Tag Archives: vintage photos

Halloween Merrymaking: Celebrating the Holiday’s Past, and a Beautiful Interview with Writer, Diane C. Arkins

 

Halloween Merrymaking, and Interview with writer, Diane C. ArkinsAfter reading Diane C. Arkins’ Halloween Merrymaking: An Illustrated Celebration of Fun, Food, and Frolics from Halloweens Past, I absolutely knew I wanted to reach out to her. I wanted to hear about her collections, but also wanted to let her know just how inspired I was, as a fellow super fan of Halloween. For years, Diane’s articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines, such as USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, Country Living, Better Homes & Gardens, Seventeen, and Woman’s Day, to name a few.  Her article, “The Trick or Treat Trails”, just appeared in the Sept/Oct issue of Good Old Days magazine. (Diane’s complete bio can be found at the end of the interview.)

From the preface of Halloween Merrymaking, you’ll find that it’s “a book that will acquaint you with how Halloween was celebrated in America from its early popular incarnations in the 1870s to the early 1930s, the latter decades in particular a period that many consider to be the holiday’s ‘Golden Age.'” If you know me, you know that simply mentioning that time period is enough to get me hooked. But the highlight of the book is the number of vintage photos of celebrations, decorations, postcards, and even complete articles from the earliest magazines to print information on the topic! Much of it is like a how-t0 for throwing a historically accurate “Golden Age” Halloween party. And all of this comes from the author’s amazing collection! 

Fortunately for us, Ms. Arkins agreed to an interview for the blog, and I am incredibly honored to be able to share her beautiful and heartfelt responses. Thank you, Diane!

 

My Interview with Diane C. Arkins

 

What were your favorite costumes from childhood? 

    I grew up in the late 1950s/early 1960s, an era when observances of Halloween were merrily gear toward childrens’ amusements.  When I was young I was always intrigued by the imagery and forms around me, and the place that captured my interest the most was the Ben Franklin 5-and-10-cent store.  The place was always chock-a-block with anything that anyone would want but until I was around 8 or 9 years old, Ben Franklin at Halloween time was THE place I  wanted to be:  there was Brach’s mellowcreme candies shaped like jack-o’lanterns (hereafter referred to as JOLs), cats, grinning moons, tiny owls, maple-flavored little cider jugs and the like that were as fun to play with as they were to eventually eat.  I was captivated by the little wax JOLs and Halloween cat figures made by Gurley Novelty Company – each wax novelty contained a yummy piece of striped orange-and-black hard candy.

    There were irresistible tiny cardboard sets of grease paint that could turn trick-or-treaters to clowns, princesses or pirates and an abundance of eye-catching decorations – like the rolls of black cat and witch face rolls of crepe paper and die-cut wall decorations of owls, cats, witches, haunted houses that I purchased,all by myself with funds from the Brownie troop to decorate the group’s Halloween bash… and, of course, the boxed costumes branded as Collegetown and Ben Cooper.  The store-bought outfits had a cheesy and flimsy feel to them but they were “must-have” attire regardless.  Some years back my EBAY collecting led me to a mint-in-box glitter-adorned Ben Cooper brand BLUE FAIRY identical to the one I wore in the photo in the TRICK-OR-TREAT TRAILS story photo.  Back in 1960 I was devastated when I lost the magic wand on the way back home from Kindergarten show-and-wear but I now enjoy it when the complete boxed set is displayed in one area of my year-round Halloween collection.

    Some of the Halloween “outfits” – so referred-to as they weren’t always costumes per se – that I recall best were the ones devised by my non-sewing mother and memorialized in the brilliant hues of Kodak 35mm slide film.  I thoroughly cherish those pictures!  One early year Mom dressed us up in crisp white blouses and orange crepe skirts adorned with (so classic!) die-cut cardboard Halloween motif decorations – interestingly this style of Halloween attire is in the style of similar vintage early 20th century home-made party attire where abundant home seamstresses crafted simple frocks in orange, black and/or orange-&-black patterned fabric and adorned them with Halloween icons in either fabric or cardboard form.

