Living History: A slice of life from 1929
Among the recent additions to the Ridgefield Historical Society’s collection is a 1929 scrapbook that beautifully details a year in the life of Ridgefield High School students at a time when the country and the world was on the precipice of great changes.
The album was the meticulous work of Marion G. Scofield and it illustrates the ordinary lives of young people growing up in a small Connecticut town in a year that was to bring seismic changes to the country.
There’s little indication of the impending stock market crash and the looming Great Depression in the senior year photographs and accounts of the class play and the Christmas dance. A class trip to Washington, D.C., a longtime tradition for Ridgefielders, is recorded with images of museums and monuments, and the obligatory class photo on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
At their graduation, the School Orchestra performed and the Junior High School Girls sang “Whispering Hope” and “Fairy Moonlight.” Student speakers included Ruth Schneider, John L. Sullivan and Zuleme Nunzarro. The graduation address was by B. Ogden Chisolm, a member of a prominent New York family, who bought a “summer cottage” in Ridgefield in 1902 and called it Wickopee Farm. A leading advocate of prison reform, Mr. Chisolm spoke to the graduates on “Scaling the Wall.”
In a short time, he was doing his part to help fellow Ridgefielders during the financial collapse.
“Mr. Chisolm had great compassion for those who were suffering through the Great Depression and felt that he should do something to furnish employment for those who were unable to find it,” recalled historian Dick Venus in his Dick’s Dispatch series for The Ridgefield Press (copy in the Ridgefield Historical Society archives). “In the mid-30’s, he hit on the idea of building a new barn. It should be said that the last thing he needed at that time was another barn. However, he felt that in doing this, he was doing his part, as he phrased it, ‘to drive the Depression blues away.’ ”
But at the time this scrapbook record of the Class of 1929 was assembled, the young Ridgefielders were looking forward to their futures, in a “Dreamland of Opportunity,” according to the title of John L. Sullivan’s speech. In the fall, no mention appears of the stock market crash in the news columns of The Ridgefield Press, but the situation did prompt a full-page advertisement from New England Furniture, headlined, “Extra! Sales News! Stock Market Crash. Factory Prices Broke, Factory Cut-Price Sale.”
Marion G. Scofield, Ridgefield High Class of 1929, who was the creator of this book, was born on July 4, 1910, in Pound Ridge, N.Y. She attended Ridgefield schools and graduated from the Kindergarten Training School in Bridgeport before pursuing a teaching career for a few years. She married a fellow Ridgefielder, Howard D. Stevens, and they moved to Florida in 1968 after he retired from the staff of the Ridgefield Savings Bank. (Her brother, Carleton A. Scofield, was for many years president of the Ridgefield Savings Bank.) Mrs. Scofield died in 1985.
Editor’s note: Every week, the dedicated volunteers of the Ridgefield Historical Society work with the primary materials of the town’s history. It’s an endlessly fascinating task, handling, assessing, and cataloging the stories of centuries of Ridgefielders. For more information, visit the historical society at 4 Sunset Lane or call 203-438-5128.