Making Wartime History Come Alive

Last spring I gave a presentation about Cranbrook during World War II to the 8th grade history classes at the Girls Middle School. So, when our blogmaster asked for a post this week about WWII, I thought I would share that experience. After working in the archives for more than 14 years, I knew we had a myriad of materials relevant to WWII and I was excited to share these stories with the 8th grade girls. I was hopeful that it would help make a part of history more real to them. I began by asking each class (there were four that day!) how many thought Cranbrook was affected in ANY way by the war? Throughout the day, maybe 8 of the nearly 60 girls raised their hands. While I was surprised, I was also excited to enlighten them.

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Other ways in which the Cranbrook community supported war relief efforts included the British Children Refugee program, the Finnish War Relief Fund, and the Red Cross and Victory Book Drives

Cranbrook’s war-related activities were far-reaching – from Cranbrook School boys practicing military drills on the football field to Academy of Art ceramicist Maija Grotell who collected sweaters and unraveled them to repurpose into balls of yarn that she sent to families in Finland. War Bond drives were held at each of the school campuses, the Booth family closed off the west wing of Cranbrook House to conserve fuel due to rationing, and a previous blog post highlights one of Cranbrook’s own Monuments Men.  The 8th grade girls were particularly amused by the photograph of the Red Cross class which was held at Kingswood School, and that girls their same ages had collected waste fat from the school dining hall. There were a lot of “EWW!s”

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Cranbrook School Scrapbook, April 1942

I told the girls about the war memorial plaque which hangs at the base of Hoey tower and lists the names of all 678 Cranbrook School alumni who served in the war, including the 37 who lost their lives. We talked about the Cranbrook Committee on Civilian Defense and the air raid sirens/drills on campus, and how students from both Cranbrook and Kingswood Schools entertained the troops at Selfridge Air Force Base.

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Cranbrook had air raid sirens in numerous locations across campus.

At the end of each class, I asked the girls again how many thought Cranbrook was affected by World War II, and nearly all of them raised their hands. It was gratifying to be able to share primary source documents from our collections to help bring history out of the textbook and onto the campus. I’m looking forward to teaching again this school year!

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

 

Photo Friday: Diogenes’ Search for an Honest Man

A view of Diogenes. Photographer, Harvey Croze, 1961.

A view of Diogenes. Photographer, Harvey Croze, 1961.

You might not immediately notice the small bronze statue that sits at the top of Hoey Tower’s stairwell at Cranbrook School. The statue is Diogenes – a Greek philosopher best known for holding a lantern and claiming to be on a quest for an honest man. Diogenes is considered to be one of the founders of Cynicism – a doctrine that supports a life in accordance with nature and rejects convention.

George Booth originally purchased Diogenes for Cranbrook House from the Gorham Silver Company in May 1914. One of the many statues he purchased during his lifetime, he bequeathed it to Cranbrook School upon his death.

Diogenes has been depicted throughout the centuries in paintings, drawings, and sculpture. Our sculpture was created by George Edwin Bissell (1839-1920) in 1906. Bissell, who was born in Connecticut, studied in Paris at the Academie Julian, the Academie Colarossi, the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs, and the Ecole des Beaux Arts. In 1876, he studied at the American Academy in Rome. He also served in the Civil War as a private in the 23rd Connecticut (1862-1863) and as assistant Postmaster for the U.S. Navy (1863, 1865).

Gina Tecos, Archivist

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