Category Archives: Endwell NY

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 Search[1]FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
Year Address Thomas Anna Helen Thomas Jr.
1920[2]1920 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records. 44 Dennison St. (Rent) 37, Head, Trainman 31, Wife, born in PA 2.5 yrs., Dau., born in NY
1930[3]1930 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records. 22 Ogden St. (Own) 48, Head, Steam RR Conductor 42, Wife 12, Dau. 9, Son
1940[4]1940 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records. 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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References

References
1 FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
2 1920 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
3 1930 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
4 1940 U.S. census: FamilySearch requires free login to view records.

Visiting Miss George

Sepia Saturday 442: First in a new 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 in the fourth grade in 1959-60, I was amazed at how many tall, mature-looking teenagers would stop by our classroom at the end of the day to visit our bespectacled teacher Miss Helen George.

Young women in full-skirted dresses with books in their arms, muscled young men in bulky, athletic letter jackets, and tall, studious types who engaged Miss George in conversation — they all returned to visit a teacher they clearly remembered with fondness.

Helen George plaque, Vestal Hills Memorial Park, Vestal, N.Y. (2018). Miss Helen George was a beloved fourth grade teacher at nearby Hooper School, where many of her former students returned to visit throughout their high school years. Photo: Molly Charboneau

Often, Miss George would proudly introduce her former students to us and say how one day we, too, would be high school students just like them — an amazing thought for a fourth grader!

That memory stuck with me — and years later, walking home from the high school one afternoon I became one of those “big students” who stopped by to say hello to Miss George and be introduced to her class.

A quintessential teacher

Miss George was a quintessential teacher of her era and reminded me in some ways of my maternal grandmother. Her short reddish hair had a hint of grey (she would have been in her early forties at the time) — and I remember her in calf-length, button-front, small-print shirt dresses and sensible black lace-up pumps with square, career-height heels.

Rimless eyeglasses completed her look as a no-nonsense instructor bent on fulfilling her duty to impart knowledge to us youngsters. A stern taskmaster, Miss George nevertheless found creative ways to spark learning by sharing her community involvement in town history with our class — and she rewarded us when we did well.

One more visit

So is it any wonder that this month, as I prepared to return to my home town for my 50th high school reunion, Miss George was the teacher who sprang to mind?

My high school classmates planned a mixer, a tour of the school and a dinner — all fun stuff as we got reacquainted and reminisced about our teenage time together.

And before the festivities began , I decided that one more visit to Miss George was also in order — this time to her final resting place in Vestal Hills Memorial Park in Vestal, N.Y. — to pay my respects to a teacher who had made a great impact on me during my formative years.

Plaques of Helen George, her parents and brother, Vestal Hills Memorial Park, Vestal, N.Y. (2018). The park maintainers graciously cleaned the plaques of the George family in advance of my visit. Miss George’s plaque is third from left. Photo: Molly Charboneau

“Nobody has been to see her for a long time,” said the park secretary, who arranged to have her plaque — along with those of her parents and brother — cleaned up for my visit.

Telling Miss George’s story

Miss George was single and childless — and I’m not sure who might be around to chronicle a bit of her personal history.

But there’s more than enough room for her in Molly’s Canopy!

So as her former student, I plan to write a few blog posts about how her life intersected with mine and what I have been able to learn about her through research.

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

© 2018 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin