We are now over a month into the school year, and with this new Wire issue comes a new time capsule from over ninety years ago. On this day in 1930, planning for the Sophomore Hop was well underway. The theme: medieval, and the gym was in the process of being transformed into a middle-ages style castle, with students dressed as guards posted at the front entrance. Attendees entered the gym through a drawbridge.
A similar production that required just as much planning was the One -Act Upperclassmen Plays, an annual tradition where each class — save the freshmen — directed and performed a small skit from any number of iconic plays. It seems they were highly anticipated shows: the entire school was set to attend and watch. The plays, all directed by a single, theater-savvy student from each class, were as follows: the seniors put on a production of Maeterlink’s The Blind, a French play about a priest leading twelve blind people through the forest, the juniors performed Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Aria Da Capo, and the sophomores presented Moeller’s Helen’s Husband. The judges consisted of three professors, two having traveled from Brown University.
The week the newspaper came out, Wheaton was celebrating its 97th anniversary. The commemoration consisted of two guest speakers, both from Harvard University, delivering lectures, one of which was about Dante and Virgil. A procession of the school choir, faculty, alumnae, and all four classes paraded through campus to the Chapel for the addresses. Afterward was a reception in Everett, an alumnae dinner in Emerson, and the three One-Act Plays.
A Letter to the Editor featured some tips for the year’s batch of freshmen, who apparently were lacking in proper manners compared to past classes. The letter was brief and chastising — laying down rules such as holding open doors for upperclassmen, answering the phones, and table etiquette for the dining halls. Clearly dining was a far stricter affair than what any Wheaton student will find walking into Chase nowadays.
A widespread trend in this issue was collecting information from students and alumnae about their activities, hobbies, and careers. This affords us future readers a perfect lens into what a weekend at Wheaton looked like at the time. Hint: overwhelmingly frat-centered. Fraternities like Psi Delta at M.I.T. would hold “frat dances” on the weekend that students from surrounding women’s schools could attend. Thus, most students spent their Saturdays at Northeastern, M.I.T, or Boston University, or else at games (Bowdoin-Williams or Harvard-Springfield).
Another poll was about alumnae and their professions. If you have ever wondered what the average college-graduated woman got up to in the ’30s, here is your answer, picked from Wheaton alumnae responses: teaching (at colleges or girls’ academies), secretarial courses at Simmons University, traveling abroad and studying dancing, nursery school teaching, working for a publishing company in New York, attending graduate school (for optometry!), or else planning a wedding or celebrating an engagement.
On a smaller scale, here is what a sample of Wheaton upperclassmen found themselves doing over the summer to make a bit of money: helping to manage a hotel, acting as an X-Ray technician at a nearby hospital, working at a summer camp, and volunteering as a social worker for children in abusive households, guiding them through court cases.
However, my favorite feature has to be the small section, easy to miss if you don’t look closely, entitled “Wheaton Village Blacksmith is Poet.” It briefly describes the village blacksmith lamenting the transformation his profession is undergoing — as automobiles become more and more common and favored, his love for making horseshoes is rendered useless. Though he makes do forging antique hardware, his passion feels stifled, and subsequently manifests itself in different expressions: namely, poetry.
His poem is shared at the end of the column:
“Under the spreading chestnut tree
The Village smith stands and he
Is mad as any man can be
He looks to the left, he looks to the
He looks at his hands grown soft and
He utters an oath as black as night
There isn’t a blooming horse in sight.”
– Charles A. Duffaney