Thursday, September 02, 1999

Students fill books with scraps of history

Students fill books with scraps of history
The Ann Arbor News
By Pamela Appea

Homer Dennis Strong, class of 1925, had much in common with many undergraduates at the University of Michigan today.

From Detroit, Strong was an athlete and an avid U-M sports fan. He pledged a fraternity. And judging from his social calendar, Strong went to Michigan Union with several dates those first heady few weeks.

Like other U-M students of the World War I and World War II eras, Strong kept comprehensive scrapbooks that serve as a window to the past. The scrapbooks include photos, letters, fraternity party announcements, dance cards for Michigan Union events, and of course, commencement announcement after four (or five) long years. These students kept it all.

The students’ penchant for scrapbooking is not surprising, said Marianne Behler, an Ann Arbor-based consultant for Creative Memories, a company dedicated to helping people preserve photos and scrapbooks.

“I could imagine that their sort of experiences, like joining a fraternity, and going to a football game were important to them because it was the first time anyone in their family had done it,” Behler said.

“Everybody has a story to tell. Everybody has something important to say. Some people (especially students) were driven to preserve their memories,” she said.

Bentley Historical Library has at least 100 of these scrapbooks in its collection. During that era, students pre-ordered “memory books” from the Chicago-based College Memory Book Company. Students paid anywhere between $1.50 to $6.50 for the scrapbook depending on whether they wanted extras, like a fancy leather cover or their name embossed on the scrapbook. The scrapbooks ranged in color from blue to black to dark green, and some, depending on the students’ preference had special pages for athletic scores, a friends’ sign in page and social activities.

Both men and women kept scrapbooks. As for Strong, his scrapbook indicates that sometime in late September 1921, he began going steady with a certain U-M student and Plato fan from Ypsilanti—Helen N. Starr. In his scrapbook, under “social calendar,” Strong’s carefully handwritten H.N.S. takes up the rest of the page—he didn’t bother to fill in the details of their social life.

Ford Archer Hinchman, Jr., class of 1924, clipped political news articles for his scrapbook. Hinchman (aided by his brother during World War I) documented his time from high school to his first year at the U-M, to World War I and back again through articles, letters and pictures.

One of the Sixteenth Engineers based “somewhere in France” Hinchman enlisted in the military, May 4, 1917, and came back to the U.S., a year and a half later.

Hinchman chaged under military censorship rules. In a letter home, dated Sept. 3, 1917, Hinchman wrote, “I wrote mother and explained about the censoring of the mail …. It makes me feel pretty sore as I am bursting with information.”

Hinchman wrote many letters to his family detailing his frustration with the aspects of military life and “German successes.” He ultimately returned triumphantly home in January 1919. Hinchman resumed his studies at the U-M as a member of the Delta Kappa Upsilon fraternity.

Josephine Violet Lang, class of 1921, loved to hear classical music recitals, especially violin music. A straight B student in her four years at U-M, Lang was part of the first generation of women to exercise the right to vote. Her activism on that issue was deemed unseemly by one nameless male suitor.

He wrote, “My Little Suffragette: You can’t put any of your masculine airs over me … Cupid might send you a diamond ring if you learn how to boil water. I want a housekeeper, not a militant suffragette.”

It’s unclear what happened to this suitor. But Lang went on to earn her master’s degree at the U-M in 1923.

Originally published Thursday, September 2, 1999