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A Story About My Mother

Submitted by Albin Johnson - November 23, 2005

MOTHER O'MINE, O MOTHER O'MINE! I know where love would follow me still. By Rudyard Kipling He is one of my favorite writers. As a youngster, my uncle introduced me to his works and I still enjoy re-reading his stories today.

I have written several stories for Minonktalk about my "memories" of growing up and lessons I have learned from life. These "memories" were lovingly kept and returned to me as I grew older. My mother saved all the "little" things from her life as well as, each one of her children. My sister decided a while back I should have all this memorabilia and sent a box to me. As I mentioned before, the contents became the basis of many of my stories. I have since sorted the things out by era and family grouping. Today I decided to look again at those things that were specifically about my mother during her high school days in Chicago. Fortunately she kept a nice assortment of pictures, events, and memories of those few years prior to WW I or around 1915. Who was she and where did her family originally come from? My records go back to the early 1700's, and a small area called Devon, England. In the early 1800's some of the family moved to Washburn, Illinois. In 1897, my mother Dorothy was born to Myrtle Parkin Butler and Benjamin Butler Jr. who lived in Washburn. They moved to Chicago in mom's teens.

Ben was a mason so traveled widely and often away for long terms. Enough of the genealogy! Now to her collection of high school memories! Starting with her book entitled "The Girl Graduate - Her High School Memories" inscribed to Dorothy Leah Butler. The high school was known as Wm McKinley High in Chicago dated 1915. The suede leather bound book is now a little tattered and worn and a size 6" by 9" and about 3" thick. The book documents her high school teen years. There are headshots of fellow classmates with emigrant names such as: Sheehan, Siegel, Berkowitz, Lashensky, Meyers, Witt and first names like: Irving, Dora, Ira, Verna, Ermaline, Eli, Fannie, Milton, Genevieve, Lois, Juanita, Maurice, Lil, Conrad, Inez, Isabel, Rose, Walter, Evangeline, Sara, Sidney, Julius, Mildred, Lillian, Arthur, Bea, Evelyn, Minnie, Flavia, and Nellie.

The diary includes little vignettes and drawings from classmates as well as engraved announcements and a graduation list including my mom who listed her name as Dorothy Leah Parkin Butler. I thought the idea of women listing both parent's names was started by the current feminist movement and then I recalled that the early 1900's were the original era of Women's Rights!

Looking further, I found "play bills", dance notices, and social events. A hand-made Valentine heart announced a "playground girl's dance." Another, a Shamrock cutout declaring a special dance. The musical event dance card included signups for the "one step, the two step, the waltz, glee club and a violin solo. My mind began conjuring up images from a Maxfield Parrish art print of girls in gauzy gowns and bare feet dancing for the Shiner's production called "Allah's Garden".

Then they went from graceful dancing to "all out war!" This war was not WW 1 but friendly competition between Evanston's Crane Technical High School and McKinley. A long newspaper account told of 300 Crane roughnecks that invaded McKinleyland. Many gallant leaders of the "defense" came out battle scared but with flying colors. The McKinley girls hurled erasers from the balcony and later formed a nurse's group to tend the injured. My laughing caused tears when I realized this was MY MOTHER! Another bit of paper listed the names of all the young girls on the indoor softball team. Mom's name was listed as playing 2nd base and she had one hit.

Mom describes her graduation dress as white embroidered organdie with a white messaline slip undergarment.

The slip was scalloped and bound with white braid. All this was made by her mother. Mom's shoes were black patent leather with buttons. She wore a pale pink sash and hair bow along with white silk gloves. There were parties and dancing after the graduation. The dance cards were filled with names of her friends and included pictures of her classmates. Mom continued her school work to include a teaching credential, and of- course, by 1918, a dental student by the name of Albin Johnson had entered the picture, but That's another story.