    Aside from the visual thrills to be found at the dime store I just adored being out amongst the virtual pumpkin patch filled with lit JOLs set up throughout the neighborhood at night for trick-or-treating (for some reason unknown to me we went out on October 30th which they called “Beggar’s Night”… maybe I should GOOGLE the term?).  A thick blanket of crackling dry leaves covering my Mary Janes (shoes) and an intoxicating aroma of burning leaves permeating the air added to the mysterious ambiance.  It is no exaggeration to describe the scene as utterly magical… some special fairyland real-life moments that could overtrump saccharine visions of Disneyland in a snap.  Even as a young child I was especially attracted to the feel and mood of Halloween. 

    Interestingly my research into early 20th century merrymaking has shown me how the boomer-era kids’ birthday parties I attended as a child seem to have been almost exactly mimic the patterns set out by those early magazine mavens such as The Modern Priscilla, The Woman’s Home Companion and the like: a festive overall setting with plenty of decorations; a crepe (or later tissue) paper tablecloth with tiny crepe paper nut cups (de rigueur in 1910 I personally never liked that omnipresent offering of salted peanuts and pillow mints – yuk!) and paper or cardboard hats; a meal with cake; party games with prizes! and parting souvenirs.  Naturally the one Halloween-themed kiddy party I attended back in 1962 – complete with its quintessential feather-tipped blow-out noisemakers –  was my favorite.

 

Your book includes such a wealth of photos and vintage items.  I could  spend all day just looking at every detail of the photos.  Are these from your own collection?  How did you find them?

    I do enjoy my collection of vintage Halloween treasures by handling them and losing myself in their charms when I appreciate them.

    Luckily for those lovers of Halloween memorabilia like myself, writing a book serves as a great excuse to add to and/or splurge on vintage treasures for one’s personal collection.  With the rare exception of a photo or two I shot at the home of a fellow collector, all of the vintage treasures – from paper ephemera to 19th-century magazines – depicted in Hal Merrymaking come from my personal collection. 

    I began collecting illustrated Halloween postcards dating from that items’ “Golden Age” (approx. 1907-1918) during the mid-1980s after I happened upon a few buying leads in magazines for collectors.   (Artistically drawn postcards for any occasion imaginable flooded the mails over the first two decades of the 1900s.  Many of the cards were exquisitely printed in Germany and boasted deeply-embossed details that added to their charms.  The cards remain highly collectible with today’s collectors and I’ve used holdings to illustrate the other books I published with Pelican: Halloween: Romantic Art and Customs of Yesteryear and The Glorious Fourth of July: Old-Fashioned Treats and Treasures From America’s Patriotic Past.

    Before the advent of internet buying and selling I added to my collection of vintage holiday postcards via mail auctions (run through postcard collecting magazines) and browsing for hours at postcard shows (these are still held around the country throughout the year).  In later years I acquired a few vintage Halloween treasures from (again) mail-order purchases (often run in publications like The Antique Trader) and a few well-publicized auctions of collections being disbanding.

   Regrettably the area I live in wasn’t awash with antique stores and I missed out on the likely relative bargains that vintage Halloween fans could happen upon when antiquing in the 1980s and early 1990s.  Once the internet entered the scene, both sellers and potential increasingly flocked to online sites – most popularly EBAY – and soon it became a snap to acquire heart’s desires limited only by one’s pocketbook.  I confess that I DO NOT have a Donald Trump-like bank account by any stretch of the imagination but I have, over many years, been able to build a collection of Halloween and other vintage treasures that I thoroughly enjoy.

 

Knowing what you know about the history of decorating and entertaining for Halloween, what is the holiday like in your own home?

    Like other collectors of vintage Halloween treasures I actually display many items in my home on a year-round basis.  My husband is quite the self-taught wood worker and he has built several wall cabinets and a handsome glass-topped display coffee table for me to display paper items.  I have a good-sized floor cabinet to house larger, more dimensional items and one bedroom wall is filled with framed tear-outs of pages of eye-catching Halloween paper dolls (delightful!) and magazine covers.  To me, vintage Halloween artwork doesn’t get any better than the dust-cover illustration (from the Oct 1931 issue of Holland’s magazine) on Merrymaking.

