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Junior Prom: My awkward first date #AtoZChallenge

J is for Junior Prom: My awkward first date. Tenth of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.

When I started classes at Maine-Endwell Junior High in 1963 — we Hooper Schoolers merged with the other elementary kids from Homer Brink across town. This brought new experiences — like changing classes and many teachers — along with new friendships that have lasted to this day.

But best of all were the monthly dances in the school gym, where we teens learned to socialize. That’s where some of my crushes developed — on boys and on dancing itself. I never missed a school dance, they were that much fun!

So much fun, that when Junior Prom rolled around in 1965, I really wanted to go. The problem was, you had to have a date — and at 15, I did not have a boyfriend or even a close enough male pal who could escort me.  https://pixabay.com/illustrations/possible-impossible-opportunity-953169/Waiting to be asked

Then, boys were still expected to ask girls to the prom, and girls were supposed to wait/hope to be asked. The popular girls easily lined up dates — but as Prom Night drew closer, my dilemma seemed impossible.

Then one day after social studies, a classmate walked over to my desk — I’ll call him Guillaume (his French-class name) — and quickly asked me to go to the prom with him. I was so surprised, I blurted out “l’ll let you know” — and he blushed and walked away.

I’d known Guillaume since Hooper School. Although he was smart and a good classmate, I’d never had a crush on him — so he wouldn’t have been my choice for prom date. But our teacher, who’d overheard the exchange, thought I should give him a chance.

“Of course you’re going to tell him yes, aren’t you?” he asked. So in the end, that’s what I did — and that’s how I ended up on my awkward first date.

https://pixabay.com/photos/white-roses-roses-grad-corsage-1751943/Figuring out the rules

In many ways, the early teens are an embarrassing time when you try to figure out the rules of life and where you fit in — all while being buffeted about by myriad pressures. Attending Junior Prom on my first real date was a prime example.

To begin with, I was the only one on my street going to Junior Prom that year. So news of my date spread up and down our block of 50-odd kids, assuring a large, raucous audience would be milling around our front lawn on the big night. Yikes!

Then there were the unfamiliar rules for formal dances. I’d need to get a new dress and shoes, have my hair pinned and sprayed into a updo by the hairdresser mom across the street, and buy a boutonniere for Guillaume — who was sure to bring me a corsage. This was all too much when I was used to flying solo at more casual school dances.

Prom night arrives

Yet to be at the Junior Prom, I went through it all. The hooting of the neighbor kids when I stepped out the front door with a corsage at my wrist. The car ride to the Junior High in the back seat with Guillaume (his mother at the wheel). The arrival at the dance, where everyone was paired up.

But then an odd thing happened. Although we were supposed to be in couples, at the prom everyone gravitated to their usual cliques — and it felt like a regular dance. The girls admired each others’ dresses while the boys fell into their own groups — and most of the dance songs were fast and freestyle, with nobody really sticking to their date.

The only truly awkward moment was the requisite couples slow dance — when Guillaume and I danced close, even though we’d never spent time together outside of class. And with that, the prom was over.

When Guillaume’s mom arrived to drive us home, she asked if we’d like to stop off for hamburgers or something on the way. But I begged off, since we were going to my grandparents’ house early the next day.

And after they dropped me off, I realized that even though I definitely had no sparks with Guillaume, I’d had a pretty good time at the Junior Prom — and I was glad I’d listened to that teacher and said yes.

Up next,  K is for Kents and the creek. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Bidding farewell to Uncle Albert Barney Charboneau…and series recap

Sepia Saturday 548Eighteenth and final in a series about Albert Barney Charboneau — my paternal grandfather’s brother who died in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

Albert Barney Charboneau circa 1910. Scan by Molly Charboneau

When my dad first told me about his Uncle Albert Barney Charboneau, who died at age 33 in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, he didn’t know any details.

“Well, it makes sense that the family wouldn’t talk about it,” I observed. “It must have been such a shock.”

“Oh, the family talked about Albert and what happened to him all the time,” Dad said. “I just can’t remember anything specific.” Dad was born six years after Albert died,  so what he knew came from family oral history.

An elder brother remembered

Yet the place first-born son Albert (b. 1885) held in the Charboneau family  of Dolgeville, N.Y., was acknowledged in loving acts by his three younger brothers — both during his lifetime and after.

Albert Barney Charboneau (1885-1918) looking dapper in Dolgeville, N.Y. (undated). Scan by Molly Charboneau

My paternal grandfather William Ray Charboneau (b. 1888) was the next brother in line after Uncle Albert. And when his first son (my dad’s oldest brother) was born in 1911, he named him Owen Albert. Owen was for the maiden name of his wife Mary Frances Owen and Albert was for his oldest brother.

The next Charboneau brother Orville Nile “Tom” (b. 1892) missed Albert’s 1918  funeral because he was serving on coastal defense during WWI. On 25 Oct. 1920, Uncle Tom married his first wife Lena — and when their son was born in 1922 they named him Albert Bernard Charboneau (who went by Bud) in honor of his late uncle.

Dolgeville Masons Lodge 796 photos of brothers Albert Barney Charboneau (in 1918) and George Dewey Charboneau (in 1930). The lighting was bad and the photos were behind glass, so this photo is not the best. But Uncle Albert is at upper left and Uncle Dewey is at lower right on the memorial wall to past lodge leaders. Photo by Molly Charboneau

George Dewey Charboneau (b. 1899), the youngest, paid his own unique tribute to his oldest brother. Like Albert, he became active in the Dolgeville Masons and worked his way up to Worshipful Master of the lodge — the same post his brother Albert held in 1918, the year he died.

