Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.
This week’s Sepia Saturday photo is of some girls on Sports Day at their school in 1907 although I have no idea what umbrellas had to do with Sports Day. It certainly looks like it was sunny. That aside, the sports theme gives me the perfect opportunity to write about a certain photo from the scrapbook that my grandaunt Velma Davis Woodring created during her two years at Harrisonburg Teachers College (now James Madison University - GO DUKES!).
|Bernice Marshall Jenkins|
This is not my grandaunt Velma. It is a girl who likely lived in Velma’s dorm, Wellington Hall pictured here. Everything about this photo intrigues me from that smart tie to the neatly pressed and creased knickers to those shoes which look completely inappropriate for tennis. The way she is holding the tennis racket makes me think she might play a tune on the strings.
But it’s the expression on her face that I keep going back to. Was she sad? Was she just serious?
|Yearbook photo 1926|
So who was she? Using the 1926 HTC yearbook, called The Schoolma’am, I studied the faces of every girl who parted her hair on the left and played on a tennis team. My conclusion: Bernice Marshall Jenkins. Had she worn glasses for her yearbook photo, I would feel more confident, but the curly hair, the mouth, the chin, and even the general shape of her face resemble the sad or pensive face in the snapshot.
The group photo of the Pinquet Tennis Team provides another look at Bernice that bolsters my confidence that I found the right one. So for now, Bernice Jenkins it is – that is, until some family member stumbles into my blog and tells me I’m wrong.
|Bernice is seated last right|
The quote attached to Bernice’s yearbook photo strikes me as ironic.
“Quite the jolliest girl we know,
Full of pep and lots of go.”
Jolly? Really? Whodathunk? Her activities likewise depict a kind of energy and school spirit completely absent from any of her photos in either Velma’s scrapbook or the school yearbook.
Delving into Bernice’s past – which is what I do! – I found little to explain either the serious countenance or the jovial reputation. She was the youngest of nine children born to James and Minnie Jenkins of South Boston, Virginia. Her father was a tobacco buyer. Of course he was! South Boston is in the heart of tobacco country in Southside Virginia.
Bernice shows up faithfully in the 1910 and 1920 census, but she is noticeably absent in 1930 and 1940. However, in 1940 she and her HUSBAND Jesse Giles appear on a passenger list arriving in Tampa, Florida from Havana, Cuba. Honeymoon trip?
Jesse Giles was a native of North Carolina. Born in 1900, he registered for the draft in 1917. His job at the time was Assistant Clerk of the Court. At 17??? In 1930, age 30, he was still unmarried and living at home with his widowed mother. His job – sculptor. Sculptor??
The two next appear in Florida’s 1945 census. She was a teacher and he worked for the government. (I guess that sculpturing gig didn’t work out.)
A contributor on Ancestry.com reported that Bernice taught in Tampa, Florida for 20 years and served as secretary of the Hillsborough County Education Association for 8 years. She also was an editor of “The Teacher” magazine.
Bernice outlived her husband by 25 years. “Home” was still Tampa, Florida. However, as she got older, she must have returned to Virginia to be nearer family. She died in a nursing home in Richmond in 1985, just shy of her 80th birthday.
Be a sport and visit Sepia Saturday for more stories full of pep and go.
© 2017, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.