    Seasonally I usually like to have pumpkins, pumpkins and pumpkins of all sizes, shapes and colors around the house.  The more unusual pumpkins I’ve been traveling to buy since 2001 come in the most intriguing colors:  the deep red-orange of the rouge d’etampes, or “Cinderella” pumpkin; the pale orange Long Island Cheese; the “blue” (pastel gray if you ask me) Jarrahdale; the deep orange-vein patterned on cream of “One Too Much” and so much more.  I usuallyattempt to grow my own “batwing” mini pumpkins (ones with “dripping” deep green accents that mimic bat wings) in my garden but this year’s crop was a flop!

    I also like to use mini pumpkins and/or colorful gourds to craft “pumpkin people,” “gourd gremlins” or  “veggie people” (as they are most popularly known).  My inspiration when I first started making these little charmers was the “pumpkin people” who starred in many of my favorite vintage Halloween postcards (see page 52 of Hal Merrymaking for an example).  So fun!

    Inside I would display more of my cardboard die-cut decorations in windows, on walls, clipped to draperies or perhaps attached to some wire-and-twine faux spider webs I got at KMart.  Although I belong to the group of collectors who consider damage to be acceptable when acquiring vintage pieces (to me they show “character” or the “battle scars” incurred in decorating duty over the decades) you wouldn’t want to do any more damage yourself!  The very old German pieces are really beautifully-crafted of VERY heavy pressed die-cut cardboard that gives them amazing texture and depth… they are truly works of art. The little photo of a German die-cut that appears on page 25 of Merrymaking was an especially large one that measured probably approx. 14″x14″.  Most pieces are far smaller, i.e. a jack-o-‘lantern (or JOL) face that measures around 6″ across.

    Each season I usually send copies or reproductions of vintage Halloween postcards (a companion tear-off postcard book to my first Halloween book is just one source for such cards) or standard Halloween greeting cards… and I often like to make very special little treat bags, or “veggie people,” to give to people who’ve been especially kind to me during the year.  My oversized frosted JOL face cookies are truly scrumptious but the problem is that they are SO GOOD that they all disappear before the mixing dishes make it out of the dishwasher!

 

What kinds of things would we be surprised to find haven’t changed since the Golden Age of Halloween?

    I would venture that is was during the first decade of the 1900s that women’s magazines became to more regularly devoted counseling their readers with regard to home entertaining.  This was a time when a page or two began to be devoted to true soups-to-nuts party planning: invitations, decor (both home-made or more increasingly store-bought), menus and recipes, costuming (applicable back then to more than Halloween attire), party games, favors and party gifts.  I can name some names of women who were the “Martha Stewarts” of their times… indeed they probably invented the genre of party maven!?   

    Nothing has changed in essence that people still want to entertain their family and friends, they want to do it well and they are always looking for some inspiration – whether its cutting-edge new or dependably old stand-by – to guide them.  As always, the differences are in the details.

    One “detail” that remains as true in 2014 as it was back in 1914, for example, is that people like cupcakes.  The problem in putting up the 1906 illustration of cupcakes on Pinterest today might lie with the fact that a lot of folks online now tend to make uninformed, thoughtless snap judgments on things and they would fail to understand or appreciate the history or importance of the old illustration… instead of thinking “wow… that was how thinks used to be” and consequently “that was how WE got from THERE to the-more-improved-NOW,” they would simply dismiss the picture by saying “LOL – it isn’t that picture (stupid)(lame)(name your own insult).”

    Reminder that the merrymaking we enjoy TODAY came from the often rudimentary ideas developed in the past.

 

Your book made me want to pick a year, and plan  a historically accurate Halloween party, using your book as a template!  Have you done this?  Have you heard of people trying this?

