by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Another recent donation made its way to us from Lucy Hull, a resident of a small town in eastern Tennessee, who came across “The Girl Graduate: Her Own Book,” a scrapbook of Grace Alice Barnes of the Los Angeles Normal School when going through items donated to a local charity. This is the second “The Girl Graduate” scrapbook in the Homestead’s collection, with the other being one put together by a Los Angeles high school graduate in 1919.
Published by The Reilly and Britton Company of Chicago, the Craftsman-style hardcover scrapbook was designed by Louise Perrett and Sarah K. Smith and has sixteen sections, including a page for inscribing the date, class flower and class colors; class photos and autographs; room for autographs and photos of class officers and school instructors; pages for programs, social events, and press notices, and more.
The inscribed date is 26 June 1914 when the graduation exercises for the teacher education college, located at Grand Avenue and Fifth Street, where the Los Angeles Central Public Library was built a dozen years later, were held at the Temple [Baptist] Auditorium, a prominent public venue and long-time home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, a little over a block to the east at the corner of Fifth and Olive.
Grace Barnes was born in July 1893 in Fresno and was the only child of farmers Frank and Orinda Barnes, he a native of California and she hailing from Maine. She was raised in that Central Valley city, though she did live in Santa Cruz, where she graduated from that coastal town’s high school. As many young women did at the time, Grace then went on to teaching and came down to Los Angeles to attend its normal school rather than go to the original state teacher’s college at San Jose.
The Los Angeles Normal School opened in 1883 and its locale atop Poundcake Hill overlooked a growing and fashionable residential area of the city including Central Park (renamed Pershing Square a few years after this scrapbook was put together), while just to the north was Bunker Hill, which featured some of the finest homes in the Angel City.
It was just thirty years prior that the first public school opened in Los Angeles and teachers in the nascent city were not generally given formal training or education, but there were dramatic leaps and bounds in that arena when the normal school opened its doors. One of the earlier graduates of the teacher training college was Mary Julia Workman, a grand-niece of Homestead owners William and Nicolasa Workman, who completed her certification in the 1890s.
Not only was formal and professional teacher training new, but so was the idea of women attending and graduating from colleges in the numbers that they were as the 19th century came to a close and the 20th century dawned. They did not do so at the rates of men, but the growth was impressive, even as most women completed college and either immediately or soon thereafter got married and worked as homemakers.
Mary Julia Workman was among the few college graduates who went into teaching as a long-term profession, while Grace Barnes took more of a traditional path. Before we jump too far ahead in the story, though, a look at her scrapbook is in order. Tipped in to the front of artifact is a snapshot photo of Barnes sitting on a rock at what appears to be a beach. Two other snapshots show a quartet of young women in bathing suits enjoying the sand and sun at a beach.
In the class photographs section are thumbnail images of twenty fellow students with their inscribed names and, in most cases, short messages apparently about Grace, though some appear to be concerning the signatories. Ava Denlinger was apparently a scholarly type, as her statement read “Twas ever thus—’I’m looking for material for a term paper.'” For Katherine Graham, the inscription was “Her smile—t’would clear a cloudy day.” Flora Hunt’s photo was accompanied by this interesting offering: “Tis quality not quantity that counts—so many good things come in small parcels!!! But still so does poison.”
Then, there was Anne Laurel Miltimore, who had the distinction of two photos of her pasted down on a page and this poetic inscription:
In this place
To inscribe my name
By this face
Were a shame.
May be said I’m not game
So I’ll write in this space
Anne Laurel Miltimore
Nineteen Hundred Ten and Four
The class autographs section usually included names, addresses and, sometimes, telephone numbers. A majority of those who inscribed on these pages were from Los Angeles, but there were several from Long Beach, Orange County, and other greater Los Angeles towns and cities including Pomona, Riverside, Glendora, Glendale, Covina and Upland. Further afield were classmates from San Diego, Paso Robles, Seattle and, in Flora Hunt’s case, Battle Mountain, Nevada, a town about 215 miles northwest of Reno.
The class officers portion of the scrapbook contained the names and photos, taken at the campus, of five women, including the president, two secretaries and the treasurer. A half-dozen instructors inscribed on “The Teachers” pages with two of them shown in photos, also taken outdoors at the school. One, a smiling Mary Browner, wrote “Lest you forget Grand Avenue School,” a reference evidently to an elementary school at which Barnes did some student teaching. There is also a humorous poem about a male instructor named Biliken, whose balding pate and other physical features engendered a mild ribbing, and the ditty ends with “Oh, he is such a funny man / But he wouldn’t be so bad / If he only wouldn’t brag about / Raising the kids he hasn’t had.”
There are several news clippings, including one about the 1914 commencement, which begins with the purported dialog between two graduates, in which one asks what the other was going to do upon graduation, to which the answer was “Well, you know commencement at a normal school always means one of two things—a man or a job. I am going to take the latter.”
What was also distinctive about the ceremony, though, was that the graduating class of 1914, including Barnes, was the last to be educated in the early 1880s building, as the school was being moved to a new 25-acre campus on Vermont Avenue just south of Santa Monica Boulevard. In September 1919, the normal school gave way to the Southern Branch of the University of California, but education was still the focus and students had to complete the final two years of their education at the main campus in Berkeley. A decade later, the University of California, Los Angeles opened at its impressive Westwood campus and the Southern Branch site became Los Angeles City College, which still operates there.
