Old (before-my-time) photos and yearbooks make me wistful. A few years ago, I looked at a class photo that was taken at the University of New Hampshire in the late 1880s. Everyone looked young, of course, but I did the math and they all had to be deceased by the time I saw the photo. I wondered to myself what kind of lives they'd led: what happiness and heartbreak they had, what pleasures and trauma, how many had reached old age (and how many wished they hadn't), how many went through life without regrets, which of them had been satisfied with life and which had not.
I picked out one boy — I don't know why, maybe because he parted his hair near the middle — and stared at his face trying to figure out what kind of person he was. I thought it would be interesting to track his life and see what had happened to him, but I never did, figuring there were plenty of people in old pictures whose lives I already knew about.
There's much I find interesting about old pictures and, particularly, old yearbooks. Recently, Ron and Joanne Smith sent me a 1927 Punchard High yearbook.
Joanne had the yearbook because her parents, Bill and Marjorie (West)
Emmons, were seniors in 1927. I didn't need names under their yearbook pictures to recognize them. Bill and Marjorie raised a family in Andover and lived on Locke Street. In the "class ballot," Marjorie was voted the "prettiest girl," and Bill was picked as the "one who has done most for the school" and the "best mannered boy," among other compliments.
There were 49 seniors, and I recognized several more of them. Many of the names were familiar. Besides Bill and Marjorie Emmons, there were two people I'd known well: Irving "Fat" Whitcomb, president of his senior class, and Annetta "Ted" (Anderson) Wrigley.
Whitcomb was a decorated veteran of World War II and worked downtown in the insurance business for years. He loved to talk about Andover, past and present. He was a good guy who'd do anything for you. His yearbook picture had a quote next to it: "Born for success, he seemed with grace to win, with heart to hold."
Ted Wrigley was the assistant town clerk for many years. She was a peach of a person. Her yearbook picture carried the caption: "A ready smile and an affable personality."
By the time the yearbook came out, several seniors had decided to continue their education. Edith Abbott would go to nursing school at Massachusetts General Hospital, Gwen Braddon and Daisy Stevens were off to Radcliffe, Joe Doherty to Boston College, May "Bunny" Elander to Mount Holyoke, Bill Emmons and Luther Gulick to Harvard, Eleanor Keith to Lasell Seminary, Evelyn Mayer to the New England Conservatory of Music, Bill Murphy to Springfield YMCA College, Helen Dearborn Saunders to Katherine Gibbs School, Walter Markey and Dan Doyle to St. John's Prep, and Marjorie West to Boston University.
Bill Murphy (William Matthew Murphy) caught me by surprise. I'd never heard of him, and I think I should have. He was the only athlete in the yearbook who lettered in four different sports and was voted the best male athlete (along with Dan Doyle, who was captain of football).
Murphy was a black guy, who was one of the smallest members of the football team; however, he began earning football letters in his freshman year. He also participated in the Glee Club. A note next to his photograph said the school was proud of him. When I looked at his senior picture, it reminded me of that fellow in the UNH picture who parted his hair near the middle; Bill Murphy parted his like that as well. Although he intended to go to Springfield College, I called the school and they found no record of him.
The principal of Punchard was Nathan C. Hamblin, who ran the school from 1910 to 1941. A very distinguished-looking man, he not only looked the part but filled the role of educator and intellectual quite well. Mr. Hamblin wore a neat but prominent beard and mustache and dressed impeccably.
This respected gentleman lived with his wife at 117 Chestnut St. My father lived at 70 Chestnut St. when he was a kid and often saw Hamblin walking to and from Punchard. The principal walked briskly and flourished a walking stick in the manner of a confident gentleman. My dad believed Hamblin was the perfect principal.
There were 16 faculty members, five men and 11 women. Several of them were still teaching when I was in high school, including Miriam Sweeney (McCardle) who started the All-Girl Band, Charlie Gregory, Marjorie Smith and Carl Gahan. Eugene Lovely, the legendary coach for whom the current high school stadium is named, was on the faculty and succeeded Hamblin as principal.
When you look at the faculty picture, you are struck by the difference in attire from then to today. The men came to school wearing suits and ties, and the women wore dresses. Unlike today, it was an era when most everyone dressed well and looked good.
The graduates of 1927 faced the beginning of the Great Depression shortly after high school and then their lives were interrupted by World War II. These graduates would not have it easy, but, from what I can see in their yearbook, they were well prepared by their high school.
Bill Dalton writes a weekly column for the Townsman and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.