Saturday, June 13, 2020

Sepia Saturday: They Were First

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

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt depicting SPORT in the foreground and BUILDING in the background is well-matched with this photo from 1924.
Harrisonburg Teachers College 1924
from Velma Davis's scrapbook 1924
Field Day activities at Harrisonburg Teachers College
This was how James Madison University (GO DUKES!) looked when my grandaunt Velma Davis was a student. Beyond the open field was Rockingham Memorial Hospital.

Fourteen years before then, though, the campus was simply two buildings and a lot of acreage. Yet the Normal School offered a full campus life beyond the classroom. Clubs and athletics were popular. Tennis, in particular, had so much interest that two clubs were formed: Racquet Club and Pinquet Club.
Harrisonburg Teachers College Racquet Club 1912
Racquet Club 1912
from School Ma'am yearbook Ancestry
Pinquet Tennis Club 1911
Pinquet Tennis Club 1911
from School Ma'am yearbook Ancestry
The rivalry between the two clubs began with the school’s first tennis tournament held in 1910. It was a doubles match in which Willye White and Amelia Brooke of Pinquet defeated Frances Mackey and Eva Massey of Racquet. The prize was a silver loving cup which the winning club kept until the next year.
Normal School Tennis tournament 1910
1910 - Frances Mackey, Eva Massey, Willye White, Amelia Brooke
from Madison College: The First Fifty Years 1908-1958
by Raymond C. Dingledine, Jr.
These women are not in my family tree, but the little bits of information about them available online indicate they were talented, smart, and serious women.

from School Ma'am 1911 Ancestry
(7 May 1889 – 20 Feb 1980)
Member of the first graduating class, 1911
Amelia’s mother was the matron (aka “Dorm Mother”) on campus. Mrs. Brooke and Amelia also took care of any student who became ill.
Amelia never married. She worked for the government first in the Department of the Interior, then US Treasury, and finally with the IRS where she retired.
President Pinquet Tennis Club
Captain Basketball Team
Charter member of the Lanier Literary Society and the first President
Chairman of Social Committee for YWCA
Business manager for the yearbook

from School Ma'am 1912 Ancestry 
(23 Jul 1895 – 22 Feb 1944)
Willye studied to become a kindergarten teacher, but it appears she never worked. Her mother ran a boarding house in Boykins, Southampton County, VA. Maybe Willye helped her. Willye married sometime around 1925 but was left a widow when her husband died from injuries in an explosion while engineering a train. In 1940, she married Hinton Smith, a boarder in Willye’s mother’s boarding house.
Basketball team
Pinquet Tennis Club
Glee Club
Lee Literary Society

from School Ma'am 1913 Ancestry 
(19 Sep 1893 – 8 Nov 1981)
From at least 1915-1922 Frances was on the faculty of the Harrisonburg Teachers College teaching Manual Arts. She left to pursue further education. In 1933, she married Thurston Huffman and continued teaching, probably in Rockbridge County, Virginia.
Tip Top Basketball Team 1910
Captain of the Sophomore Basketball Team in 1911, Junior team in 1912
Vice-President Racquet Tennis Club 1912
Executive Committee German Club 1911 (dance society, not foreign language)
Secretary of the Lanier Literary Society in the Third Term
Glee Club
Vice-President of the Art Club 1913
Art Editor for the yearbook 1913

from School Ma'am 1912 Ancestry
(13 Oct 1892 – 31 Aug 1970)
Eva was a lifelong educator in the public-school system in Clarke County, Virginia. She never married.
Associate Editor for the yearbook 1910
Secretary and Treasurer of the Racquet Tennis Club 1910
Charter Member of the Lanier Society, Secretary 1911
Secretary YWCA

These four were among the first students, the ones who shaped the traditions at my alma mater. The two literary societies these women helped start, Lee and Lanier, enhanced their education by presenting programs of biographical studies, debates, essays, readings, and special music. While the literary societies were abandoned long ago, the colors selected by the two societies gave us our school colors: GOLD from Lee’s gray and gold, and PURPLE from Lanier’s violet and white (the violet became purple because it was an easier color to obtain in pennants, sports uniforms, etc.).

My alma mater has come a long way from its simple beginnings as a 2-building campus. That empty field beside the hospital? See it today.
Rockingham Memorial Hospital grew and remodeled many times
but notice the original portico remained.
Instead of a field, there is Burruss Hall (academic building), parking lot,
AND a street!
JMU purchased the hospital building when RMH moved to its new site.
Be a good sport and see what other bloggers have come up with at Sepia Saturday.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. You did a good job matching the theme this week!

  2. So the campus grew and changed, and the alums obviously have gone on to greater things too!

  3. Wonderful accomplishments of those women!


  4. Loved the pix of the tennis club gals in their middies. It's really hard imagining how to play in those outfits. They must have tripped over those skirts at least once in a while. The four featured women did very well for themselves in life it seems.

  5. Ist so interesting to see the changes over time and a school’s history. Imagine having to play in those dresses! I love your school albums..they contain so much information. Willy White seems more suited to the Glee Club than basketball or tennis.

  6. I can't imagine how much research you had to do for this post. I particularly enjoyed the bio of each woman. I always thought it was odd that I had a great-great-aunt whose name was Willye but after reading your post, I've learned that Willye must have been a common name around that time.

  7. Excellent post and research. Amazing to read about the different paths that these four remarkable women took -- especially as their lives spanned such pivotal periods for women: from long skirts to short, from disenfranchised to voting, from homemaker to Rosie the Riveter, and some living through the rise of the women's movement of the 1960s. Fascinating to see how the school changed as well.

  8. I just love this post. And those bios of the girls were fab; you really got a sense of their personalities. How wonderful to know this much about your alma mater. Isn't Willye an interesting name? I haven't come across it before.

  9. It is interesting to see how colleges have grown and expanded not only their course offerings, and social opportunities, but the campus as well. I love seeing how athletic attire has evolved!

  10. Nice post from the prompt. I've never heard of pinquet before.

  11. Wonderful photos! Great match to the photo prompt.