Saturday, January 23, 2010

Primary Graduations

Although many children had attended classes since Primary began in 1932, the first official Primary graduations held in the Aurora Branch occurred on September 25, 1955, during a Sunday evening Primary program. The regularity of graduations over the next five years indicates the growth of the Primary in terms of numbers and organization that occurred in the late 1950s.
Vera Ruth Resch, the first graduate, 1955, passed away in January 2008. (The buildings in the background are on LaSalle Street across from the Odd Fellows Hall.)

Ginger Erekson [Hamer]

Although Vera was exactly one year older than I was, we were always in the same Primary and Sunday School classes. She and I were baptized on the same day in 1951 (along with Phyllis Earle), and Vera graduated from Primary with me in 1955. She was not in a hurry to start attending the Beehive class like 12-year-old girls are today because the Mutual Improvement Association (MIA) was not yet organized in the branch and there was no Beehive class for her to attend. To remedy the situation, my parents took a carload of Aurora youth to the West Suburban Ward (about 35 minutes away)—every Tuesday night for the next two years.

Earl "Bucky" Spahr Jr., who graduated on his twelfth birthday, and Billy Aymare
The next graduation recorded in the Primary history took place in Sacrament meeting on September 14, 1958. Bucky Spahr was presented with a pin by Primary president Myrtle Greer and she turned him over to Richard Kettley, who represented the newly organized MIA, and to Jack Sullivan, the Scout leader. Bucky was ordained a deacon by James H. Greer and John Wendt in the same meeting. A few months later, on March 1, 1959, Billy Aymare graduated in a similar ceremony. His teacher Gladys Sullivan told about the things he had accomplished, and he too became a member of the MIA.

Later that year, on August 29, 1959, three girls graduated. (At that time all girls graduated from Primary as a class at the end of the Primary year, while the boys graduated on their birthdays, a policy that caused no end of irritation for girls who were anxious to move on.)
Julia Woolcott [Sandall], Cheryl Swords, and Rose Marie Resch [Morris]
That Fast Sunday morning “The Seagull teacher, Sister Rosalee Spahr, told of the accomplishments that each girl has completed. The girls then sang a song. Bro. James T. Greer, President of the Aurora Branch, present each girl with her certificate. The girls were then present to the MIA girls’ director, Sister Muriel Nunyan. The girls will go into Beehive work in the MIA. Pres. and Sister Edmunds of the Chicago Stake were in attendance that morning.”

Thomas L. Erekson, age 12

A few months later, on November 1, 1959, Tom Erekson graduated. Following the same pattern, his teacher Gladys Sullivan told of his accomplishments in Primary. Sister Myrtle Greer presented him to the branch president who gave him his certificate and presented him to John Earle who was then the Young Men’s MIA president. Tom was ordained a deacon the following week.

Bethine Mindar

One final graduation in noted in the Primary history, that of Bethine Louise Mindar in September 1960. Bethine attended Primary only a few months because she joined the Church on May of that year, along with her parents, Donald and Phyllis Mindar, and the rest of her family.


Monday, January 18, 2010

History of the Primary

In 1961 the Aurora Branch Primary presented “our beloved Branch President, Bro. James T. Greer” with a large scrapbook containing the history of the Primary in Aurora since 1932. It contains a wealth of history, names, stories, and photos, meticulously compiled by Marlene Kettley who was then serving as the Primary historian.
The Aurora Branch Primary children in 1951 with first counselor, Elinor Woolcott

This is the earliest photo in the scrapbook. I would like help identifying the children. Here are my best guesses: First row front, Ginger Erekson [Hamer], Julia Woolcott,[ boy looking down], Tom Erekson (blurred);
Second row: Elinor Woolcott, Ed Kettley (hidden), Jim Resch, John Resch, Mike Woolcott, Barry Woolcott.
Back row: [boy in baseball cap], Bill Kettley, Bob Kettley, [boy with something in mouth], Dick Kettley, Vera Resch.

Perhaps some clues to their identities can be found in the historical summary taken from the scrapbook. (I was surprised to see that I have at least three additional pertinent photos.):
“During the year 1951-52 the Aurora Branch Primary met at the home of Louise Erekson, 1515 Hoyt, Aurora, Illinois. The membership roll showed 23 children in attendance. Sr. Iris Dombrow served as President, Sr. Elinor Woolcott, 1st Counselor, and Sr. Louise Erekson as 2nd Counselor.

In this photo Iris Dombrow is standing in front of the Erekson home on Hoyt Street

“The classes consisted of Nursery, Beginners Group I & II, Zion’s Boys and Girls, Guides and the Larks which had a home study. Two women missionaries were assisting at this time. They were namely Sr. Ramona Ranzenberger and Sr. Norma J. Murri. Rosalee Resch served as acting Secretary until December 16, 1951, then Sr. Betty Jane Tatton served as Secretary.

Missionary photo of Sister Norma Jeane Murri, 902 N. Arthur, Pocatello, Idaho

“It was during this year that Sr. Iris Dombrow became the mother of a baby boy, “David Raymond Dombrow.” Little David was born in April 1951. Sr. Betty Tatton also became the mother of a baby girl, “Marta Lee Tatton,” born November 6, 1951. Betty Tatton and Marta Lee on Easter Sunday, 1952

“Sr. Nadia Grimmett, Sr. Page, and Sr. Woodbury later joined the group as missionaries. Sr. Rosalee Resch, Mable Stemple, Gladys Sullivan, Evelyn Kettlely and Betty Tatton were all helpers during this year. The program consisted of lessons, games, and the usual parties & programs. The Aurora Branch Primary won a certificate during this year from Chicago Stake for the Children’s Friend subscriptions.”

The Aurora Branch Primary history book remained with the Greer family until 1982 when Myrtle passed away. Her daughter, Louise Erekson, then kept it until 2009 when she gave it to me. At the appropriate time, I will donate it to the Church History Library and Archives.