    I can’t say that I hosted any Halloween events based upon my books (sadly I am woefully short of people who might attend and/or actually appreciate such efforts) nor have I been aware of anyone who’ve hosted their own vintage-style bashes.  I have, however, imagined how wonderfully such an event must have been for partygoers “back in the day” and have also imagined how an all-stops-pulled-out party could be set up at the handsome old Victorian mansion-turned-special-events-restaurant where we enjoy our Thanksgiving dinners.  The place is spectacular and I usually request a table located in the front turret so things seem both elegant and “just like being at Grandma’s house.”  We’ve been going there for many years now and I CAN imagine PRECISELY how everything could be made up to be absolutely breathtaking! 

 

How would you compare the Halloween entertaining articles from around the turn of the century to the articles I see in line at the grocery store today?

    Well to my mind the vintage periodicals win any comparison on just about every point (and mind you: I hate to bash modern print media in just about any way, shape and form.  I truly mourn the loss of just about anything from The Ladies’ Home Journal and McCalls to the not-quite-daily mail-delivered Christian Science Monitor) but today’s magazines seem to have an edge over vintage ones only when it comes to color illustrations. 

    The early 20th century magazines gave us those fabulous original guidelines for celebrating our holidays with panache.  They educated us, often for the first time, on many of the old customs that led us to understand why we celebrated at all!  And they did it so elegantly.  Compare this 1910 quote from The Housekeeper magazine that appeared in Merrymaking –

            “October, the golden month, when Nature having reaped a wonder harvest of beauty, wastes it like a spendthrift for our joy!  What hostess can fail of success in entertaining this month when there are autumn leaves, flowers, ‘golden glorious,’ and vines flushing with crimson, to bedeck the table?”

– to, well, again anything?

    Today’s magazines are comparatively much smaller than most vintage periodicals.  During Halloween’s “Golden Era,” the many, many more magazines for the lady of the home measured in at a jumbo 14″x17″.  This oversized format allows for far space to be devoted to editorial content… resulting in longer, more detailed information being presented in more beautifully-worded prose.  The paucity of real photographs also allowed to more words to be presented instead.

    For its part Martha Stewart Living, for example, does have an edge over most monthly magazines in the holiday decorating score but it seems that her Halloween focus of late has honed in on dark silhouettes of ravens, decorative (empty) bottles of POISON or WITCH’s POTION, haggly old witches (NOTE: at least 50% of early 20th century “witches” were depicted as beauties on postcards) and the like.  So she does a great job when it comes to inventiveness… she simply represents a different style to what I prefer.         

    For me suggestions for making “mummy hot dogs” out of crescent rolls and red hots pale against vintage inspiration for using hollowed-out squashes to serve condiments.  And this year one highly-regarded magazine presented decorative pumpkins wrapped in rubber bands (huh?) or duct tape images that look to be designed by a 2-year-old.  Clever, eh?  Can’t wait to adorn my pumpkins with rubber bands.  What were they thinking?

    In my book, vintage wins just about every time.

 

Can you talk a little about Dennison’s Bogie Book and what that is?

    Dennison's Bogie Book, Big SeanceThe highly-collectable and much coveted Bogie Books were a series of party-giving guidebooks that were produced by The Dennison Manufacturing Company of Framingham, Mass. to promote their Halloween paper goods.  Named “Bogie Book” after the mythical mischievous little goblins that were said to roam on Halloween, the typical approx. 5″x8″ booklet might give directions on how to conduct a party; craft a simple party favor; decorate a witch’s den suitable for fortune-telling; play party games; create a crepe paper costume; or even decorate larger venues for group celebrations. The booklets also featured pictures of Dennison’s delightful party merchandise (paper napkins, beautifully-illustrated panels of printed colored crepe paper, placecards, boxed decorative seals and more).  Illustrations, either real photography or artist’s renditions, appeared in ordinary black-&-white printing but the images were captivating nonetheless. Party planners could purchase the guides either by mail-order or at one of the company’s stand-alone stores in major cities like Chicago.  They were modestly priced at 5 to 10 cents.

