Miss George goes to college

Sepia Saturday 444: Third in a series about my fourth grade teacher Miss Helen George — one of those friends, acquaintances and neighbors (FANs) who can make such a difference in a person’s life.

Born in 1917, my fourth grade teacher Miss Helen George grew up in Binghamton, N.Y., where she lived with her parents and younger brother Thomas.

Miss George’s childhood spanned the Roaring Twenties — a period when women jettisoned the confining clothing and ideas of the previous century, finally won the right to vote and envisioned new possibilities for their lives, including higher education and careers.

https://www2.cortland.edu/about/history/
Cortland Normal School, Old Main campus (1923). In 1936  my fourth grade teacher Helen George enrolled in a three-year teacher training program here. She graduated with teaching credentials in 1939. The school is now the State University of New York Cortland. Photo: SUNY Cortland

So the tenor of the times may have influenced Miss George’s decision to become a teacher — a job that many young women, including my maternal grandmother, embraced as their calling during the same period.

Early education

Miss George’s early education was in the the Binghamton, N.Y., public school system.

Today the large, modern Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School sits across from her childhood home at 22 Ogden Street — and Miss George may have attended its predecessor at the same location.

Binghamton Central High School. My fourth grade teacher Miss Helen George attended high school here in the 1930s. Photo: pressconnects/Broome County Historical Society

Later, Miss George went to Binghamton Central High School — as confirmed by her listing on the student rosters of several BCHS yearbooks I found online.

Her high school –which was built in 1915 and relatively new when she attended — still holds classes in the original building shown above and in several adjoining structures that have been added over the years.

On to college

After graduation, Miss George went on to college at the Cortland Normal School in Cortland, N.Y. (now SUNY Cortland) — just a short trip north from her Binghamton hometown.

Her father Thomas George was a railroad conductor who probably made sure she knew the train route back and forth to school — since rail was the standard means of transportation for New York college students at the time.

Miss George’s parents were surely proud of her educational ambitions. According to the 1940 U.S. Census1 Helen’s father had only completed the 6th grade and her mother Anna the 8th grade. So raising a daughter who not only graduated from high school but was headed to college must have been gratifying to them both.

And I can only imagine Miss George’s excitement to arrive at Cortlandt Normal School to study among hundreds of like-minded young women who were also preparing for an educational career.

Graduation in 1939

Miss George graduated in 1939 after completing a degree in General studies, according to her listing in the Didascaleion yearbook published by her senior class.

Cortlandt Normal School, Didascaleion yearbook, Class of 1939. Bottom row, first from right: Senior yearbook photo of Miss George, 22, wearing her signature eyeglasses. Scan: Molly Charboneau

According to her yearbook, during her third year Miss George belonged to Alph Beta (presumably a sorority) and was on the Co-No staff in her first year.

The oddly named Co-No-So is described as the “club for non-club girls,” featuring “fun and good times,” “new challenges for underclass women,” seasonal parties, a winter snow sculpture contest, and a spring banquet freaturing “fluffy dresses, flowers, delicious food, music, and always the spirit of friendship.”

Although I can’t quite picture no-nonsense Miss George in a fluffy dress, it’s nice to learn that she enjoyed the social side of her college years apart from her studies.

And by 1945 — six years after graduation — she was back in the Southern Tier teaching Endwell, which is west of Binghamton, where she became my fourth grade teacher at Hooper School in 1960.

Please stop back as this series continues. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs  of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here

© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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10 thoughts on “Miss George goes to college”

  1. Presumably the Cortland Normal School was Miss George’s first experience with all female classes. I imagine it was more competitive than her co-ed high school. My mother was the first in her family to get a college education too, class of 1950, and wanted to be an elementary art teacher. On marrying my dad she became an army wife so she had to postpone that career, but 18 years later she rediscovered her passion for teaching and put in 25 years a teaching kids the joy of creating art.

    1. So glad your mom went back to her calling later in life. My mother, after a brief music teaching stint after college, did much the same thing. Our family moved with my dad’s career. But once my siblings and I were grown, and Dad was at his final job, my mom — who meanwhile had completed her Masters (commuting to school) and Doctor of Education (remotely) degrees — went back to teaching and retired as an assistant principal.

  2. I wrote a post several years ago about my high school Spanish teacher (1960-1964) One of his children saw it and he contacted me on facebook! He is now 98 years old and still on fb expressing his opinions and making me feel young at 72 😀 . He is just now planning to move from living alone to share a home with a daughter. Amazing to reconnect with him.

  3. You have me wondering, now, what happened to one of my favorite teachers! One – my 3rd grade teacher – I learned something about several years after I left her classroom because her grown son became the director of the church choir I was singing in which was rather fortuitous! But I’ve often wondered what became of the 6th grade teacher I adored. It’s hard to gauge, from a 12-year-old’s standpoint, how old Miss Begovich was at the time? I’ve wondered if she eventually married and had children? I hope she continued in the teaching profession because she was a dynamite teacher!

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