Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mom's 1936 High School Yearbook

While I was helping my mom, Prudence Osborn Dyer, move last weekend (into an assisted living place), I found among her many books a title I'd never expected to see: The Monticello, the yearbook of Thomas Jefferson High School, Richmond, Virginia--her high school, her senior year.  1936.  Everyone called her "Prudy."

Her father--my grandfather--had been serving as a Disciples of Christ minister at a church in Richmond but had recently accepted a position at Phillips University (a Disciples' school) in Enid, Oklahoma, and so they had left Richmond in the middle of her senior year--not an easy thing for any adolescent to experience.  Apparently, her friends had arranged for her to get a yearbook, and many of them had signed it--as had many of the faculty.

lower left corner
The high school was a large one--but Mom seemed to have been liked by lots of folks.  She was vice-president of the senior class and was involved in many other activities, as well.  Her "credits" under her picture include Athletic Association (some sort of booster club--the only girls' sport was basketball), Debating Society, Girl Reserves (?), French Society President, National Honor Society.  (I, too, was an NHS member!)

Most of the teachers just signed their names--but three English teachers--all women--wrote little messages: What Oklahoma has gained we have lost. I miss you.  And: We've missed you this term.  And: Gone but not forgotten.  (So trite!) And the science teacher, Ruth P. Browning, said I've missed you.  I also had a teacher--at Hiram High School--named Ruth Browning.  There are other weird coincidences, too.  TJHS performed The Mikado that year; we did it at HHS, too.  And so on.

Many of the students wrote little messages like we miss you!  One girl, Marguerite V. Costello, wrote Gosh, I miss you!  Some wrote things like Luck always! and Best wishes!  And one guy named Jack wrote Always shoot high.  Ruth Ann Sommers called Mom My very best friend!  And Ray wrote: Gone, but not forgotten.  A kid named Mac said To [sic] bad you moved away.  And Billy: Love & Kisses.  As I look at Billy's picture, I'm pretty sure he was engaging in some wishful thinking.

And Patsy--You don't know how I've missed you this term.  And Phil waxed wise: "Life has no blessing like a prudent friend."  A football player nicknamed Booky said: Loads of good luck to the loveliest girl to graduate this year.

Then there were the comments that set the mind a-whirl: Remember what we used to do in French class with Mr. Berry?  And how about this one?  Yes, this is the same boy who used to be the back seat driver when we had those double-dates in Richmond, remember?  I bet you do, ha! ha!  The guy who wrote that is either 93 or dead, but I think I still want to hunt him down.  The same guy wrote: How about the night we got home from a certain dance?  How about it?  Oh, the mysteries of my mother's past require a Sherlock Holmes ...

Mom did indeed have her share of luck and all.  Three years later--she had just turned twenty--she married my father in Enid.  They would have three sons.  And then three grandchildren.  And now two great-grandchildren.  Dad would survive WW II and have a fine career as a professor.  Mom taught in Enid's Emerson Junior High, then at James A. Garfield HS in Garrettsville, Ohio, for ten years, during which time she completed her Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh.

In 1966, my father left Hiram College--where he'd taught for ten years--and both he and my mom took positions at Drake University, where they both retired.  Then came some years on the Oregon coast--Cannon Beach, then Seaside, before my father's declining health sent them to Massachusetts, nearer my brothers.  He died in November 1999.

My mother lived on her own for a while.  Then time and frailty ganged up on her.  And now she moves, slowly, with her walker.  Spends much time in her chair, reading.  Dozing.  Perhaps dreaming of the days of youth, of Richmond, of Thomas Jefferson High School, 1936, of the mysterious events in French class, of the double-dates, the dances, the young men and women who swirled around the decorated gymnasium, laughing so hard their poor sides ached while the orchestra played sweet music that floats forever on the soft Virginia night.


  1. Hi! I know this is super random, but I am from Richmond, Virginia and I am doing some research on a recently deceased dear friend (George Summers), and I think he was part of the class of 1936 (or maybe 35 or 37) at Thomas Jefferson. Do you still have the yearbook? Would you be able to look through it and see if he was in highschool there in 1936? I also am looking for a girl (I only have a picture, no name) and trying to find out if she was there in school as well. If you still have access to the yearbook and wouldn't mind checking for me, that would be amazing!! Thanks so much in advance if you are able to do that!!

    1. Kerrissa--Thanks for your message--and sorry for being so slow about a reply. I just now went through the book, page by page, and did not see the Summers name anywhere. He was not listed with the seniors or juniors (the only students listed)--and I did not see his name listed with any of the clubs, organizations, sports, drama, etc. Sorry ... and good luck with your research.