    An initial impossible-to-find booklet produced in 1909 was followed by a series of Bogie Books beginning in 1912 and continuing for most years through 1926.  Dennison also produced similar typically 30-to-36-page holiday guidebooks such as The Christmas Book, The Gala (or Party Book) for Feb-July celebrations and a single 1918 Patriotic Book.  A variety of other larger-format Halloween booklets began in 1927 and continued until 1935.  In addition, Dennison produced a wide assortment of other self-promotional how-to booklets primarily centered on making things out of the firm’s luxe line of colorful crepe paper.

    Though reigning as undisputed king of how-to booklets during Halloween’s “Golden Age” the Bogie Books were not the only well-executed pamphlets around.  Other notable illustrated little guides were issued by food firms (like JELL-O and Staley) and competing crepe paper maker American Tissue Mills.  Respected Halloween decoration maker The Beistle Company of Shippensburg, PA issued The Children’s Hallowe’en Party Book (by Miss Polka Dot).  This last item is a slim 12″x7″ volume consisting of an 8-page story (printed in either tissue-weight orange or ordinary white paper) and several pages of tear-out party accouterments like placecards, candle shades, invitations.  This dandy early 20th century booklet can command a pretty penny IF its party pieces pages remain uncut within.

   Intact copies of rarer Bogie Books (those in the 1910s) can bring hundreds of dollars depending condition, condition, condition. 

 

I wish I could go back in time and interview my Great Grandmother and talk to her about her Halloween memories and experiences growing up in that “Golden Age” of Halloween.  She was such a fun woman.  Has any of your research come from interviewing folks who were around in this time period?

    During the time that I began to collect vintage Halloween memorabilia and write about old-fashioned Halloween customs I’ve never been acquainted with any folks who themselves experienced the holiday’s “Golden Era.” I do, however, love to completely immerse myself in old magazine and newspaper accounts of Halloween entertaining.  Entertaining back then must have been so much more exciting than anything in the 21st century.  After all folks today sit at tables filled with people and still ignore those gathered to devote their (overly ample free time) to tiny electronic devices. 

    Back “then” folks reveled in the opportunity to spend their seriously limited free time to interact with people who you might not see again for some time to come.

 

Is there one single vintage item or article that you’ve discovered that stands out as your favorite?

    In many ways it “doesn’t take much to get me enthused.”  I was delighted to acquire for my collection some of the little wax pumpkins (the ones filled a few pieces of orange-&-black candies) that so fascinated me at the five-and-dime store when I was little – for some reason they still so strongly resonate for me with personal happy Halloween memories.

    The other notable item is a small (8″ long) string of decorative ca 1920s/30s embossed German-made Halloween children party-goer scrap pictures (they appear on page 105 of Hal Merrymaking).  Each of the little children stand only 2″ high but their detailing is so superlative that completely embody the spirit of old-fashioned Halloween.  I was delighted beyond compare when a former co-worker (who passed away many years now) gifted me this tiny bit of paper.  I do cherish the pictures so.  Thanks, Jeanie, for your thoughtfulness… you are missed. 

 

What is your favorite iconic Halloween symbol

    A merrily-carved jack-o’-lantern of course!  He’s always up for a good old-fashioned Halloween time.

 

Diane C. Arkins began her career as a freelance writer at the age of nineteen by publishing feature articles in Seventeen, Co-Ed, and Woman’s Day magazines. In 1984, her work began to appear in the Chicago Sun-Times. After earning a BS in journalism from Northern Illinois University, she continued her writing endeavors by publishing magazine and newspaper stories while employed full time at the offices of the Australian Consulate-General in Chicago.

Arkins’ “Home Truths” humor column appeared in the Homelife real estate section of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1988 through 2000. Her work has appeared on the Op-Ed pages of numerous major daily newspapers, including a stint as a regular contributor to USA Today. Arkins has written for Country Living, Victoria, Family Circle, Brides, Country Collectibles, Country Home, Better Homes & Gardens, Woman’s World, Antiques & Collecting Magazine, and a wide variety of other publications.

Arkins has a passion for animals, gardening, and collecting vintage images, early illustrated postcards, and holiday memorabilia.

 


Consider a Halloween Altar When Decorating For October!

Halloween altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

 

What kind of mood would you like to create?