Today, the brothers’ photographs hang near one another on Lodge 796’s memorial wall to past leaders.

Bidding farewell to Uncle Albert

And this year was my turn to honor my childless Granduncle Albert by chronicling his life and its untimely end during the 1918 influenza pandemic — and by letting his experience 102 years ago inform those of us going through the coronavirus pandemic today.

Molly’s Canopy will run a brief epilogue to his story, exploring the life of his widow Annie (Miller) Charboneau.

But for now, in tribute to Albert Barney “Bert” Charboneau, here in chronological sequence are the other posts in this series. Comments are still open on the later posts.

Intro and Albert’s childhood

Albert’s work, family and fraternal life

Albert and the Charboneau brothers in WWI

Albert succumbs in the 1918 influenza

Up next: The widowhood of Annie (Miller) Charboneau. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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From the Archives: Union troops vote for Lincoln

Sepia Saturday 546. For Veterans Day 2020, here is an updated post from the archives about Union Army troops voting at the front in the pivotal 1864 presidential election — a timely offering in this presidential election year. 

On 23 Aug. 1864 — before the Union victories at Atlanta and Cedar Creek, Va., where my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull was stationed — Pres. Abraham Lincoln asked members of his cabinet to sign a folded note. Then he tucked it away in his a desk drawer. It said this:

This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probabl[e] that this Administration will not be reelected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterwards.

Oct. 1864: Pennsylvania soldiers in the Union Army of the James cast their ballots.
Oct. 1864: Pennsylvania soldiers in the Union’s Army of the James vote in the presidential election.  My ancestor’s state, New York, allowed Union troops to vote in the field and mail their ballots to their home county for tabulation. Photo: Library of Congress.

A wartime election

The pivotal 1864 election took place during the U.S. Civil War. There was war weariness in the North. Tremendous loss of life in the Union Army’s spring campaigns, which sent my great-great grandfather to the hospital, had not yielded victories. And in July 1864, the Confederates marched down the Shenandoah Valley and attacked Washington.

This was also the first wartime ballot since 1812. No president had won a second term since 1832. Yet the outcome of the U.S. Civil War, and the country’s future, hung in the balance — since Lincoln’s opponent, Union Gen. George B. McClellan, called for abandoning the fight to eliminate the brutal slavery system.

Allowing the troops to vote

Then the tide turned on the battlefield. Union forces took Atlanta in September 1864 and defeated the Confederates at Cedar Creek in October 1864 — and a new offensive began at the ballot box.

Here, too, Union combatants played a vital role — among them my great-great grandfather Arthur Bull of the 6th NY Heavy Artillery.

Arthur’s home state of New York adopted a law allowing soldiers to vote in the field — the result of a political struggle described in the Smithsonian Magazine article “The Debate Over Mail-In Voting Dates Back to the Civil War.”

Once the law passed, New York faced the daunting tactical challenge of delivering ballots to nearly 400,000 New York State combatants stationed throughout the South.

But delivered they were — giving my ancestor the amazing opportunity to vote for President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and mail his ballot back to Broome County, N.Y., where he lived.

Minnesota Population Center. National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota 2011. If possible, citations should also include the URL for the NHGIS site: http://www.nhgis.org"
Votes by county in the 1864 U.S. presidential election. Lincoln won the vote by 60 percent in Broome County, N.Y., my ancestor Arthur’s home county, and received 78 percent of Union soldiers’ and sailors’ votes overall. In two close states, New York and Connecticut, it may have been the troops’ votes that pushed Lincoln to victory. Map: Minnesota Population Center. National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota 2011.

How did Arthur vote?

How did my great-great grandfather vote? I have no way of knowing for sure. Yet circumstantial evidence suggests that Arthur probably cast his ballot for “Old Abe,” as Union combatants affectionately called the president.

On 27 Oct, 1864, one of Arthur’s compatriots — Sgt. William Thistleton of 6th NY Heavy Artillery Co. I — wrote this in his diary:

Soldiers were busy sending off their votes. McClellan and Seymore are evidently not favorites with the soldiers.

Lincoln won the vote by 60 percent in Broome County, N.Y. (my ancestor’s home), and he received 78 percent of Union soldiers’ and sailors’ votes overall. In two close states — New York and Connecticut — it may have been the troops’ votes that pushed Lincoln to victory.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/00650938/
President Abraham Lincoln delivering his inaugural address on the east portico of the U.S. Capitol, March 4, 1865. Lincoln garnered 55 percent of the popular vote throughout the North and was reelected with 212 electoral votes against McClellan’s 21 electoral votes — a decisive mandate to press on with the fight to end the brutal slavery system and preserve the union. Photo: Library of Congress

Lincoln defeats McClellan

In the end, Lincoln garnered 55 percent of the popular vote throughout the North and was reelected with 212 electoral votes against McClellan’s 21 electoral votes — a decisive mandate to press on with the fight to eliminate the brutal slavery system and preserve the union.

I couldn’t be prouder that my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull was a participant — at the front and at the ballot box — in that historic moment.

Up next: Resuming the series on my dad’s Uncle Albert, who died in the 1918 influenza pandemic. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of other participants in this week’s Sepia Saturday — and in this month’s Genealogy Blog Party honoring veteran and military ancestors.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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