Tuesday, March 4, 2014

NORMAL TRAINING and the 1924 Sutton High School Annual

The cover of The Champ, the Sutton High School
Annual of 1924.
The Sutton Museum has a growing (slowly) collection of the annuals of Sutton High School. We are still well short of having one half of the years representing the years for graduating seniors that began in 1884. Certainly the school did not produce books those earliest years; our oldest annual is the 1912 edition which is actually a common possession of Sutton residents. That was the year that the "new" school building was built southeast of downtown which served as a high school into the mid-1960's and as a grade school for additional years.

That 1912 annual was a "half-page" nicely bound volume that was dedicated to the new school by that year's graduating class which "just missed" the new school.

The annuals for the next decades were cloth-bound publications and while modest in external appearance were still quality products in terms of content and professionalism in design and execution.

This posting uses the 1924 Sutton High annual as a representative example of the era.

There are a number of interesting things in this '24 annual and we will update this posting to add more later. The initial version of the post addresses the Normal Training program at Sutton High in 1924.

Normal training was the term used to describe programs to train school teachers. The term comes from the notion that prospective teachers were taught established teaching standards, or norms. Some areas established separate normal schools but for much of the early days in our area high schools had a normal training program that produced teachers to meet the demand of the rural schools.

I was surprised by the size of the normal training program in Sutton in 1924. I had envisioned that a small number of the high school students, mostly girls were enrolled in the program. The vast majority of the rural school teachers were young women so it seemed logical that normal training was a girls' thing. Most of the literature spoke of women teachers seeming to confirm that idea.

There were men teachers in the rural schools but they were rare enough that I thought I knew them by name: Henry Vauck, Roy Oakley, Albert Nejezchleb appear in articles about county schools. We had a male teacher, Dick Anderson in 1953-1954, our last year at District #16 northwest of Sutton.

So imagine my surprise to learn that in 1924 fully 26 of the 33 graduating seniors including seven boys were listed as in the normal training program. It was not a minor part of the high school curriculum and it was not a girls-only program.


The 26 Normal Training students in the senior class at Sutton High in 1924. Yes, there are 27 in the photo. I'm guessing
that that is Miss Hawk, the Normal Training Instructor there front and center. The annual did not identify the individuals
in the photo but we list those below who were identified elsewhere as normal training students. Your challenge is to match 'em.
One 1924 Normal Training graduate, Clemens Chambers was listed as "Post Graduate." We also find him listed as a 1923 grad in the Alumni Directory. I'd seen references before to normal training post grads and guessed that some graduates came back for another year, the fifth I suppose probably to get that teaching credential, just guessing.

The 1924 graduates who listed Normal Training among their high school activities were: Frances Baass (later Mrs. Earl Vauck), Helen Bauer, Ralph Bauer, Blanche Bishop, Mabel Case, June Easley, Catherine Elfring, Marie Ebert, Marie Griess, Frieda Grosshans, Frances Hanson, Edna Hansen, Ethel Johnson (my Aunt Ethel Nelson), Kathleen McLaughlin, Wilbert Nuss, Ralph Nolde, Clinton Ochsner, Sara Perlenfein, Martha Rath, Helen Swanson, Mary Wells, Elizabeth West, Gilbert Wieland and Eva Zimmerman.

Okay, if you've been counting along with me you are rightfully telling me I have some wrong info here. I wrote that 26 of the 33 grads were in Normal Training. The class photo has 27 faces but I came up with a plausible, perhaps correct hypothesis that the instructor is in the photo and I guessed which one she might have been. But I just listed the 24 names of graduates who listed Normal Training among their activities. I did not list Mr. Chambers as he was a post grad and was listed as a 1923 grad. That would make 25.  However, Miss Helen Swanson was also listed in 1924 annual as a post graduate and her name does appear with the Class of 1924 in the Alumni Directory.

So, I guess someone in the picture of 26 senior normal training students (plus instructor) did not graduate to make the Alumni Directory. Suppose?

Point being: this historical research thing veers off of the straightforward path especially when you are working with two sources, here the 1924 annual and the current Alumni Directory. There is a sound saying from the information technology world: never put your data into two databases; they will so quickly diverge and you will expend a lot of time and energy determining which is right and which is wrong. The real disgusting thing about that illustration is that too often both of your databases will be right as the purpose of each will also diverge from the other in the slightest way.

Just so in the case of the number of normal training seniors in 1924. The photo of the class was the snapshot of the group at some point in the school year. The senior pictures in the annual were a similar, but not exactly the same group at another point in the school year and the 1924 high school annual is the historical record of the members of the group who also received a diploma that year, at the end of the school year.

These are the kinds of things generate coffee shop discussions and bar fights. At another level, these kinds of things make reading Daily Kos and World Net Daily such unlike experiences.

But I digress.

Here is the image of the Normal Training page of the 1924 Sutton High Annual where the curriculum and the requirements for completion of the program are listed.


This page from the 1924 Sutton annual gives us the four year curriculum for normal training
and college preparatory work at Sutton High. Twenty-six of the thirty-three graduating seniors
appear to have followed this program and were identified as normal training students.

Here's hoping that you enjoyed this article and that if you were interested in knowing more about Normal Training in Nebraska schools in the 1920's we have helped you better understand that topic. If you do not have an interest in this topic, then howjaheck did you get this far in the post?

Thanks for visiting the Sutton Historical Society blog.

Sutton Historical Society
P. O. Box 92
Sutton, NE 68979
suttonnehistory@gmail.com



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