I am an historian – a card carrying historian – the post doctorate degree made it official and public. I look at the world around me with a particular if not downright peculiar lens. Every object that I look at tells a story. Recently, I acquired boxes of papers and books left by a teacher who enjoyed a long career in the local schools of Amesville. So far, I have only managed to touch the outermost contours of her work. . . not her private life . . . but a glimpse of her perspective. I know that she was dedicated and adopted new methods of teaching. I know that the world was changing around her in ways dramatic and yet, after so much time has past, her world is recognizable. It is a blessing to live here – a place rural and somehow magnetized by the life of the college town of Athens. It is a strange brew.
All history is local. I am not the first historian to recognize that fact. As interesting as it is to study big world wide events, it is often far more engaging to see the connection in the everyday lives of real people. For instance. in her papers, there are commemorative booklets that she gave to her students.
One of these little mementos is dated 1927 while another is ca. 1930. I can’t help but think the adage, wealth seeks us in 1930 was influenced by the economic convulsion that rocked the world. . . even pottery sales were sluggish those years around Ohio. On the other hand, the student might seek wisdom. The take-away? We can control our destinies by choosing wisdom. How many times have we heard, do what you love and the money will follow?
Not sure how many graduated in 1927, but there were nine graduates in the class of 1926. Local dignitaries were there while the Girl’s Glee Club and a solo violinist entertained the graduates and their well wishers. The festivities took place at the Presbyterian Church in Amesville. . . now that might come as a surprise. . . or not. I am certain that the local church provided a beautiful backdrop the evening of graduation. At that time, that the choice of the local church building did not stir debate. It was a convenient, available and dignified location to celebrate the accomplishments of nine students. It was a natural choice for the members of this tight knit rural community. It just made sense; common sense you might say. Life must have been simpler.
Notice the engraving on the announcement. It was printed on beautiful cotton paper! So much detail for nine graduating seniors. . . I wonder if the students recognized the planning and preparation that went into their commencement. The simple life – a world of beautiful paper, embossed invitations and gilt!
In the hills of Appalachia, in the early twentieth century, rural people had an appreciation of fine paper and engraved invitations. This fact forces us to rethink dichotomies such as rural/city in the world of geography and workers/elites in social and economic terms. In fact, it might even bring us to ponder the definition of the derogatory, hillbilly.
If you have made it this far, thanks for bearing with me. . . in history, there are rarely straight lines; even rarer still, are there answers. A million questions linger – there is a story here.