Friday, November 15, 2013

Sepia Saturday: Doppelganger for Velma


Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.




This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt invites all Homo Sepians to share photos of people framed in a doorway. 

While not exactly IN the doorway, the 1925 varsity basketball team of Harrisonburg Teacher’s College posed framed in the archway of the porch leading to the doorway of their home away from campus while on their Southwestern Virginia basketball tour. 

Harrisonburg Teachers College Basketball Team in Tennessee 1925
HTC Basketball Team
Nashville, Tennessee 1925


The quality of the photo is so poor and the size so small that the who’s and why’s for years failed to pique my interest until I noticed that the people are the same ones as in this official team photo glued to the last page of my grandaunt Velma Davis Woodring’s college scrapbook.

Harrisonburg Teachers College Basketball Team in Tennessee 1925
Official Team photo 1925





























Now THAT picture grabbed my attention.  Look at Aunt Velma kneeling on the front row (2nd from the right).  She made the varsity team as a freshman.  What an athlete she must have been!  

So what is a dutiful niece to do but search for the story of her aunt’s contributions in the glory days of the HTC basketball team?  Fortunately, the 1925 yearbook printed a summary of the winning season declaring 6 wins, 2 losses, and 1 tie.  

Culminating the 1925 season was the week-long Southwestern Virginia tour.  It was a real road trip, too, beginning at Roanoke and moving on to Radford, both in Virginia.  Then the team went to Nashville, Tennessee where they lost to Peabody College but not before Peabody exhausted all its reserve players to defeat the Purple & Gold Basketeers of HTC.  HTC then finished the tour in Knoxville with a win over the University of Tennessee.  Velma must have been thrilled to be part of such a season and such a team. 

Then this dutiful niece saw THIS page of the yearbook:

Harrisonburg Teachers College Basketball Team page in the 1925 yearbook
from The Schoolma'am 1925


Then I studied the names of the players:



That’s curious.  Velma’s name isn’t there.  Nine names.  Nine girls in the photo plus the coach.   Certainly Velma didn’t quit the team – the photo was taken by a photographer in Nashville.

With the help of the yearbook, I started matching names to faces.  And then there it was:

Jessie Agnes Rosen 1925

Not Velma at all!  It was Jessie Rosen.  Shoot!

But wouldn’t YOU think it was Velma too, knowing Velma looked like this:

Velma Davis 1925



Please visit my friends at Sepia Saturday – they’ve left the door open for you.


42 comments:

  1. They do look alike, but Velma is prettier.

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    1. Yes, I'd give the vote to Velma too. So nice to see you again!

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  2. Holy smokes! Jessie was a ringer for Velma. Were you looking at your own copy of the yearbook or at a site online? Great sleuthing, no matter what the result, Wendy.

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    1. Kat, I have Velma's yearbook from 1926, but I used the 1925 yearbook available online at Ancestry. Either Velma didn't purchase the book from her freshman year or it was lost over the years. Her sister Violetta has both of her yearbooks though. (I say "both" because only 2 years of college were required to become a teacher.)

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  3. A super detective story, Wendy. Could Velma have been the photographer?

    The facial features by themselves are indeed too close to judge with certainty. Old yearbooks have now become a big business collectible just to document this kind of historic detail.

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    1. How Velma came to have these photos is a mystery. I find it hard to believe the school could afford to pay for extra people on such a trip but maybe so. Velma has a picture of the team visiting Lookout Mountain. When I discovered she wasn't on the team, I wondered why she had these pictures. Did a friend on the team give them to her? Did she travel along like an assistant to the coach? Inquiring minds want to know.

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  4. I was going to say that Velma is prettier ....and then I saw that someone beat me to it! Back I the day, girls' basketball was so different from guys. The girls could only dribble and take 3 steps and then pass. I was curious about the "side center" position!

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    1. Marey, Even when I played b-ball in gym class (back when dinosaurs roamed), girls played just as you described. Three dribbles and pass. What's more, we were limited to half the court, as if we couldn't run the full distance. In 1925, play was even weirder. The court was divided into 3 parts. The guards played ONLY at the end with the opponent's goal; the centers played in the center; the forwards did the shooting. My understanding of the jumping and side center positions is that a TALL girl would be the jumper, hopefully tapping the ball to the side center who could run along the sides and get the ball to one of her forwards.

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  5. A fine piece of detective work. Well done !

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  6. Ah, that is the problem with research, it so often bursts ones balloon of imagined pride. But Velma was a beauty, whether she was a basketball champ or not.

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    1. Yeah, this is one time finding the truth was a bit of a let-down.

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  7. Like Wendy, I'm old enough to have been limited to half the court -- we weren't supposed to run that much; it apparently wasn't good for our ovaries or something equally stupid! But back to your photo: did you notice that the two kneelers on the right folded their uniforms up to expose their knees? Some kind of political statement? I'm grinning as I write this...