For last year’s Halloween Altar and more information about them, visit A New Spin On Your Halloween Altar and Decorations. I really tried to keep what I liked from last year and make some improvements. I’ve always wanted to time travel to the late 1800s and early 1900s to hang out with the Victorians, so in my eyes, my altar is meant to kick the atmosphere of Halloween spookiness up a notch… with a historical flair! The altar is really two surfaces in my dining room, the buffet (seen below) and the dining room table. The most noticeable additions are the two candelabras that I purchased at World Market. I LOVE THEM! If looking up close, you’ll realize their quality might not make them great for all year round, but perfect for this occasion! A special thanks goes out to Karen A. Dahlman for spotting them for me. She knew what I was looking for. With the added candles (which you KNOW I love), I decided to ditch the lamps and candle sticks that I used last year.

 

Halloween Altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

 

Something else that makes a big difference in the feel of the altar, is the addition of the Ashland brand artificial flowers from Michaels, which were 50% off.  You’ll notice there is also a vase of flowers on the dining room table. I really feel that it helps to balance out the presence of the skulls and my sitting skeleton. Some may say those things are borderline tacky… but maybe I’m borderline tacky. I love it! Halloween is such a mix of culture, traditions, and history. And now it’s mostly secular and just FUN! There are certainly “tackier” Halloween Altars out there. 

An especially nerdy addition to the altar, are pages from things like the Dennison Bogie Books and other magazines from the early 1900s. These are spread throughout the house, actually. I printed them in color on cream-colored card stock (and then trimmed them), so the yellowed antique look from the photos make them look vintage. Many of the pages I printed come from the 1920 issue and can be viewed in its entirety on PublicDomainReview.org. So it turns out my Halloween Altar can also be a history lesson.

 

Halloween Altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

Halloween Altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

 

The woman framed above, as well as the gentleman framed on the opposite side of the buffet, were also 50% off at Michaels, and if you look closely while walking by, their images change from a stately appearance to a skeleton. The decorative leaves, which I used last year as well, are also from Michaels.

 

Halloween Altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

Halloween Altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

 

Like last year, I had a lot of fun searching for vintage photos and Halloween artwork. Most of the framed photos are from last year. I just printed them on paper and framed them in cheap frames that I picked up at both Walmart and Target, I believe. Several of the framed photos are placed in other areas in the house as well. The additional photos and artwork that I added this year include old photos of trick-or-treaters, costume parties, and just some flat-out bizarre and creepy moments captured in photographs. These were printed on the same cream-colored card stock that I mentioned earlier. For most of them, I trimmed around the photo, leaving a white (cream, actually) frame on the outside. Some of them I glued to black card stock backing to stand out.

 

Halloween Altar, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

Halloween Altar, Skeleton, Halloween decorating ideas, Big Seance

 

Will you give a Halloween Altar a try this year? 

What will yours look like? What mood will it set? Please contact me if you try one… or even if you find other interesting altars or decorations out there!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Verna Marie Owen (1895-1986), a Lexington Missouri Teacher

This post includes **Updated Information** below. 

Over my Thanksgiving break, I visited my Grandmother at her home for a while. Very often I get sucked into her many books on the history of Lexington, Missouri (my hometown), or even just the high school yearbooks of both her and my late Grandfather. Naturally, that is precisely what happened during this visit.

I was super excited to find a photo of Ms. Verna Marie Owen in both the 1954 and 1956 Lexington High School yearbooks (the same photo in both, and included below on the right.) You may remember me mentioning and including a photo of her several months back, in a post titled “Collecting Someone Else’s Memories”, where I shared many of the photos and pages from the five 1920s era Lexington High School yearbooks that I have collected. It is just one of my nerdy hobbies, even though I can’t seem to find any other yearbooks from that era. I believe that Verna Owen began teaching in Lexington for the 1927-1928 school year (see updated information below) (see the below left photo). I have the yearbook from that year as well as for the 1928-1929 school year. Both of these yearbooks were originally owned by Verna herself. Obviously, me now owning two of her yearbooks, along with my Lexington roots, and the fact that I am a teacher, has made me feel connected to her in some way. 

