CLASS OF '34 RECALLS LESSONS OF THE DEPRESSION
Virginian-Pilot, The (Norfolk, VA) June 17, 1994
REBECCA A. MYERS
Streetcar fare was seven cents, the ferry was a nickel.
If money ran out in Norfolk, you were really in a pickle.
So Cradock young folks decided to stay pretty close to home,
And it was much later on in life that we ever chose to roam.
They were children of the Great Depression, graduating from high school with few or no job prospects, but with a wealth of ingenuity and a desire to succeed.
They were the Cradock High School Class of 1934, graduating at a time when The Portsmouth Star sold for 2 cents, steak was 29 cents a pound and gasoline was 18 cents a gallon.
Perhaps the newspaper was affordable, but hardly anyone ate steak or owned an automobile at that time. Yet, surprisingly, those years are recounted with a heartfelt reverence by the members of Cradock's Class of 1934 who celebrated their 60-year reunion at a classmate's house Saturday afternoon and with dinner at The Max that night.
``I didn't arrive at Cradock until the fifth grade,'' said Vallie Buhls Trent, who lived on Cushing Street, about two blocks from the Alden Avenue school that has since been replaced by what is now Cradock Middle School.
``And I had a piece of newspaper folded up in my shoe to keep my foot off the ground. Most everybody did,'' she said.
``Or either you did this,'' said Hazel Shaw Snyder, walking with an exaggerated gait, as though the sole of her shoe was flapping on and off. Snyder hosted the afternoon gathering in her Lakewood Colony home.
Heads nodding, the half dozen classmates in Snyder's living room burst into laughter at the memory.
``That's true!'' acknowledged Claribel Willey Johnson, who, at 15, was the youngest graduate of the class.
``Everybody did it, so it really wasn't embarrassing,'' said Snyder, who lived throughout Cradock as a student - Dahlgren Avenue, Vail Place, Channing Avenue and Gilmerton Boulevard (now called Victory Boulevard).
``We thought it was normal,'' said Trent, a retired history teacher who had a career in nursing before she turned to teaching.
``And we also had those rubber glue-on soles,'' recalled another alumnus.
``And cardboard inner soles," added Bill Woodard, who came to the reunion from Manassas, where he still works as president of a family-owned storage company.
For about five hours Saturday, Snyder's Berkshire Road home, stripped with the banner WELCOME CLASS OF '34, was the hub for the 13 alumni - all in their mid-to-late 70s.
They pored over old letters and scrapbooks filled with black and white photos and loaded with Cradock High School memorabilia: the 60-year-old program from their 8 p.m. June 8, 1934, commencement; handwritten invitations to graduation parties held throughout the neighborhood; newspaper clippings listing each of the graduates by name.
The scrapbook also contained a cigarette advertisement torn out of a magazine, perhaps the Saturday Evening Post, which featured Ace Parker, Portsmouth's greatest athlete, and a report card for the school year.
``That's my report card and that's strictly personal,'' chided Trent, the former history teacher. She didn't want anyone to see it for a good reason. ``It has a bad grade on citizenship,'' she confided.
An exciting chatter filled the room: talk of who lived near and who had strayed; who among the 35 was still alive and who had passed on; but, mostly, they talked about the teachers.
There was the teacher who lived in South Norfolk and walked across the Jordan Bridge to and from Cradock daily. And there was ``The Flirt,'' who, being very well endowed, enjoyed ``leaning over the boys, with her loose-fitting blouse.'' Then there was the French teacher who, in front of the entire class, changed a bad grade to a good one on a certain student's report card because the student cried so hard after seeing it.
``I wanted mine changed, too,'' said one alumnus, ``But I wasn't going to cry for it!''
They recalled with fondness the teachers they learned so much from and laughed about those from whom they learned little. They even remembered the janitor.
``I remember him so well,'' said Snyder, the hostess. ``He'd throw that sawdust on the floor to sweep. We had wooden floors - no carpets then.'' The sawdust was used to keep the dust down while sweeping, she explained.
When commencement was held on that June day in 1934, 23 of the 35 graduates were female, and it was the girls who graduated at the top of their class. Five were honor graduates: Sara Lee Whitehead (valedictorian), Nina Ruth Everton (salutatorian), Mary Knox, Eleanor Barnett and Louise Gartman.
In his closing remarks to the students, principal H. Irvin Willett assured the graduates that ``out of the Depression, they would become better men and women.''
Some may even remember his exact words: ``It is not what we have, but what we use; not what we see, but what we choose.''
We lived along the waterfront of beautiful Paradise Creek,
We learned the art of crabbing and went there every week.
There are those who hate the smell of grass that grows near the waters.
That is surely not the case of Cradock's sons and daughters.
CRADOCK HIGH SCHOOL, class OF 1934
Louise Ames Wilhite, Kill Devil Hills, N.C.
A. Eugene Allison, Portsmouth
Billie Barnett Lanford, Charlottesville
Brenda Bedsar (Deceased)
Vallie Buhls Trent, Virginia Beach
Harry Chase, (Deceased)
William H. Cotton Jr., Norfolk
Lee Creamer (Deceased)
Evelyn Domme Darden, Portsmouth
Robert Dover (Deceased)
Wanda Edmondson Swain, Ahoskie, N.C.
Nina Everton Seager, Portsmouth
Antoinette Ferrell (Deceased)
Louise Gartman Jaso, Portsmouth
Ruth Hanbury Lanthorne (Deceased)
Ruby Harrell James (Deceased)
Fred Higgins (Deceased)
Lucille Ives (Deceased)
Leonard T. Kellam Jr. (Deceased)
Mary Knox Yarbrough, Roanoke
Gray Lakes (Deceased)
Robert Maxwell (Deceased)
Bryan Melvin (Deceased)
Pearl Parsons (Deceased)
Eleanor Quinn Robertson, Portsmouth
Martha Kate Sawyer, Hinesville
Hazel Shaw Snyder, Portsmouth
Mildred Sitterson Darson, Alexandria
Calvin Smith, Chesapeake
Walter Stainback (Deceased)
Evelyn Trumpore Schwartz (Deceased)
Virginia Wasley Wreath (Deceased)
Hope Weed Daughtrey (Deceased)
Habbert Wheatley, Chesapeake
Peggy Whitaker Underhill (Deceased)
Worthington Whitaker, Norfolk
Sara Lee Whitehead McKibben (Deceased)
Claribel Willey Johnson, Chesapeake
William Woodard, Manassas