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    1. Hmm -- had not thought of that. Must be that Flapper spirit!

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  8. A great piece of detection work on lovely photos.. I do like the 1920's images that you feature - the girls look so happy,.

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    1. Yes, they do look happy. I think they had a good trip to Tennessee, so they had reason to be happy.

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  9. I'd stick to the romantic idea that it was Velma!!

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    1. Hey, if I say so, it will eventually become the "truth" ;-)

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  10. The mixup between Jessie & Velma is quite understandable. They could almost be twins or, at the very least, look-alike sisters. And like some of the other comments, when I played basketball in high school, we were limited to half the court & you were either a guard or a forward, but at least we wore short shorts! (I don't remember the 3 dribbles & pass, however.) I can't imagine flopping around in those uniform skirts - although even when my daughters played basketball in high school & college (full court), a few girls did wear skirts for religious reasons.

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    1. I wonder if people ever asked them if they were sisters.

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  11. Here's my theory....yearbook sports editor was a prankster named Jess Rosen...Jessie's twin brother, also Velma's former boyfriend who she dumped at the Sports Banquet. It really is Velma and that is why it is part of her memorabilia. Ridiculous...I know. Great detective work and sequencing of events as well as follow up comments on the court rules and players assignments. In 1960-61 as a HS Freshwoman BB'er we played half court...guards dare not cross that center line. In 1963-64 one player was designated Rover...played guard and forward and full court...was also TALL to do the center jump off! I loved playing Rover!!! Thanks for the reminder and memories.

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    1. Leave it to you, Sue, to come up with a story better than the truth!!

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  12. Well if that AIN'T somethin' All these years I thought she played basketball.

    In Velma's picture I see you, Zoe and Momma. It is amazing how those genes work.

    Love,
    Little Fred--HA

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    1. Yeah -- I wonder if Velma purposely played a trick on us, pasting that team photo into her book, like she was one of them. Now that I look at her class picture, her "credits" include the YWCA but no mention of ever playing on the b-ball team. Hrmph ~

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  13. Wendy, I agree with the others: Velma is so much prettier...not that Jessie isn't attractive, herself. Just sayin'.

    Being with family last weekend, we got to discussing basketball in that era and earlier. I was surprised to hear that my own grandmother was in a girls' team for her school quite a few years before this. The uniforms included a bow in each player's hair. Must have been the southern touch ;)

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    1. Velma's team - er uh Jessie's team - was wearing the NEW uniform, considered soooo moderne replacing the ol' middy blouse. The bloomers and dark stockings were a carry-over though.

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  14. In Australia we have netball where you are restricted in where you can run, couldn't step, had position titles and always used to have more 'demure' uniforms. Then there's basketball where you can dribble and run all over the court, and don't have 'designated' position titles. Is it different in USA?

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    1. Your netball sounds like the old "girls rules" for basketball. The "girls rules" were dropped when? the 70s? early 80s? I don't know for sure.

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  15. I wish the girls at university had had to play on only part of the court when they thrashed us men annually at basketball. Like the 'rebels' in your group.

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  16. Nice research of a dutiful niece. Velma is pretty. Is the lady on the right their teacher or coach or adviser? Don't know how they call that in their time. She's dressed, and her hairstyle too, (at least to me) like someone from about two decades before 1925.

    Hazel

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    1. Yes, that was the coach, Mrs. Althea Loose Johnston. She was credited with remarkable developments in the phys ed department and she attracted statewide attention as a coach. Her husband was the physics professor. My dorm in my freshman year of college was named for them -- Johnston Hall.

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  17. The bittersweet detective work that is genealogy!

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    1. Bittersweet -- yes, that's the perfect word for it!

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  18. Goodness, they are so similar, especially in the team photo - maybe the person labelling the photo got it wrong, stranger things have happened. The girls were quite daring, showing a bit of leg back then!

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    1. I thought too maybe it was a mistake, but the credits by Velma's class picture make no mention of being on ANY team. I can match every girl to a photo in the yearbook.

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  19. Funny and a great example of why often searches and documents on ancestry.com is different than what it really was...still interesting photos from a time when sports were not that predominant for females.

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    1. You bring up an interesting point. The "truth" is only as good as the memory of the person passing it along. I have photos that a 90-yr old cousin identified for me, but I have since learned that some of the names are not correct.

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  20. I agree with the others too. Velma was prettier. I wonder why she pasted that picture in her scrapbook. Were those girls friends of hers perhaps?

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  21. I can see how you thought it was Velma, but I bet you weren’t too disappointed as Velma has the winning smile.

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  22. Oh gee, sometimes the answers are glum, but also, at the same time we can discover other higher notes along the way. It's the search that excites me most. As for Jessie, why not a happier smile! I did like seeing the original photo, it may be missing pieces, but it's rich in color and detail! Aces on that shot!

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