 

Verna Marie Owen
(1895 – 1986)

 

**Updated Information as of 12/2/13**

To prepare for this post, I did some genealogy research using FindAGrave and Ancestry. It made me a little sad to find very little information on this woman. Fortunately, Cathy Wallace, who is a great friend and Lexington resident who shares many of the same nerdy interests, went out of her way to fill in several blanks for us, including finding the obituary below. I told her I was going to have to give her the title of “senior reporter for BigSéance.com”. Thank you for the time and effort you put into helping us learn about and remember Miss Owen. Even though we’re unable to find an exact year of when she retired, she clearly had a long career in Lexington and touched many lives. I now have evidence of this, as people have left comments here and on the two Lexington community Facebook pages.  

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Her obituary from the July 30, 1986 issue of The Lexington News:

Verna Marie Owen, 90, of Lexington, died Friday, July 25 in the Urbana, MO Nursing Home. 

She was born September 18, 1895 in Lexington to John Martin Owen and Carolyn Sellman Owen. 

She was a member of the United Methodist Church, the Lafayette-Lexington DAR and past matron of the Eastern Star. She attended school at Missouri University, Central Missouri State College and the University of Boldar [sic], CO. She taught school in Lexington for 47 years. She was a member of the Missouri State Teachers Association and the National Retired Teachers Association. She was a lifelong resident of Lexington. 

Survivors include four nieces and eight nephews.

Services were held Tuesday, July 29 at the Walker-Nadler-Graff Chapel with Rev. Dan Sullivan officiating; burial was in Machpelah Cemetery. 

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Some other information we’ve been able to gather:

Both her and her parents (John Martin Owen and Caroline “Carrie” Whelan Owen) were born and raised in Lexington, and are all buried in Machpela cemetery, a Lexington cemetery that I’ve blogged about.

It blows my mind to learn that as early as the fall of 1915, at the age of 19 or 20, Miss Owen was teaching 34 pupils at the Elm Park country school outside of Lexington. Again, it’s unclear when exactly she retired from the Lexington School District, but in recent days, former students have recalled having her as a teacher as late as 1965. That is simply amazing. I can’t imagine being there to witness all of the growth and change that public education went through during those five decades!

During her long career in Lexington, she taught at least English and Social Studies to probably several junior/senior high grade levels, and for many years sponsored a “pen pals” program. According to the 1940 US census, at age 44 she was making a yearly teacher salary of $855.   

In recent days, former students have described her as being quiet, gentle, soft-spoken, sweet, and “one of my favorite teachers”. Alan talked of being paid to “porch” her newspaper for a few years in the 1970s each time it was delivered.  Lucia sent me the cutest story (I’m adding it to the comments below) of how she would leave Miss Owen flowers on her doorstep on May Day. 

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At the time of her death I was eight years old. I wonder if I ever knew her or if our paths ever crossed. Looking into her eyes, I just know she made a huge difference and was loved and respected by many. If anyone has more information, or if you’d like to add your memories of Miss Owen, or if you’re a family member, I’d love for you to contact me, or simply leave a comment.

 

You might also like: 

More from the Old Yearbooks (Big Séance)

More from the Old Yearbooks (Big Séance)

Adopting Graves 2013: My Thoughts and a Look Back on a New Tradition (Big Séance)

Adopting Graves 2013: My Thoughts and a Look Back on a New Tradition (Big Séance)

Images of America: Lexington, Missouri (Big Séance)

Images of America: Lexington, Missouri (Big Séance)

Skin and Bones (Big Séance)

Skin and Bones (Big Séance)

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More from the Old Yearbooks…

 

If you liked my last post, Collecting Someone Else’s Memories, then here are some more interesting photos from my collection of old yearbooks from Lexington, Missouri. 

 

From the 1910 Lexington College for Young Women Yearbook (56th Annual Catalogue).

 

From the 1910 Lexington College for Young Women Yearbook (56th Annual Catalogue).

 

From the 1910 Lexington College for Young Women Yearbook (56th Annual Catalogue).

