Gould Academy alumna, 102, marks milestone reunion
Most people would be happy to be able to celebrate their 85th birthday.
On Saturday, Edna York of Albany celebrated her 85th high school reunion at Gould Academy.
Equally impressive, the 102-year-old can still quote from her classroom studies all those years ago.
“Omni Gallia est divisa in tres partes,” said the Class of 1927 graduate, who studied four years of Latin. “All Gaul is divided into three parts.”
Not surprisingly, Edna was the only representative of her class at Alumni Weekend. Two other class members who attended the 80th reunion have since passed on.
“It left me holding the flag,” York said, referring to Saturday’s parade of classes.
On Monday she reminisced about education in the 1920s.
Edna spent her elementary school years going back and forth between Albany and Lewiston, depending on where her father worked at the time. She had completed eighth grade in Lewiston before returning to this area for high school.
On her first day as a freshman at Gould, “I was scared to death,” she said. “I don’t know if I would have survived if it hadn’t been for a senior girl who came over and said, ‘I know how you feel. I felt the same way.’ She comforted me.’”
The pep talk worked – York went on to finish second academically in her class of 33.
Languages were her favorite subjects. ‘English was easiest for me. I loved to write. If you gave me a topic, I’d write on it.”
As a junior, she won a
school-wide award, given by the Elgin Watch Company, for an essay she wrote on the life of Abraham Lincoln.
Then there was Latin, taught to her one of her four years by Frank Hanscom, who was also the principal at the time. “He was a wonderful teacher,” she said. “I loved Latin.”
York also took two years of French.
As one might expect, discipline in those days was very strict.
“We were on a demerit system. If you got so many demerits, out you went,” said Edna.
She remembers that students, whether they lived in a dorm or boarded nearby, were required to be inside studying every evening from 7:30 to 10 p.m.“If you had some place special to go, and you had written permission from your parents, then if you were seen on the street it was all right,” she said. “There was usually a teacher wandering around to see if the students were inside.”
Dress of the day for girls was bloomers. “If we’d shown too much of our legs it would have been terrible – we would have gotten demerits,’ she said.
In the classroom and in assemblies, boys sat on one side of the room and girls on the other.
There were two or three social occasions a year on which they were allowed to mix.
One was the freshman reception held each year for new students. The event featured a mixture of dancing and games. “Not everyone could dance, and Frank Hanscom wanted to make sure everyone would be included,” she said.
The morning assembly before classes each day included a variety of activities, such as a talk by Hanscom, singing and a Bible reading.
School athletics in the 1920s were limited, but basketball was popular with both sexes.
“There was a boys’ varsity and girls’ varsity basketball team,” said Edna. They traveled by train to play nearby high schools.
“I wasn’t good enough for varsity, but each class had a team, and I played on that,” she said.
Living arrangements and transportation to school varied according to where students lived.
Edna lived in Bethel Village during high school, so it was an easy walk for her. Not so for some of her schoolmates. Some from nearby towns boarded in homes in Bethel. And a few still made the trip by horse and buggy.
Edna remembers one girl who lived just outside Bethel Village and rode to school on her pony every day. “The pony spent the day in a horse shed. By the end of school, he wanted to run. The girl had curly hair, and when she’d go down the road those curls would be right out straight,” she said.
Her graduation day in 1927 was far different from her first day of high school.
“It was beautiful,” she remembers. “There were no caps and gowns for us. The girls wore white dresses and carried bouquets. The boys wore dark suits and carnations.”
Though she was the second-ranking student, tradition called for the salutatory address to be given by a boy.
So Edna’s role was twofold: she performed the ceremonial transfer of a banner from the “20th Century Club” to the junior class, and did the presentation of the class gift – a trophy case.
Edna had had plans to go on to college and pursue her love of writing, possibly leading to a job in journalism. Although her own family could not afford the tuition, an uncle who was a high school principal in New Jersey had promised to finance her education.
Sadly, he became ill and died before she could start.
“My college went out the window,” she said.
But, as one might expect from someone who is 102 and counting, she took it in stride. “Everything happens for a reason,” she said.
She went on to marry and raise a family. And throughout her life, she has never missed a Gould reunion.
Edna considers the most important lesson she learned at Gould to be the one expressed in a quote from Shakespeare, which also serves as the school motto: “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
“It was on a plaque in the assembly hall,” she said. “I used to read it every day. It always impressed me, and it is true.”