Tag Archives: Thomas George

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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Miss George’s Binghamton childhood

Sepia Saturday 443: Second 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.

When I was a grade schooler, I didn’t think about my teachers having an outside life — or any life at all apart from our classroom, where they lived up front by the blackboard.

Whether my teachers had parents or siblings or were once young themselves were questions that never entered my head.

Miss George’s childhood home: 22 Ogden Street, Binghamton, N.Y. Before she became my fourth grade teacher, Miss George lived here for most of her childhood and young adult years with her parents and younger brother. Photo: Google Maps

So it was not until this month — while visiting my hometown for a 50th high school reunion — that I learned about my fourth grade teacher Helen George’s family.

Miss George’s father Thomas George (1882-1954), mother Anna O’Dea George (1888-1955) and younger bother Thomas M. George (1920-1997) are buried beside her in Vestal Hills Memorial Park, Vestal, N.Y., as discussed in the last post,

Miss George’s family history

Finding her family led me to wonder about her younger years — before she began teaching — and what her childhood may have been like. Where did she live? What did her parents do? What records might help me discover some of her family history?

Turning to U.S. Census records, I easily located her family living in Binghamton, N.Y., in the 1920, 1930 and 1940 federal population censuses as summarized in the table below.

Helen George and family in the U.S. Census (1920-1940) Binghamton, Broome, N.Y. – Source: Family Search2
Year Address Thomas Anna Helen Thomas Jr.
1920 2 44 Dennison St. (Rent) 37, Head, Trainman 31, Wife, born in PA 2.5 yrs., Dau., born in NY
1930 3 22 Ogden St. (Own) 48, Head, Steam RR Conductor 42, Wife 12, Dau. 9, Son
1940 4 22 Ogden St. (Own) 57, Head, Steam RR Conductor 52, Wife, Housework 22, Dau., Attended School/College 19, Son, Attended School/College

The census entries show that Miss George’s father worked on the steam railroad — as opposed to the local electric railroad and streetcars that also operated in Binghamton, N.Y. at the time.

Her dad was a railroad man

Researching Thomas George’s occupation, I discovered the fascinating railroad map below, which shows the various lines — including steam train lines — traversing the Triple Cities, as the area was known when I lived there.

Miss George and her family lived just south of the Fair Grounds and Ball Park, which is grayed out on this map.

https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/maps/mcgraw_electric.html
Railway map of Binghamton, N.Y. and Vicinity (1913). [Click map to enlarge.] The father of my fourth grade teacher, Miss Helen George, was a conductor on a steam railroad that carried passengers to and from Binghamton, N.Y. — like the train I took as a child to visit my grandparents during the summer. Image: McGraw Electric Railway Manual maps/U. of Texas Libraries (Austin)
My childhood overlapped the last years of these passenger railroads — one of which ran right behind Hooper School where I had Miss George for fourth grade in 1960.

I remember summers as a youngster taking the Delaware and Hudson railroad north from Binghamton, with my younger brother Mark, to visit our grandparents near Albany, N.Y. — a train line that appears on the above map.

What a surprise to learn that Miss George’s dad was a railroad conductor who worked on a steam train line — maybe even the same railroad I later traveled on as a child!

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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