central alumni published in local newspapers prior to April 2003. It's a time consuming process -- and it's taken a lot of dimes.

Fortunately for all of us, there's a Central alumnus who's been saving obituaries for many years. Michael Vahldieck (Class of 1968) was kind enough to get in touch with me and offer his services to add more obituaries to the Madison Central High School Obituary Archives. He emailed me text files containing about 150 obituaries published locally between 2000 and 2003. Thank you, Michael, thank you!

Thus far, I've added almost 80 of the obituaries Michael sent me to the archives. The remainder will be added soon.

Michael's generosity has saved me many hours and many dimes, and I'm very grateful. And you, dear reader, should be, too.

Since Michael was a few years behind me in school, I asked him to send me a bit of information about himself, so I could introduce him, as well as thank him for his generosity. Here's what he told me in a recent email:

I'm researching my family's genealogy, and from that, I have an odd sense of the families living in Allenton, WI (west of Hartford), ca. 1848 - I recognize the surnames, know some of their occupations, where they owned land, who married whom, who went to which church, when they entered the naturalization process. I've read their obits, but also browsed the newspapers of the day. It's as if I once visited there, eons ago.

When I read the local obits, I sometimes recognize names from grade school (I went to Longfellow and St. James) and it brings back memories of old friends. I recall playing hooky in the Greenbush when in grade school, so I enjoy seeing the references to that. And I recall playing hooky at Central: oddly, I'd go hang out at the Madison Public Library. Al Colucci, the fearsome Asst. Principal with the military haircut, made frequent sweeps of the carmel corn shoppe on State St., looking for aberrant students, but he never thought to look for anyone at the MPL!
The "new" public library on Mifflin Street opened in 1965, so I don't know if Michael played hookey at the old or the new library. Perhaps he had hiding places at both locations. In any case, I'm sure that he too is familiar with "Wildflower."

The obituary archives are searchable if you use the search box in the upper left hand corner of that blog (hint: just use the last name). Within a couple of days of posting, they are usually available on a Google search, too (although that option may bring up too many names to sort through). I hope you'll find the time to search or browse through the 1990 to present obituary archives. You'll find some familiar names and some amazing stories.