 

From the 1910 Lexington College for Young Women Yearbook (56th Annual Catalogue).

 

From the 1910 Lexington College for Young Women Yearbook (56th Annual Catalogue).

 

From the 1910 Lexington College for Young Women Yearbook (56th Annual Catalogue).

 

From the 1910 Lexington College for Young Women Yearbook (56th Annual Catalogue).

 

From the 1921-1922 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School yearbook.

 

Home Economics classes. From the 1921-1922 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School yearbook.

 

The “L Club”. From the 1921-1922 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School yearbook.

 

French Club. From the 1921-1922 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School yearbook.

 

From the 1924-1925 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School Yearbook.

 

From the 1924-1925 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School Yearbook.

 

From the 1924-1925 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School Yearbook.

 

From the 1924-1925 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School Yearbook.

 

From the 1924-1925 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School Yearbook.

 

From the 1925-1926 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School yearbook.

 

From the 1926-1927 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School yearbook.

 

From the 1926-1927 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School yearbook.

 

From the 1928-1929 “Final Hatch” Lexington High School yearbook.

 

 


Collecting Someone Else’s Memories…

From the 1910 Lexington College for Young Women Yearbook

 

One of my many incredibly nerdy hobbies is collecting old school yearbooks from my hometown of Lexington, Missouri. It’s a sleepy small town now, but at one time around the turn of the 20th century, Lexington was booming and was the home of several colleges as well as several public school buildings. The oldest yearbook I own is from the  Lexington College for Young Women from 1910. Most of my other yearbooks are Lexington High School yearbooks from the 1920s that used to be named “The Final Hatch.” 

I love looking through them and dreaming about what my hometown was like then. And I try to imagine what life was like for the students. Did they go through some of the same drama and problems that my students experience? Was there bullying? What were the expectations? As a teacher, it is also very cool to see course descriptions and curriculum printed for several of the departments. That fascinates me. History! It’s also neat to see the advertisement pages in the back. Some of the businesses had 2-digit phone numbers, if they had a phone at all.

 

From the 1910 Lexington College for Young Women Yearbook

 

And, of course, I wonder what it was like to be a teacher in those days. Several of my yearbooks were originally owned by Verna Owen (pictured below). The only thing I know about Verna is that she taught in Lexington for many years. The inside cover of one of them is even signed. And, from the writing on this page, we see that someone knew her as Aunt Verna. This tells me that I’m probably at least the third owner of this particular yearbook. Sometimes when going through them I thank Ms. Owen out loud for taking good care of her yearbooks so that I could enjoy them now. 

 

My 1928 yearbook belonged to and was signed by Verna M. Owen… She was a member of the faculty.

 

Many of the photos below are from one of the old high school buildings that no longer stands. I never got to see it in my lifetime. I sure wish I could go back in time and take a tour!

 

Part of the Freshman Class from 1921-1922.

 

From 1921-1922.

 

Teacher Training (for students) at Lexington High School 1922.

 

From 1926-1927.

 

Part of the Senior Class of 1925-1926.

 

From the 1922 yearbook. This building is no longer standing and was located where the Lexington Post Office is today.

 

The next building to serve as Lexington High School would later be where I attended middle school from the fourth through the eighth grade. It was a pretty large building that opened its doors to students in 1927. I have a lot of memories from this old building. I still dream about it often. Unfortunately, it no longer stands. A sad and strangely small-looking empty lot sits in its place.

 

Artist Conception of the “new” Jr./Sr. High School that opens the next year. This is from the 1926-1927 yearbook.

 

One of the very first pictures of the main corridor of the “new” building. From the 1927-1928 yearbook.

 

From the 1928-1929 yearbook. This was the second year in the “new” building. This would have been what I knew as the choir room when I was in middle school.

 

From 1924-1925.

 

From 1924-1925.

 

I was very sad when the building was torn down. I was away at college at the time, but my best friend took the picture below and sent it to me. Thanks to a group of high school students, I was able to purchase a brick from this building. It sits here on my desk. 

 

 

 


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