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Columns

June 20, 2013

Graduates were given words of wisdom at OHS in 1923

I had to go look it up. I kept my high school commencement program in with my yearbook, and I was trying to remember recently who spoke at our graduation ceremony. I couldn’t remember much about it except I sat between Kathy Simmons and Mary Sisson, because we sat in alphabetical order, nearly 280 of us at Oneonta High School, the Class of 1976.

Lloyd Baker, principal, and Eloise Ellis, Board of Education president, spoke and likely told us to work hard in order to succeed, and while I guess I did just that, I don’t remember exactly what they said. A nice event, but beyond photos it didn’t get much media coverage.

Now as a local historian, I like to look back at graduation events from the previous century. They got thoroughly covered by the newspaper, and the 1923 edition of the OHS graduation sounded pretty interesting, with student speeches that are fairly relevant to our present day world.

Oneonta graduations were held on Wednesday nights back in the 1920s, so the workday was over and people could attend the ceremonies. The Class of 1923 had 57 graduates, and their ceremony was held at the high school auditorium. This was when the school was found on Academy Street, and an audience of this size was still somewhat manageable for that space, as later when classes got bigger the ceremonies were moved to the nearby Oneonta Theatre.

“The graduation exercises, the fifty-fourth in the history of the school, were witnessed by a throng of relatives and friends that filled every seat and overflowed into the halls,” The Oneonta Star reported on Thursday, June 28. The platform was decorated with palms and ferns. Canning’s Orchestra and the Girls’ Chorus provided music in between the speeches and awarding of the diplomas.

Six of the graduates were chosen to speak.

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