Friday, April 21, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Pep and Go

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 Giles 1925 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Bernice Marshall Jenkins
March 1925



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.

Pinquet Tennis Club Harrisonburg Teachers College 1925 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
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 and Bernice Giles Passenger List from Cuba to Tampa 1940 https://jollettetc.blogspot.com
Passenger List 1940
from Havana, Cuba to Tampa, Florida

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.)
 
1945 Florida Census, Hillsborough County
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.

Wendy
© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

16 comments:

  1. She sounds like she had an interesting life; good detective work you did on finding out who she was and then finding out about her.

    betty

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  2. The comment about Bernice being "quite the jolliest girl we know; full of pep and lots of go" doesn't seem very compatible with her pictures, but her friends would know better than the camera! Good sleuthing about her life!

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    1. My grand aunt Velma was full of pep and go too, so they probably got along quite well.

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  3. What a wonderful thing to say about someone, jolliest girl and full of pep, you can just imagine her being the life and soul although the pictures don't quite show that aspect of her character, perhaps she hated having her photograph taken.

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    1. Yes, she looks very shy, but evidently she wasn't.

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  4. Bernice does NOT look happy in that first shot (was she forced to take tennis by a bizarre curriculum requirement?) but in the others she seems content! But nice work getting all that historical information...I love a challenge like that!

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    1. All students were required to participate in some kind of sport, but the tennis club was just that -- a club, not a requirement. I like a challenge too.

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  5. Jolly good! Excellent detective work! Judging from the strong shadows I think Bernice's expression in the first photo is due to the sun being in her eyes. In her yearbook photo, it's because she's taken off her glasses and feels a bit unfocused.

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    1. Thanks for that perspective. I hadn't thought of it.

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  6. Great sleuthing. I share her problem of looking sad in photos when I was very happy. I couldn't smile on cue and was light sensitive. Her father must have done well given all those children and yet he was still able to pay his daughters tuition?? I leapt to this conclusion, so inappropriate in light of your careful research. I enjoy your writing style very much.

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    1. I can't smile on cue either. And my expression gets worse the longer it takes to take the picture.

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  7. What a super sleuth you are Wendy to be sure. I have yet to contribute to Sepia Saturday but wanted to let you know I enjoyed this post. I've been lazing around this weekend not doing much but I have been reading an interesting book called Pistols and Petticoats by Erika Janik which is about imaginary and real sleuths (a bit like you and me!)

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    1. I'll have to look for that book.

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  8. A side to Berenice that is not evident from her photo, but I think Mike may be right, about both the sun and the glasses. A more candid ‘snap’ may have caught her being jolly, but posed shots rarely do. An interesting lady.

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    1. I should look through Velma's photos to see if there are any others of Bernice being jolly and full of pep.

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