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.
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.
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.
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.
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 1959-60.
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.