The Class Day event on 24 June was held at the newly completed assembly room of the Vermont Street campus, while a faculty reception the following day was at the gymnasium. Commencement was, as noted before, conducted in the Temple Auditorium with an address by Benjamin Franklin Bledsoe, a Superior Court judge who, later in 1914, was elevated to a position with the federal court for the Southern District of California, which he maintained until 1925, when he resigned to mount a failed campaign for mayor of Los Angeles.
The judge was widely known for imposing a harsh ten-year sentence on a Jewish filmmaker Robert Goldstein, an associate of D.W. Griffith, who made a patriotic film The Spirit of ’76 that showed scenes of British brutality towards Americans during the Revolutionary War. After a Chicago censor declared the film to be pro-German and anti-British as America was poised to enter the field in World War I and the film was showed in Los Angeles without edits as required, Goldstein was pilloried by Bledsoe before being handed the long federal prison term. President Woodrow Wilson commuted the sentence after a couple of years, but the conviction ruined Goldstein’s career and reputation.
The “Programmes” portion of the scrapbook contains several items, including the commencement program and card for Santa Cruz High School when Barnes matriculated from there in 1912; the Class Day Program for the “New Normal School”; a dance card; and others. In the “Social Events” pages are clippings of theater programs for performances at plays given during the 1913-14 school year, with at least one presented, thanks to a ticket stub pasted down on a page, at the Majestic Theater on Spring Street between 6th and 7th streets. Tipped loose in this section is a University of California Department of Physical Education 1915 summer session swimming course card issued to Barnes.
Some of the events notated with trimmed images in this part of the scrapbook date to Barnes’ high school days in Santa Cruz along with others from her years at the normal school. One latter example is a pasted down sheet of paper with several names on it and a caption indicating that the event was a boating party and meal at Westlake (now MacArthur) Park. One of the names listed was Ray Herrington, who we’ll hear more about below.
More ticket stubs are in the “Special Events” section including for performances at the Majestic, Gamut, Morosco and Auditorium venues, along with such ephemera as a Wrigley’s Spearmint chewing gum wrapper, with its “United Profit-Sharing Coupon” redeemable for “valuable premiums” such as were offered with like programs like S&H Green Stamps.
In the “Press Notices” area were a few items, the most notable of which were a large clipping about the naming of the “New Normal School” auditorium after the institution’s president, Dr. Jesse Millspaugh and another concerning the display of a flag at a Peace Day event held at Los Angeles schools. Pictured were three normal school students with none other than Barnes holding “Old Glory” in her hands.
From that point on, the scrapbook is generally sparser in content, though there are a few pasted-down humor items under the “Jokes and Frolics” section, which also, inexplicably has some railroad tickets and receipts pasted down, as well. There are, however, some interesting snapshots in the “Miscellaneous” portion showing the school from a neighboring street, more autographs and student photos, materials from events, news clippings, and others.
A few items of interest are found here, including photos of students at schools at which Barnes did some student teaching, including the Grand Avenue School mentioned above; some diary pages from the summer after which Barnes graduated and perhaps; an excellent drawing from November 1911 of a convertible sedan with Barnes’ name below it and signed by a young man from Capitola near Santa Cruz; and a limerick inscribed on a Halloween card and which reads:
Now for the prettiest girl in Normal!
With manners so queenly and formal,
With dimples and curls,
She’s the envy of girls,
And the male hearts—
She surely will storm all
Barnes certainly “stormed” the heart of Ray Herrington, one of the boating party attendees at the Westlake Park soiree. Though she did pursue teaching, including in physical education, after graduation, it was only for a short time as she and Herrington married in July 1917, when she was 24 years old. After a honeymoon in Yosemite National Park, the couple settled in South Los Angeles.
Born in San Pedro in 1892, Herrington was working in a warehouse when he married Barnes, but the couple soon moved to Madera County, north of her hometown of Fresno, where Ray operated a vineyard, almost certainly for raisins as Prohibition was underway when the 1920 census enumerated the couple, who had a baby daughter, as well as Grace’s mother and grandmother in the household.
The Herringtons then moved in 1921 to Earlimart in southern Tulare County about 40 miles north of Bakersfield, where they had an 80-acre vineyard and welcomed a second daughter. Grace was elected president of the town’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) In September 1925, however, Grace and her two daughters were riding on a horse-drawn vehicle used in the family vineyard when the animals suddenly and violently became frightened and broke loose, overturning the vehicle and throwing the three occupants to the ground.
The young girls were hurt, but not seriously, but Grace suffered a fractured skull. Being a rural, farming area, the nearest major hospital was in Bakersfield and, though she was rushed there by ambulance for treatment, Grace died shortly after arrival. Her body was brought to Los Angeles where she was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. She was just 31 years old.
Grace Barnes’ Normal School scrapbook is an interesting artifact relating to teacher education and life in mid-1910s Los Angeles and, with the other “The Girl Graduate” example in the museum’s holdings representative of a high school student at the end of that decade, it is a fine addition to the Homestead’s collection. How it got to rural eastern Tennessee is unknown, perhaps one of her daughters and another descendant took it there, but we’re glad that it is back in greater Los Angeles where it belongs.