- Faculty & Staff
One of the primary tasks of an archivist is to seek context for an object—that is, to try to find overlapping evidence that can solidify a time, a place, or an event around that object. A recent gift to the school archives provided all these criteria. Three yearbooks, a photographic album, and ephemera (or memorabilia) from 1937 to 1940 were thoughtfully sent all the way from California to Visitation by Annette Carhartt Brandin, a family member of Corinne ("Coco") Carhartt, '38 & '40. These objects provide a unique window through which we can gaze into our school's past.
- Coco Carhartt, smiling out a window, most likely on campus.
Not only do these objects now in our collection document a specific range of years, we are also lucky to have on campus a witness to those exact years: Our very own Mrs. Marian Canney taught for over 40 years and in 1997 received the Visitation Cross of Affiliation from the Sisters of the Visitation. The longest serving member of our faculty, Mrs. Canney is an ex officio member of the Religion Department. She also performs exit interviews for the senior class, enabling each of them to reflect on their service while at Visitation. Serendipitously Mrs. Canney graduated the same years as Coco.
- Graduation class picture, 1938. Mrs. Canney is in the front row, first from the right.
The very same afternoon I learned of this coincidence, I saw Mrs. Canney in the faculty lounge. I dashed upstairs to the Archives to fetch the album, and brought it downstairs to show her. As we sat together, it became immediately clear that she knew well the girls portrayed in those photographs, which prompted wonderful anecdotal observations.
Mrs. Canney paused on this photograph, an image documenting a school production of Shakespeare's As You Like It.
- Eleanor Duffy '38 & '39 and Jean Fick '38 & '39 in their costumes for the school production, "As You Like It."
Plays at that time were held in the Odeon on the second floor of the original academy building, now Founders Hall.
- The Odeon
During the 1930s each class staged their own theatrical performances, usually a Shakespeare play. Beautifully rendered, hand-made posters were awarded to the class with the best production, many of which are currently on display in the lobby of the Nolan Center. These competitions promoted growth in those students who took a chance. They tried something new and entertained their community at the same time.
- Poster award by Mother Superior Jane Frances Liebell, given to the Fourth Year Class (or the senior class) for the best class work for staging "Twelfth Night" in 1940.
- Poster award by Mother Superior Mary Stephanie Shea, given to the the Second Year Class (or the sophomore class) for the best class work for staging "The Merchant of Venice" in 1936.
This was an era when students wrestled with Shakespeare's language, and even tried their own hand at poetry. One of Coco's poems, "The Tattery Man," was published in the 1939 yearbook:
The Tattery Man
The Tattery Man walks through the streets
And whistles to all the dogs he meets.
His old hat flops on its ravelly band
But he laughs at his hat with a wave of his hand.
He grins at the boys and winks at the girls,
And musses a tot's short yellow curls.
There's a spring in his step and a flush on his face,
But his tattery clothing is quite a disgrace,
For his coat tails low, and his trouser, ...why,
They're shrunk on his legs disgracefully high.
He carries a cane of carved white pine,
And he thinks that the world is wonderfully fine.
And for all his fierce beard and his face so tan
There's no one so nice as the Tattery man.
This overlapping evidence of the past reminds me that The Curious Savage staged last weekend and that the rhyming clues for this year's Founders' Day scavenger hunt written by Historical Society members are all part of the same tradition at Visitation. Girls today are still encouraged to share their talents through the written word or the performing arts. It calls to mind something that musician Elvis Costello once said, "Just because something is light-hearted, does not necessarily mean it is lightweight."
Indeed, creative expression promotes growth in our students, and is one way they can be who they are, and be that well.
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